Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Greetings

From sunny, cold Hvar in Croatia, we send our happy New Year greetings to you all!

So thankful for these sweet days with some of our kids to finish out the year!

Busting a Myth

Have you ever watched the show "Mythbusters"? It's a science entertainment TV program on the Discovery channel that uses elements of scientific methods to test the validity of rumors, myths, old wives tales and the like.

When our kids were younger, it was our favorite show. I still feel like Jamie and Adam, the two hosts, are kind of like family to us after watching and quoting them so often through the years!

On our drive down south this past Sunday, I was thinking of them.

The first real snow dump of the season happened Sunday morning, the day we left on our trip. So we had snowy roads the whole way to Ljubljana.

And this is the point where I wish we'd had Jamie and Adam with us to prove something that up until now has only been a myth in our family.

See anything amiss in this photo?

Back in the days when we lived in Germany, the myth of the "stau brothers" began. Who are the stau brothers? Well, in German "stau" means traffic jam. And many, many times when we would come to a standstill on the autobahn, for no apparent reason, we would say "The stau brothers must be up ahead blocking traffic."

It was our belief that the brothers found a lot of evil pleasure in randomly causing traffic jams by traveling in separate vehicles (two, three or four, depending on how wide the road was) and then suddenly slowing down, side by side, so that no one could go past them. They would travel at a snail's pace for random amounts of time so that hundreds, sometimes thousands, of cars would back up behind them before they'd pull over and let traffic resume.

We would go from a full stop on the autobahn to driving at a normal speed, and never know why traffic had been at a standstill.

Unfortunately, we never saw this phenomenon with our own eyes, so it remained a myth.

Until Sunday afternoon when we saw the brothers with our own eyes.

Just as we crossed the border into Slovenia, these two snow plows pulled onto the highway, and proceeded to plow side by side just in front of us.

You can tell we were only a few cars behind the stau brothers when this occurred, allowing us to see with our own eyes that the myth is truth!

We drove like this, at 20 km per hour (12 mph), for the next 20 minutes. The line of cars behind us went as far as our eyes could see as the brothers took their evil pleasure out on all the unsuspecting drivers.

Except for us, who knew what was going on! HA HA!!

I don't know how long they planned to continue in their dastardly deed, but Dave had the foresight to pull off at a highway interchange and beat them at their own game. Driving as rapidly safely as possible, he got off the highway and then got right back on ahead of them while the rest of us cheered!

We finally met, and BEAT, the stau brothers at their own game.

Just wish Jamie and Adam had been with us to see it with their own eyes too!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

From Family to Family

Sunday was one of those happy days that you want to go on forever.

After leaving home in Czech that morning, we stopped in Bratislava to see family: Mark, Amy, Allyson, Ian, Gavin and of course Haley and Caleb!

Then with Caleb and Haley joining us in the car, we continued on down to Slovenia for more family, this time with our Patty family.

Some fun cousin time!

My precious sister-in-law feeding the whole bunch of us. Bless you Kristi!!

Anyone see a resemblance between these three?! Love seeing these brothers together.

And how fun to have an evening together with Josh and Kristi, Steve and Nicole, who'd been in Slovenia for Christmas!

We even got to go downtown Ljubljana together to enjoy each other and the festive atmosphere...

As well as the gorgeous lights of Ljubljana! What a beautiful city.

After staying up late, because that's what you do with family (!), we woke up to this gorgeous view out Patty's windows. What a treat!

Oh how I loved having everyone gather in the kitchen for breakfast, getting in just a few more minutes of connection with each other. We do like being together!

It just meant so much to soak in family time with these dear ones.

All too soon it was time to leave those dear ones and this pretty sight. Wish it didn't have to end!

"Thank you family for such sweet time together!"

Monday, December 29, 2014

Newest JV Family

After a drive yesterday from our home in Czech, we stopped in Slovenia for the night (which I'll write about later), and then this afternoon found ourselves at a mall in Croatia.

But we weren't there to shop or look at Christmas decorations.

We were on the lookout for some special people! Can you see any of them here?

I love seeing that little face pressed up against the glass!

It's our newest JV family, the Hinger's, who just moved to Split, Croatia.

Sorry it's blurry, but I was catching the moment when they spotted us! 

John and Amber, with their four children, moved to Split the week before Christmas to begin a new JV ministry here. They forfeited spending it with their families in the States or Canada (Amber is American, John is Canadian) in order to give their kids and themselves a few weeks to get settled before enrolling their kids in Croatian schools after the holidays have finished. They're all jumping right into life here as they are the only JV family here. But even their kids are excited about what's ahead for all of them!

So sweet to see "old" and "new" JVK (JV kids) together here in Croatia!

Dave prayed for the family in the middle of the mall, asking God to go before John and Amber as they begin a new work here to reach young people for Christ, and for their kids as they begin school soon that they too will be lights for Jesus here.

We are super proud of this family as they take on the task of pioneering a new work in this country! May there be many who come to faith as a result of their lives and testimony of faith.

We love you Hinger family! So glad to see you today!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Tiny Treasure

I don't know who came up with the saying, "Big things comes in small packages", but it was never more true than this Christmas.

My brother sent me an incredible treasure on a tiny microchip.

Know who that is? It's my dad with his very first car, a '48 Ford!

And know who this lovely lady is? It's my mom, with a note to my dad in her handwriting from long ago.

This year my brother spent HOURS scanning photos to put on that tiny microchip for me! Photos like these of he and I through the years.

And these awesome school photos of a certain girl who always did like to change her hairstyle.

There are not only a lot of photos of my mom, dad and brother, but of my grandparents too!

Grandma and Grandpa Kimball, my mom's parents

And my Grandma and Grandpa France back in the day!

He even found a photo of my grandma Kimball with her dad, my Great-Grandpa Sunday who lived to be 101.

There are so many more photos loaded onto this little chip...I can't even fathom how that's possible! But I'm thankful for people who know how to do that, and ESPECIALLY thankful to my brother for his incredibly thoughtful treasure of a gift to me!

Thank you SO much Mike!!!! I will treasure these photos.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Afternoon with a Bride-to-Be

I can hardly think of anything sweeter to do a few days after Christmas than spend an afternoon in Poland at my friend Laura's house, with dear, long-time, much beloved friends.

But this wasn't just a gathering for fun, though of course we had fun! It had special meaning.

It was a bridal shower for a precious young woman that I've known for 22 years.

Meet Emily, daughter of Jim and Lina who we served with in Germany back in our Malachi Ministries days in the early 90's. I first met Emily when she was only a few months old, as her parents and we led a youth group on a military base in Heidelberg together.

But our lives were not only connected there. Fifteen months after we moved to the Czech Republic, she and her family moved to Czech as well and joined our team, back in 1995.

Emily was Claire's first playmate and best friend during those years they lived in Czech!

Her family moved back to the States in 2000 and served at the headquarters of a mission organization, while also becoming very involved in their local church. At 16, her dad took her on a church mission's trip to Bangladesh. There, she began to fall in love with the people and culture, returning many times over the years.

But something remarkable happened on that first trip. She met a young man. And that is the man she is marrying six years later!

She's been in Bangladesh this year, teaching at an international school and will be married there this coming March.

Emily's parents are back with JV now, serving in Leipzig, Germany so she was able to come for Christmas with them, and then to Poland to spend an afternoon with us!

We had the joy of hearing her story, asking questions, seeing photos and hearing what life is like in Bangladesh.

I also had the privilege, as one of her long-time "aunties", to give the devotional, talking about the ingredients to a marriage of love.

Oh the sweetness of listening to her mom pray afterward as we gathered around this dear one we've all known for so many years.

Susan, Laura and Heidi were all on the JV team (and still are!) back in the years Emily's family lived in Czech, so it just seemed so right and precious to celebrate her upcoming marriage since we have known her most of her life.

Laura, one of the best hostesses I know (!), brought out a little bubbly for us to toast Emily with after we'd prayed for her.

 Well, a bottle of children's peach flavored sparkling bubbly that is!

And a beautiful lunch as well. Thank you Laura for such wonderful food and atmosphere today!

One of the things that was always true about Emily was her sparkling eyes and happy nature. How fun to see that trait in her as a mature young woman now! She loves the Lord, is grounded in her faith, has such a gentle spirit and is a joy to be around. As one of her adopted aunts, I couldn't be more proud of the way she is living her life and loving those around her, and it was truly a joy to hear of her love for her fiancé, her adopted country, and its people.

We lingered all afternoon, soaking in the sweet time together with Emily and each other. On a day like this you can't help but feel SO thankful for long and precious friendships that transcend time and distance.

"Emily, we love you and bless you as you head towards marriage with this wonderful man! May your lives be filled with the depths of God's love, and may you spend a lifetime learning how to love each other as He loves you!"

Thank you Claire for your photos that captured our day with these beautiful women!

Be sure to go HERE to see Claire's blog about today, complete with long-ago pictures of she and Emily!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Sweet Moments of Christmas

In every way, Christmas means so much to me.

Celebrating the birth of Jesus. Spending time with family and friends. The coziness of a decorated home. Giving gifts. Receiving gifts. :)

All of those things are magical and meaningful to me, and yesterday's celebration was yet another expression of those characteristics.

Even though it was our smallest Christmas ever, with Tyler and Lara in the States, and Caleb and Haley in Slovakia, there was still a sweetness and joy about the day.

And guess what? Santa still came to fill a stocking, even if just one Patty child adult is in the house!

Kaylee was a willing stand-in for a sibling all day, and more than happy to help Claire out with her presents.

Or just to hang out in her arms and pretend to be a Christmas puppy! HA!

Taking our time to open gifts, talk, drink coffee, reminisce, make breakfast, and enjoy being together was all on order yesterday.

We stuck with some traditions, but made some new ones as well - like this incredibly delicious gingerbread cake that Claire made for breakfast instead of calorie/sugar/butter laden cinnamon rolls that we've enjoyed in the past, which are not so good on our tummies anymore!

It actually hailed in the morning giving a slight effect of a white Christmas...for about five minutes! But it was still cool enough outside to have a good roaring fire going while enjoying our morning traditions.

Dave read the Christmas story from Luke, as he always does, and we talked about what new thing struck us this year as we heard it.

I'm always amazed that there's something new every year. For me it was the wonder of Mary enduring that long journey to Bethlehem, heavy with child. Surely she must've known how close she was to giving birth to Jesus, and yet she went and thus fulfilled the prophecy of him being born in Bethlehem.

That part of the story was all the more poignant yesterday as we waited anxiously for news of another imminent birth: our dear friends here, Petr and Lauren Bozon, welcomed their Noelle Grace at 5:30 in the afternoon on Christmas Day!

Other sweet moments of the day: being surprised by my daughter-in-law, Lara, who sent one of my favorite treats: Snyder's Mustard Pretzels! Because I don't do well with gluten, I gave them up many years ago, but sure never forgot the yummy taste. I had no idea they now exist gluten free!!

"Thank you Lara for finding those for me!!"

More sweet moments of the day? Lots and lots of happy smiles! I love this one that Claire captured of her dad!

And this funny moment thanks to a perfect gift from our brother-in-law, David!

The other angle!

Of course there were thoughtful gifts that made the day special.

An "Aunt Michelle" gift that she sneakily sent for Claire!

A handmade card from my mom and dad with money for a date night!

A beautiful scarf from my mom-in-law!

Later in the afternoon we had a visit from our dear neighbor to show us the necklace she received yesterday!

And then a sweet evening visit with our friends, Jonny and Lisa and their precious kids!

The day was complete in its magic and meaningfulness with FaceTime chats in the morning with Caleb and Haley in Slovakia, and later in the evening with Tyler and Lara in Chicago, as well as talks with our parents. So thankful to be able to connect with all of them on such a wonderful day.

We finished our Christmas by watching "Elf" for oh, probably the 10th time! But it's just one of those "must see" movies for us.

And then we woke up to snow this morning, that's still on the ground this evening as the sun sets. Magical.

My heart is full of thankfulness to the Lord for His gift of salvation to me, and for the many other good gifts He's given through the years, including this very precious Christmas 2014.