Monday, June 30, 2014

Finishing Up, Saying Goodbye

Dave and I are sitting here in the Charlotte airport after we missed our flight to Chattanooga (was delayed getting out of Chicago). But I'm making the most of it by getting in another blog post!  We'll catch the next flight in a couple of hours.

I don't mind the delay. It gives me a few moments to reflect a bit.

What's it like to wake up at your adult married kids' apartment for the first time? SO sweet!

Lara and I took a leisurely walk in the early morning sunshine to Cermak, their awesome grocery store nearby. Wish I'd had my camera! I felt like I was in a different country as we wandered around looking at so many different items for the hispanic population who shop there...I loved it!
We returned back to their place to be treated to Intelligentsia coffee made by Tyler in his Hario Drip Pot Woodneck.

No, I didn't know what that method was either!

But the results sure were delicious.

Later on, Tyler and Lara made a wonderful breakfast, enjoyed by all of us, including Caleb and Haley who came over as well.

But all the while, I knew the minutes were ticking by. Sigh. It wasn't easy knowing that soon we'd be heading down the stairs and saying goodbye for quite a while. We don't know when we'll see each other again.

I'm feeling overwhelmed with the Lord's goodness though for all the times we've been together this year (and with Claire too). Each time was a blessing and a gift to be savored.

I really can't thank the Lord enough for letting me have that kind of sweet transition into our new time of life...going back to our life and ministry in Czech while all our kids stay in the States.

I'm super proud of them for the kinds of lives that they're leading, and know that there are wonderful days ahead as they move on with their lives, and we move on with ours.

After tender goodbyes with Tyler and Lara, Caleb and Haley drove us to O'Hare airport to catch our flight.

When we landed in the States last October, this car had 115,000 miles on the odometer. It now reads 143,870.

That means we've traveled over 28,000 miles which is more miles than the circumference of the earth, which is 'only' 24,901 miles! Whew. Lots of miles on the road, for sure.

We've been to all four corners of the United States, covering 28 states in eight months.

We've traveled through the amazingly diverse countryside of the States, enjoying it from sea to shining sea.

And best of all, we've seen amazing, wonderful, beloved people everywhere we've been. I'm SO thankful for that.

It was strange and wonderful to be in the back with Haley for just a few more minutes, riding in the car we've lived in traveled in all those months. I think I'll actually miss it a little bit!

Seeing the sign to O'Hare was somewhat surreal knowing that this year of sabbatical is nearly finished.

Remember the Maxwell Coffee ad of long ago, "Good to the last drop"?

That's how I feel as we near our time of departure in a few days. What an incredibly wonderful, rich, beautiful, precious, memorable and meaningful time this year has been for us. We'll treasure the memory of these months for many, many years.

After we hugged Caleb and Haley one last time, we waved goodbye as they drove back into the city to move forward with their lives there, along with Tyler and Lara, and Claire when she returns for school in the fall.

I'm so full of joy for all of them! I'm positive that the Lord has much good in store for them as they all proceed forward with what God has led them to do here in the States.

It's almost time for Dave and I to catch our flight...and return to Czech in just three days for all the good the Lord has in store for us too.

We are so excited to resume our journey of leading the work of Josiah Venture in Central and Eastern Europe, praying for a movement God among the youth there, that finds its home in the local church and transforms society.

I'm deeply thankful for the refreshment of this sabbatical year so that we're ready for all that God has ahead!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Chicago Evening with Loved Ones

After driving down from Michigan today, we met up with our precious kids this evening for dinner in Chicago.

Our first time out as three married couples!

Not far from Tyler and Lara's place is a wonderful middle eastern restaurant where we headed for some seriously good food this evening. It felt like we were in Jerusalem!

Oh so wonderful to be altogether for an evening!

After waiting out a huge rainstorm, we headed down the street for a completely different cultural experience.

Ice cream in the hispanic section of the city!

Mango sorbet? Yes please!!

A walk back through the neighborhood on a warm, humid Chicago evening...these are treasured moments right now.

We are now spending our first night ever in Tyler and Lara's apartment - what fun to get to stay with them!

But tomorrow after breakfast with the six of us, Dave and I fly to Chattanooga for a few days before heading home to Czech on Wednesday after eleven months away on our sabbatical.

So we are soaking in a few more precious hours together with our much loved children here in Chicago.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Gull Lake Joy

Our hearts are simply overflowing with joy after a week at Gull Lake Ministries in Michigan!

Trying to put it into words is difficult, so perhaps a few collages of pictures will help to express the preciousness of being there.

Hearing Cove Kids and their counselors sing for the final program...delightful!

Seeing 14 people baptized on Thursday afternoon...precious!

Meeting up with dear friends and their children...wonderful!

Watching Claire face paint at the Stars and Strips Carnival...beautiful!

Being with the whole extended Brewster family...special!

And finally, saying goodbye to Claire...hard but sweet.

We're so proud of her and the way she's shining Jesus as she serves at Gull Lake. We can't think of a better place for her to be this summer.

Thankful that we'll see her at home in Czech in three weeks!!

"We'll miss you Gull Lake friends...and Claire! Thank you for such a special week together."

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cove Kids with Czecholate

When we started going to Gull Lake Ministries six years ago, our kids were all in the high school program so I didn't know much about what they provided for the younger ones.

But this year, Czecholate Chip (aka Claire!) is working in the Cove Kids program so I went to visit her a few different mornings to find out what happens there.

Five years ago God provided the resources for GLM to build an incredibly beautiful Ministry Center (known as the MC) where, among many other things, the children's programs are housed. And wow! What incredible spaces they have for the young kids who come with their families for camp.

The rooms are bright, cheerful and fully equipped for morning and evening programs when the kids are there. For the 2's and 3's where Czecholate is working, they have a program divided up into 10-15 minute segments so the kids are never bored. It's a fantastic program!

Bible story time, crafts, music, play time, outdoor's all a part of making sure these little ones have just as special of a time at camp as their parents do.

Again, I am just so impressed by this ministry: their integrity, their excellence, their passion for the Lord, and their desire to make a difference in people's lives for the sake of Christ.

And I love how they care for and train their staff! It's a joy to leave Claire here under their care and guidance for the next few weeks as she serves here at Gull Lake.

Czecholate Chip with Sweet Tooth, her partner in Cove Kids and her roommate this summer!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Theme Nights

Internet is spotty here at Gull Lake this week, but I think I've got a signal this afternoon so want to at least post something!

One of the things that's fun here are the theme nights they do: the 50's, Sport's Night, Tool Time, Stars and Stripes. While everyone is encouraged to bring costumes, no one does it better than the summer staff...and the speaker for the week! :)

Claire is wearing a jersey from Dave's high school in Englewood, CO - when the school got rid of the jerseys this year, his sister got one for him bearing the number of the year he graduated!

Thankfully the weather was nice Sunday evening (I'm actually writing this three days later after lots of rain!) so we could be outside on the Quad for games.

And a fun rendition of the week's memory verse by the summer staff! (Which happens to be from the book of Philippians, the book Dave is teaching on this week!)

Seeing Claire on staff here is a huge delight this week. When we started coming six years ago, I would have never guessed that she'd come to serve at Gull Lake. And now here she is, on the staff board (bearing her camp name) with all the other summer counselors!

Last night's theme was Tool Time so Dave and I wore the obligatory "flannel"!

And guess who showed up at dinner? Wilson! (You'd have to know the old TV show "Tool Time" to appreciate that!).

We're sure enjoying ourselves here at Gull Lake!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Welcome to Gull Lake

We've arrived at Gull Lake!!

Six years ago we drove up to Michigan for our first time at GLM, having no idea what family camp American style was.

After four camps in 2008, 2010, 2012 and now in 2014, we know what to expect: a rousing welcome!!

Situated on Gull Lake (yes, it's a real lake!), this amazing Christian family camp has been going since 1920. They offer such a quality program for all ages, from babies up to adults.

Speaking of babies...just as we arrived, we saw my dear, long-time friend Karen and her family from Canada! I've known Karen since she was a little girl, and now here she is with her husband, four girls and newborn son! Such a sweet reunion with them.

That wasn't the only reunion going on: look who I found inside the ministry center!

Claire is on staff here at Gull Lake this summer, working with the newborns through toddler ages in a program called Cove Kids!

Dave will be leading the adults through the book of Philippians this week as he teaches in the "Tab", pictured here. It was built in 1904! It's the heart of this ministry, and a special place to be as we hear God's word taught throughout the week.

Located just across the street from the Tab, they added a brand new building to the ministry this year, and we get to stay in it for the week.

So excited about what God has in store for us all in the coming days!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hayley, Star of the Evening

Last night, Hayley, daughter of JV missionaries, commanded the kitchen as head chef!

After growing up in the Czech Republic, Hayley came to the States last year to enter a culinary arts college program in the Chicago area. She had a fantastic year, and last night displayed her gifts by preparing a fantastic five course meal for the JV board members.

Theresa, Sarah and I had the privilege of working alongside her as her sous chefs!

This beautiful young woman already had a gift for food prep and hospitality.

But that gifting has now gone to a whole other level. The complexity of preparation was astounding, yet she handled it with grace and elegance.

It was amazing to watch a young woman who I've known since she was three years old, command a kitchen and roll out such an amazing meal. She was poised, confidant, careful, and professional.

The traits of a good chef are not necessarily in coming up with your own ideas, but in knowing where to gather those ideas from...and she did that so well! This gazpacho, a recipe from Sarah, was absolutely delicious!

And the baguettes she baked from scratch?? OH MY!! Bread perfection right there! Imagine a little goat cheese generously spread on a slice, topped with three different types of heirloom tomatoes marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Fabulous!!

I've never seen anything done like this, but these are smashed potatoes. So easy and so very yummy to eat!!

The main course consisted of a pork chop cooked to perfection (sometime I'll get the recipe on here!), roasted vegetable and the smashed potatoes topped with sour cream, cheddar cheese, bacon and chives.

Yes, I'm sorry you weren't there to taste it with us!

Hosted in the home of a JV board member, I loved seeing Hayley shine as she stood by her dad, appropriately proud of the dinner she was about to serve them.

At each course she came into the dining room to explain what she'd prepared, doing so with such maturity and ease. I was so proud of her!

As were her other "aunts"! We all reveled in the joy of the moment, delightfully celebrating this occasion of Hayley's triumphant dinner.

Probably no one was more proud though than her dad. I'm so glad I somehow captured that moment of his proud gaze at his daughter.

The final course was an absolutely amazing tiramisu, undoubtedly the best I've ever had. Hayley definitely has a gift for taking a recipe to it's finest!

And yes, I had two (little!) pieces. How could I resist?!

The evening was a complete success, beautiful in every way: the food, the setting, the company we were in...priceless!

And Hayley was the star of the evening!