Monday, September 30, 2013

Family Time

It's a dark, rainy morning here in Ljubljana at my sister-in-law's kitchen table.

But look at what I see out the window - those huge pumpkins that came from the Patty garden! That's enough to cheer you on a dark day, isn't it?

One of those pumpkins weighs 80 pounds!

We are at Josh and Kristi's (Dave's brother and family) for a few days, getting in some family time.

And we're dropping off Kaylee to hang out for a while with her cousin, Scout (not sure how those two feel about that yet, but I guess they'll work it out! HA!).

She'll be staying with the Patty's while we are in the States for the next six months. Thankful for our family who not only loves us, but our dog too!

While these are just pictures taken on my phone, it gives a little window into the joy of family time, like watching videos and pictures from their family vacation down in Hvar last month.

And getting to enjoy the cute toothless grin from my adorable nephew!

It was also great watching the brothers have a good conversation late into the evening.

Thankful for family. Glad we get some days with them!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

On To What's Next

It was an early morning pull-out yesterday from the beautiful place on Brač that was so generously given to us by dear friends. Thank you John and Kris! How refreshed we feel after these weeks in your corner of God's amazing creation!

We traveled all day and arrived in Zagreb for the night. Today we will continue on to our family in Ljubljana, Slovenia for a few days. 

It's cool, cloudy and rainy here. But our hearts and souls are full and warm from our restful sabbatical. So grateful to the Lord for His nourishment while in Croatia.

Now we begin to turn our hearts towards what's next! Time in the States to reconnect with our kids, family, friends and our church families around the country.

And, we hope, to write some books! Both Dave and I have writing projects on our hearts so we will jump into those in the next few weeks. 

In my heart, I'll be writing from this spot. Such sweet memories are now associated with that view. 

Grateful. Oh. So. Grateful!!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Last Outing

Since Dave and I are "see and do" kinds of people, and love soaking in the atmosphere and sites of such a beautiful place, we decided on one last outing over to Hvar to finish up our sabbatical here in Croatia. 

Although we've often been on Hvar, we've never spent any time in Stari Grad, other than to get off the ferry that docks there.

We didn't know what we were missing!

 One of the oldest towns in all of Europe, it was first settled by the Greeks in 384 BC. Imagine that!

It's been under rule by the Roman Empire, the Slavs, the Venetian Republic, the Austrian Empire, and the Dalmatian Kingdom, which was part of the larger Austro-Hungarian Empire. It's certainly seen its share of rulers and leadership.

The city was almost completely destroyed by fire in the 16th century, but was rebuilt and is a beautiful city today that hearkens back to its roots in the past.

We wandered the back streets for hours, just soaking in the beauty.

And sat for a while on the soft, well worn steps of one of the churches, enjoying local life as a few people passed by.

Just around the corner from this old square was a preschool. We could hear the sounds of children floating through the air as we sat on the steps, and then were treated to this sight as a grandpa and his granddaughter wandered in.

We chuckled at the long route she was taking as they, most likely, were headed for home. She skipped, jumped, wandered and stopped to observe the tiniest of things, taking well over ten minutes to walk through this square, which would normally take all of thirty seconds!  He commented to us as they rounded the corner, "She's non-stop from morning til night like this. I'm too old to keep up with her!"

Around every corner there was a treasure to take in. Couldn't help but wonder who was being waited on so they could sit down at that table together and enjoy the contents of the pretty pitcher.

There were so many nooks and crannies throughout the town, which has a population of 2800, though you would hardly have known it yesterday as we walked alone through most of the streets.

Just to the right of that old gate with the padlock, was a wide open door into its garden. And one of hundreds of pomegranate trees we saw throughout the town, just waiting to be picked. 

Since that was obviously someone's garden, we of course didn't pick! But at the edge of town, in an abandoned field, we found a tree where we could. Such amazing fruit!

We wandered back into town, seeing only a few people here and there in these winding, cobble-stoned streets.

With not another person in sight, and not even a sound except for the chirping birds overhead and church bells ringing in the distance, sat this woman. As we passed by, she didn't even move. It almost looked like she just elegantly sits there day after day, year after year, giving people like us a beautiful site to photograph!

Don't you wonder what her story is.

Back out onto the waterfront, there is no lack of cafes and restaurants to enjoy. Wish we had time to try them all out and find out their specialties!

We headed over to the other side of the harbor, walking as far as we could on that path, much to Kaylee's delight. She's a great walker, except for every time a local dog came by (there are a lot of sweet, but wandering dogs there) who wanted to check her out. Then it was "Dad???"

He was only too happen to oblige!

This church, one of at least six we saw in the town, was built in the 13th-14th century, down at the water's edge.

After hours of walking, we stopped at this cafe for coffee and ice cream, always a good afternoon pick-me-up!

Then, with one last glimpse of Stari Grad, it was time to head back to Brač.

Even this last day was nourishing and refreshing to us. I felt so thankful for every last bit of beauty we saw.

We feel deeply renewed and ready to head on to the next months of our time in the States as we begin writing, as well as visiting friends, family, supporters and our churches.

Thankful to be on this journey together!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Before and After

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then these pictures speak for themselves about the goodness of these past weeks here in Croatia.

And again, I have Dave's permission to post them!

The above picture was taken in Hvar town last week. This is six weeks after we arrived in Croatia for this time of rest and renewal.

The picture below was taken in front of those same doors back in February when we were there with Claire on spring break.

See any difference?

I can hardly describe how wonderful it is to see, and be with, Dave when he is rested. Weeks of sunshine, fresh air, good sleep, time in the Word, time in prayer, walks, and being together as a couple has been invaluable.

Dave is a hard worker, a visionary, a pioneer, a man with a plan!

But even those kind of guys need a break to clear their head, heart and mind. The time here in Croatia has done exactly that.

Watch out world! When Dave is rested, you never know what he might start thinking up.

Hopefully this rest will also translate into some good writing that he plans to do, beginning in mid-October.

I can't say it enough - we are so grateful for this sabbatical year. And we're only two months in to ten months of it! What will we both be like at the end?!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Sunset Gift

Do you ever drive by someplace dozens of times and say to yourself, "One of these days I need to stop"?

That's what Dave and I have been saying about this spot, just fifteen minutes from where we're staying. We've passed it no less than twenty times over the past weeks, noticing it each time we drive by, but never stopping.

Until last evening. When we made a special trip there just to see it at sunset.

Up on top of that knoll is something really special, hidden by the trees in the above picture. As we hiked up the hill (it's farther up than it looks!), we soaked in this spectacular view, looking over the island of Brač, and back over to the mainland of Croatia. Stunning!

Up we climbed, passing by this cross on the way. Who made it? Who put it there and when? What were they thinking about as they mounted it there? I always want to know answers to these kinds of questions, and wish I had someone to ask!

More questions...who built those stone fences? Were they shepherds from long ago? How long did it take to build them? Oh how I wish I could go back in time to watch them and find out. My curious mind wants to know these things.

We've seen these stone houses, used by shepherds, in other places on the islands, but few this well preserved. What a building feat, to have constructed that! Did shepherds spend the nights in them? Were they just to get out of the heat during the day? Does anyone use them today??

I had so many questions running through my mind as we swiftly made our way up the hill to get there before the sun lost its glow!

Finally we reached the top, to see what we'd come to see, just as the sun was giving its last light of the day. Isn't that so lovely?!

What a spot for a chapel! The vista is a full panorama from up there. What a glorious place to worship the Lord!

I was about as giddy as I ever get, taking in ALL the beauty up there: the view, the sunset, the chapel, the tinkling of the sheep's bells just below us. If there was one moment that defined bliss during these sabbatical days, it was up here, for those minutes. Simply glorious.

Being the only ones up there at sunset, we put the camera on a rock and set the timer. There was no way we were going to miss a photo together in one of my most favorite spots of this whole trip!

The beauty of God's glorious creation, everywhere, everywhere, EVERYWHERE! I stood there memorizing every bit of it as best as I could.

We waited for the sun to set over the island of Šolta before heading back down. What a lovely way to end the day.

So so SO very thankful for how creative the Lord is! And so happy to share it with my dear Dave, who never gets tired of my exclamations of joy over such things!

Monday, September 23, 2013

His Calling

A week ago, for his birthday, Dave and I hiked in to a monastery here on the island of Brač. It was such a spectacular view that we opted to go one more time before leaving the island.

But this time, we chose to enter from a different angle. And while it's hard to believe anything could top last week's hike, this one did!

We drove down the island, on a very bumpy, rocky road, twisting and turning on what most of the time was a one lane road (thankfully only encountering a few four wheelers along the way). With no guard rail on the edge, we glimpsed one gorgeous view after another.

When I uploaded the photos today, there were so many that spoke to me. I could probably just about write a blog post on each one! Have I mentioned how I like taking pictures?! HA! It sure does help me remember the beautiful things our eyes are seeing.

In 2010 there was a devastating fire on the island that burned sections of the island extensively. And yet the beauty of it remains.

You can see how close the fire came to this, now abandoned, house on one of the coves we drove by. Did people live there up until the fire? You can't help but wonder.

After about 40 minutes of driving, we came to the top of the ridge where the trail head into the monastery begins. We stood there in awe of how beautiful it was from that vantage point, looking out over Hvar, and the island of Vis in the distance.

It's a steep hike down into the valley, but totally doable. And worth it! I felt like I lost my breath as we looked across and saw this. Absolutely amazing from that perspective. It brings up all sorts of words from the Bible that it illustrates: refuge, stronghold, protected, hidden away, fortress.

While the trail was doable for us, not so for Kaylee! She was a good hiker the other day, but yesterday she protested at going down steep grades on rocky, uneven surfaces. Good thing Dave's a willing dog carrier!

The monastery is open for tours six days a week. What we didn't know was who gives the tour. What a fascinating story that was!

The last monk died in 1963, after over 400 years of it being an active monastery. When he died, a man was given the job of caretaker, which he did for twenty years. And in 1983, a new caretaker took over. His son. Who is still the caretaker today, thirty years later! He was the one there giving tours yesterday.

And one other tidbit. All the monks, over those four hundred plus years, came from the same family! There were always three monks on site, with thirty workers there to assist them. At harvest time, over a hundred people came in as volunteers. They kept meticulous records so this is how they know what took place there through the years.

Do you see that tree? It's a tree, growing out of another tree! New coming out of the old. Surely there's a good illustration in there somewhere.

Just a ten minute walk from the monastery is where they kept bees for years and years. 237 hives, to be exact! Since Dave was once a beekeeper (in Colorado with his family), he was fascinated to see the remains of their hives. And to imagine what the sound must've been like when there were all those active hives!

Picture taking wasn't allowed in the actual monastery, and neither were dogs! So Kaylee and I stayed out while Dave went in for a tour with the man who'd been giving tours for thirty years.

Since there wasn't anyone else there at the time, Dave had a private tour, which he loved, and was free to ask questions to his heart's content.

He said it was absolutely fascinating, and looked like time had stood still as almost everything is "as is" from 1963 when the last priest died.  Even down the barbells left in the room where the priest had last used them! The man giving the tour was proud to show those, saying how the priests liked to keep in shape and were "body builders"!

As we hiked back up (this time Kaylee was willing to go at it on her own!), we marveled at how this little community survived, and thrived, for so many years. What a sanctuary it must've been for those men, and even those who worked there, as they sought to do what they felt was the Lord's calling on their lives.

We resonate with that! We're seeking to do the out His calling on our lives.