Friday, August 30, 2013

When Size Matters

In the Adriatic, you see all sizes of boats, yachts, sailboats, ferries and ships. 

As we travel alongside those various sailing vessels we always comment that whether you're on a dinghy or a mega-yacht, you're all seeing the same thing...the gorgeous beauty of Croatia.

However, there are times when size matters.

Case in point yesterday. 

Our twenty foot Bayliner maneuvers through the water just great on normal days, and we've even managed through some storms just fine. But although the sun was shining and the day looked completely normal, swells on the sea were harrowing for our little boat. 

We hit a swell yesterday that nosed us right into a wave, which buried us in water. That wave came up and over the front of us in one big "whoosh" and doused everything, and then some, in its path with that salty Adriatic seawater. 

Dave responded quickly and we were never in danger of being swamped or out of control. 

However, it absolutely terrified me. 

About a half hour later we were able to pull into a marina on the island of Korcula, and begin the process of recovery. 

A call to a laundry service in town brought a kind man in a van who picked up all our wet bedding and whisked it off to be cleaned and dried. 

Dave pulled everything else out to dry, and even ran to the store to get me a Coke (he knows me well that even just the bottle in my hand is comforting).

I didn't recover quite as quickly as our wet things did. Hours later I was still shaking. I'm not sure I've ever experienced that type of shock. It was one of my worst nightmares realized: being hit by a wave while in the boat.

The good news is that today I'm feeling much better...thanks to a loving husband who's done any and everything to help me recover! 

After our laundry was returned dry at 10:30 PM (for a price, but at that point you don't really care!), we moored in a 100% protected cove where I slept deeply. In the morning Dave brewed coffee for me, and brought me over to rest for the day in one of our favorite spots on Korcula - a sleepy little town called Lumbarda that we discovered a while back. 

Rather than head on as we had planned, we will stay here for the day and another night, just to make sure I fully recover from the shock of what happened. I love being on the boat so don't want to let that event change how I feel about being on it. Just need a little time to feel all good about it again.

The breeze is blowing softly, the waves are gently lapping at the sides of the boats in the marina, I'm looking out at a gorgeous view, and enjoying a quiet and restful afternoon. These are good, kind and much appreciated gifts from my husband, and the Lord. 

I'm almost back to normal.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Change is Good

After many days of sunshine, I woke up to lightning, thunder and a huge rainstorm at 6 AM this morning.

Taken about a half hour after the storm

I think the best thing about the storm was the perspective it reminded me of.

The sunny days here in Croatia have been so welcome to our  "normally lacking in Vitamin D" bodies. And there's nothing like a beautiful sunny day to bring smiles and joy, along with the fun of outdoor living for a change.

But without contrast, or perspective, those sunny days can be endless and tiring. At least to me.

Thus this morning's rainstorm and completely "other" weather was so welcome. I knew it was good for the parched ground that's like a tinderbox waiting to be lit. It was good too for the coolness it brought, along with the welcome breeze.

And it was good for my perspective.

Later on when the sun came back out, I was more appreciative of it, and even looked for a reason to go into town so we could walk along the marina and enjoy shorts and tank top weather again.

But curling up with a freshly made pot of French Press while it was raining this morning (with special birthday coffee from my dear friend Michelle!) was also delightful for the few hours it was raining!

Change is good.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Tucked in Together

Claire sent this photo yesterday. She knows how to make her mama happy!

Claire is moved in to her dorm now, has been through orientation, and is ready to start classes today!

Tyler is back at Joe's managing the coffee shop and will finish his last semester at Moody by December. Lara is interviewing for a job, and they are looking for a place to live, and in the meantime staying with dear friends.

Caleb arrived back at Moody on Saturday after finishing his summer of service at Gull Lake Ministries as worship leader. And Haley arrived back from Slovakia a few days earlier where she was visiting her family after having worked at Gull Lake too.

So now they're all tucked into life together!

Yes, that makes this mama sigh with delight and relief. It's so good to see them all together.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

On Those Stairs

Glorious morning back on the stairs!

After looking for shade a few days ago, and finding it in the most unusual place, I've made a beeline back there the past few mornings.

Turquoise sea, french press coffee, my Polish pottery mug from home, pretty towel to sit on, Bible, journal, sweet little dog...what an extraordinary gift from the Lord.

It's hard to even explain how inspiring, refreshing and productive my time with Him has been on those stairs. There were ideas coming together that I've been praying about for months...and it happened right there. On those stairs!

I would never have guessed that one of my happiest spots during this time in Croatia would be right there.

Of course with this view to the right, maybe it's not so hard to believe that this is a happy spot!

These are precious days.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Looking For Shade

While the hot summer temperatures are beginning to come down in some places, it remains hot here in Croatia.

We've spent time out in the sun, which I always look forward to when we're here. But I've actually spent more time looking for shade.

There is a lovely view out the door of where we're staying, but in the morning it's in full sunshine (unless you're under the umbrella), and can be quite hot over a leisurely cup of coffee, time in the Word, or simply to just sit and "be".

I went to bed last night feeling uncomfortably hot, and told the Lord in more of a wishful than prayerful way, that I would love some shade to rest and relax in.

When I woke this morning I had very distinct instructions from Him - so much so that it almost made me laugh out loud!

He told me to go down the stairs.

“Down the stairs??” Well...alright.

With a cup of coffee in hand, down to the water’s edge I went.

And you know what I found at the bottom of the stairs. BLISSFUL SHADE!!! Why hadn't I thought of that before?

But since He'd directed me, it was all the more of a magnificent time on the stairs…time in the Word was so precious, time in prayer was absolutely wonderful, time to think and just be still…so perfect.

Kaylee came down with me, exploring further on down to the beach while I sat on the stairs (which were in the shade an hour earlier than when I took this photo), but then came up and laid down beside me on the step for over an hour.

That was perfect too. I don’t know why that’s a part of how good the morning and the shade was, but it just WAS.

I'd taken a cup of coffee down there too, but wished I had taken the whole pot of French press! Or better yet, a thermos, already creamed and sugared so I could just drink to my heart’s content. I’ll be looking around this kitchen to see if by any chance there’s a thermos tucked away. If not, I’ll have to go in search of one here on the island.

(Should've taken a picture of my cup there on the stairs, but you can picture it...and the shade that was there just an hour earlier!)

Oh how kind of the Lord to have answered my heart’s cry - without me even having really asked.

But as I sat there on the stairs I knew I was sitting in HIS shade…perfectly protected and encircled by Him, under His loving care.

You can be sure I'll be heading down there again tomorrow morning. And the next. I can hardly wait!

In this ordained season of life where we are living a different pace, in a different location, with a different temperature than at home...He gave me the shade my heart needed. In more ways than one.

And since I couldn't get a picture of myself saying a hearty "Thank you Lord" to that, I'll have to settle for Kaylee saying it for me!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Moving Forward

After celebrating twenty three birthdays with one or more of our children, I spent my birthday on Saturday with just Dave here in Croatia.

Knowing it would be a hard/different day for me, Dave was so kind and good throughout the thankful for an understanding husband with plans up his sleeve to surprise and delight me. He definitely blessed me with gifts and words as the day unfolded.

We ended my birthday in Milna, the little town near where we're staying .

Our hosts at the house we're living in suggested a restaurant there - and how right they were! After an absolutely delicious meal, we laughed afterward that we hadn't even stopped to take a picture of the food, we were so famished and it looked so beautiful that we just dove right in!

But we got pictures of each other to capture yet another milestone as we move forward in this transition to "empty nest".

"Just the two of us, we can make it if we try, just the two of and I".

Yep...still "singing" together after all these years!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Letting Go

Our day of goodbyes to Claire, Tyler and Lara, started with a drive to the ferry at 4 AM. Definitely a memorable way to start out going to college for Claire!

This was an incredibly eventful day for Dave and I...sending our last child off to college and starting a new chapter of life together as just us again.

You seriously ask yourself on a day like this, where did 23 years go since our first one came into our lives? While we have packed a lot into those twenty three years with our three children, and have no regrets about anything in our relationships with them, you still feel that sadness, mixed with joy, that comes along with one amazing chapter ending before another exciting one begins.

That was our Thursday. Standing on the cusp of that very moment when one part is ending, and another is beginning.

It actually helped to have some time on the ferry before making the drive from the port in Split to the airport. A latte for me...a nap for time for us girls. Very peaceful.

But eventually we were pulling up to the airport and my emotions were beginning to kick in. 

Taking last looks at our precious kids and soaking them all in.

Remembering all the mom-daughter pictures we've taken through the years. And of course taking a few more "just because".

One of the big things that helped in the process of goodbyes was the fact that we saw Tyler off from this very airport four years ago when he first left for college in Chicago.

And now he was back with his dear WIFE!!!  Would never have imagined that when we said goodbye to him back then. In that case, we're thankful for the passing of four years and what it's brought...or rather WHO it's brought! How we love Lara!

And still...everything in me wanted to shout "STOP", just like what was painted there on the road! No, no...I don't want you all to leave.

But I know that one of my greatest privileges of the past 23 years has been preparing each of our kids for this very moment. The moment they "fly" on their own and become all that God's intended them to be as adults. If I stopped them at this moment, I'd be messing with His plan for them, and I sure don't want to do that.

So I just let the goodbyes happen, watching with deep emotion, as even the smallest of goodbyes are said.

We take one last photo of who we've been for the past year...

And one more mom-daughter shot to mark this precious moment. I couldn't help but remember the first time I held her in a German hospital, so excited about God's gift of a daughter on top of two sons. What an amazing gift she was then, and still is today.

Yet now I must release her. Whew. Definitely not easy.

For a few more moments of normalcy, we headed upstairs to get coffee in the very place we had it four years ago with Tyler before that goodbye with him. It felt so good to sit there and just be family with our precious kids before it becomes just "us" again.

But the clock keeps ticking and finally it's time to go downstairs and do what we came to do.

Release our dear ones into God's arms and let Him be their daily caregiver.

As if I ever was the main one! God entrusted me with three darling children to mother, but often reminded me that I was not their Father. He was...and He is!

Remembering that fact makes it a tiny bit easier to smile, to say a few last words, to let go.

With final hugs and kisses to everyone, including Kaylee, it was time.

The time that's been coming for twenty three years.

The time of letting go. Of letting others step in to love, care, encourage and be there for her. For them.

I absolutely love that Dave captured this while the three of them waited in the security line.

The older sister, caring for the little sister, with the older brother looking on.

Yes, there will be not only family in Chicago for her, and a host of friends, but also her Father, who loves her more deeply than even I can.

Though it's hard to imagine that through my tears as I watched them leave.

I sobbed in Dave's arms after we took our last glance of them going to their gate.

And we cried together in the car after that.

This business of saying goodbye is not for the faint of heart! It's hard. It's sad.

And it's right.

Claire is ready, just as Tyler and Caleb were ready when it was their turns.

I wouldn't want to keep any of them from all the richness that God has in store - that will only come as they're out on their own.

After we prayed and pulled ourselves together, we left to find someplace to have breakfast along the waterfront not far from the airport.

While Dave stepped into a restaurant to see what they had, a notification came through on the "Flight Tracker" app on my phone saying the plane had just pulled away from the gate.

I walked out to where I could look back at the airport to see if I could watch if taking off.

Instead, within five minutes, I saw this beautiful sight overhead. 

I could see the Lufthansa emblem on the tail as it flew over me, and knew that it was their plane, and that they were safely tucked inside.

Flying on the wings of eagles, being lifted up to soar into all that God has for them, with the care of a Father going with them.

And then...I could let go.

Friday, August 16, 2013

She's Got Wings

We put Claire on the plane to Chicago yesterday, bound for college in the United States.

She's got her wings now!

There is much more to say about the goodbye, but I'm still processing and absorbing all of the sweetness and sadness of that so will write about it later.

For now just wanted to enjoy a few last photos of Claire and her dad, on her last day here in Croatia...having fun, as always!

This past year has been a special one to share with her, for both Dave and I. We've done things all together, and we've made separate memories too. I love that she and her dad are close, and that she'll always be his girl!

We did a remake of an old photo on that last day, remembering the long trip to Singapore that she and her dad took together nearly 10 years ago.

Same dad...same girl...just a little older!

And a whole lot of memories between then and now to treasure for us all.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sweet Days, Sweet Life

Feeling very thankful today for these precious days with some of our kids while we're in Croatia.

We've visited favorite spots, taken lots of photos, read books, rested, swam, made good meals, eaten gelato and just hung out together.

Tomorrow, very early in the morning, we'll take a ferry over to Split and deliver them to the airport where the three of them will begin their long journey to Chicago.

For Claire this begins her college years in the States. She'll have one day at a friend's house to rest and get last shopping done before heading downtown to Moody Bible Institute on Saturday to move in and begin orientation.

Tyler and Lara head back to Chicago where Tyler will finish one last semester at Moody, and wrap up his job as the manager of Joe's, the coffee shop on campus.

Lara has a job interview on Friday, and they have an appointment to see a potential apartment in Glen Ellyn. They have some big things coming! So proud of them for how they're trusting the Lord with what's ahead in their future.

Tomorrow is a big day. It's a goodbye.  Goodbye to a very sweet life that we've known with our kids at home under our roof and care. We won't have any of them under our roof for quite a while (and most likely only Claire again someday since Tyler and Lara already have their own life, and Caleb will marry Haley next May). I will miss that.

And we'll still care about our kids for a very long time, even if they're not under our roof!

Tomorrow is also a hello...hello to a new chapter of Dave's and my life. There is something really wonderful about the thought of discovering what that will be like for us. Much as I'll miss my kids, I really like to be with Dave so I know we'll enjoy all that's ahead!

There are a lot of new, good and sweet things out there for us discover.

And best of all, the Lord has already gone ahead and prepared the way for us!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Full Circle in Croatia

It all started on one of our camping vacations to Croatia.

The men were talking about how great it would be to have something more than blow-up canoes to do guy adventures in while on vacation, especially since our four boys (Ellenwood, Hash and Patty boys) were outgrowing those canoes!

One thing led to another, and a few months later, in October 2008, Dave found two boats for sale in the Pacific Northwest. In his "bulldog" fashion, he persisted in figuring out how to buy them, ship them in a container to Czech, and sell one so it would cover all the costs of the second boat, as well as the shipping and import taxes.

It was a lot of work. In the beginning when he first had the idea, we had visions of doing it more times to pay for our kids' college education. Quickly figured out THAT wasn't going to happen because of how much work it took just to ship those two boats and get them into the country!
But in the end, he sold the second boat to a Hungarian man who was thrilled to get an American Bayliner boat. And we cleared even on the other boat and have had it ever since!

It's brought a lot of joy and memories to our lives to have a of those good gifts that we have thanked the Lord for many times.

Yesterday was one of those days we were so thankful to have it as we took it from the island over to Split.

There is just something so magical about skimming over the water and soaking in the fresh sea air.

Would you believe this is the dock for the Split International Airport?? is!! I don't know if it's an official one, but it's where you can dock your boat and get to the airport in just a matter of minutes.

You have to step VERY carefully as you get off on one of those docks. Seriously...there are a few boards in there that could send you right through into the water!

After stepping very carefully, we walked a road we've been on before. It was four years ago, almost to the day.

But this time we're not sending someone off, but rather, picking a few "someones" up!

Can you tell we're excited about who's coming in??!!! Any guesses who that might be??

Our Tyler and Lara!

They arrived from Prague yesterday after finishing their summer internship with Josiah Venture. We're so proud of them for how they gave themselves so wholeheartedly as they lead an intern team and did three English camps, sharing their lives and the Gospel all summer long.

"Thank you Tyler and Lara for loving Czech students so well this summer!"

Now we get to have them for some vacation days!

So fun to walk back down that road with them...and to come full circle with Tyler who is the one we took to college on that very road four years ago!

Now he's back with his wife! That's definitely a good full circle to make!

Loved being able to take one of my Patty family "backward" pictures again!

This is Lara's first time to be with us in Croatia...and first time to make some memories on our boat. We are excited to share this part of our family with her!!

So off we go!! They'll be here with us until next Thursday!!