Thursday, April 30, 2015

Arrival at Prague Airport

For many years we made a lot of trips to the Prague airport to pick up people: summer interns, visiting guests, family members, new JV staff. But for many reasons, we don't go as often these days.

There are others now to pick up summer interns, as well as new JV staff.

Our family usually flies into Krakow because it's closer (and usually cheaper to fly there!).

And with the connection from the Prague airport to the main train station so easy these days thanks to the Airport Express bus going every half hour, not to mention the ease and speed of train travel between Prague and Ostrava, we usually just recommend people take that mode of transportation to come see us.

But every now and then, there's a reason to go to the airport.

By the way, do you know that Czech is hosting the world ice hockey championships right now??

Waiting at arrivals, my anticipation was high as it's been a while since I've seen this dear person. Know who was flying in??

Yes, it was Dave! No kidding, even though we've only been apart two weeks while he was in Israel, it made my heart flutter to see him come through those doors.

How glad I am that he's back home safely!

Since he arrived late, we spent the night in Prague, and then enjoyed the city together all day.

Little did we know though that train travel back to Ostrava would be at such a premium.

When we tried to buy tickets home in the afternoon, all trains were sold out until the evening. It might be because of the hockey championships starting tomorrow (matches are being played in both Prague and Ostrava), or it could be because of the Czech holiday tomorrow.

In any case, it meant a few more hours in Prague. Oh well!! That sure wasn't hard to enjoy since he's my favorite person to hang out with!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Getting Perspective

I am going crazy trying to write this blog post!! All I want to say is what a beautiful day I had in Prague...without having to think of perfect words to explain it!

Why is this so hard? Because I've been in editing mode for two weeks and all I can think of is "you should say it better than that." Yes, that's where my brain is at these days.

I needed to go to Prague today for a completely other reason (a good one I'll explain later), but what came in addition to that was some fresh, much needed perspective.

Normally when in Prague, I'd take a route I've taken a hundred times, which would include the Charles Bridge for a glimpse of the castle. No trip to Prague is complete for me without seeing that jewel.

While I did see her today, it wasn't from my regular vantage point. I didn't want to fight with the masses of tourists already in Prague (as they should be! It's such a gorgeous city to visit. But I didn't want to be part of that crowd today).

Instead I took the Mánesův bridge and headed up the back way to the castle and into the gardens.

Absolutely blessed by a warm spring day, I could walk, think and pray nearly by myself up there. I saw only a handful of people the whole time I was in the garden.

It was so nice to get my head out of the computer and enjoy the beauty. For a long time I watched the bees flitting from blossom to blossom, gathering their nectar.

And stood, mesmerized by this carpet of blossoms.

Then just sat, with my feet dangling over the edge, looking out at this view.

And the Lord and I talked. For a long time. I needed to talk to him, and I needed to hear his words back to me. It couldn't have been more perfect as I soaked in his love, grace, mercy, kindness and instruction.

Some days perspective can be found at home. But other days, you have to go away to get it. Today was one of those days.

Everything is not solved or perfect. But ...

I'm at peace. And that's worth a lot. SO very thankful for a wonderful, warm, spring day in Prague where I could get perspective.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Twenty Three Steps

My heart aches over the suffering many are experiencing right now, in places far away like Nepal, but also closer to my home and heart, in the lives of people I care about.

There's a little path I walk every day that helps me deal with that heartache. It's not outside, but rather from my kitchen to the living room, and back around to the kitchen. It takes 23 steps to complete. I walk it many times a day. 

While there are often tangible ways I can help, which I do when I can, more often my most significant help probably comes in the repetition of making that circle, walking those twenty three steps. Because it's when I pray, calling out to the Lord to intervene and do the work that only he can do.

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, 
I wait for God my Savior; 
my God will hear me. Micah 7:7

I want to fix things, make people feel better, heal broken hearts, and take care of people's needs. But I'm not able. Only he is able to do that!

The best thing I can do is pray, interceding for those needs that I hear about both near and far away. 

I walk my 23 steps over and over, asking him to do what only he can do. And I rest in that.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Encouraged by Ernest

Today, now on the fourth revision of my book, I am feeling discouraged. Having been at this round of editing for ten straight days (seriously...all day, every day), you'd think I'd be well on my way to being finished. But nope. Not there yet.

Not even close.

My little buddy is sticking close to me these days - must sense that I need the encouragement! :) 

This is an intensely emotional process, one that has taken up every nook and cranny of my brain as I've tried to read my work AGAIN with a fresh eye, reworking the words to make them sound right.

In a procrastinating step this afternoon, I went online and googled "revising and editing", ending up with this little jewel from an interview with none other than Ernest Hemingway:

Interviewer: How much rewriting do you do?
Hemingway: It depends. I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.
Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?
Hemingway: Getting the words right.
(Ernest Hemingway, "The Art of Fiction,"The Paris Review Interview, 1956)

Wow. That makes me feel a lot better. Yes, that's the problem: getting the words right. According to him, I've got at least another 35 revisions before I can really start to worry about my writing.

Another great quote:

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” — Elmore Leonard, Newsweek, 1985

Aw yes, I've encountered that problem WAY too many times already as well. Sheesh. You just wouldn't think writing would be that hard. But it's proving to be that, at least for me.

“I’m all for the scissors. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.” Truman Capote, Conversations With Capote, by Lawrence Grobel, 1985

While it's more of a "delete" button kind of age, I get this! Oh boy, do I ever get it.

“Read over your compositions and, when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.”
— Samuel Johnson

This quote made me laugh out loud! Do you know how hard it is to do that??? I had no idea I'd get so attached to certain words and paragraphs, almost as if they were sacred. Yet between my editor and me, many of those passages I thought particularly fine are gone now. Sigh. What a process this is.

I'm not writing a New York Times best seller. I'm not writing to sell a lot of books. I'm surely not writing for fame or fortune. Ha ha, that's the least of my thoughts!

No, I'm writing because I want to, because the words and story are in me and I want to share those thoughts, even if it's just for family and friends.

I also feel compelled by the Lord to get this done, for whatever reason. And I know he doesn't want it done in a sloppy, uncared for manner, but rather in his excellent way so that it speaks to HIS excellence. Yes, that's what I want - a book that truly speaks of him and what he's done in my life.

I press on for now. It's been a privilege to have these free days to work on it. Once Dave gets back from the GYI trip to Israel, life will resume its normal pace and then I don't know when I'll get to work on it again with this intensity.

But at least I now know that other authors have labored this heavily over their manuscripts too, and that it will be done when all the words are "right". And not before then.

Thanks for your encouragement today Mr. Hemingway.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Roadside Delights

One crowning touch to spring's arrival: my favorite road-side flower shop is open!

Driving back from Ostrava yesterday, the happy sight greeted me, between Frydek-Mistek and Frydlant, for the first time this spring.

Local flower growers from a nearby town set up shop in their building alongside the road from now until early fall. I can't get enough of seeing all these beautiful flowers!

It's hard to remember how long they've been coming. But I've been a loyal, faithful customer of theirs for many years now.

Even if I don't stop, it makes me happy just driving by when I'm on my way home from somewhere. They've got the best balcony flowers, herbs, and rock garden plants, all for the best prices. If you're from around here and haven't stopped, you should!

Of course when the flower shop opens, the fruit stand does too. Only this year, there's a big's no longer in a tent, but rather in a lightly constructed building that was built over the winter. Big changes around here! (Smile!).

And last, but not least...need a gnome? A plastic swan? How about some round, shiny yard globes? You'll find it all next door at the market for garden kitsch!

Now that these three stands are open, I can really say spring has arrived.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Hello Spring

"No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow."

How grateful I am for that beautiful truth, and how true it's been this past week!

I keep thinking I'd like to take a day to just drive around and photograph all the gorgeous blossoms, brightly colored flowers and new growth that spring has ushered in.

But, since that's probably not going to happen, the few photos I've taken on my phone while out and about will have to do to remember how glorious it's been so far.

"He has made everything beautiful in his time." 

I am reminded of that verse when spring comes around and shows her pretty head again!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Dave On Location in Israel

While Dave's been in Israel touring with the GYI Summit, he's sent a few photos each day as internet allows - hit or miss on his tour bus, and nearly non-existent at hotels, but I'll take what I can get!

I'm thankful for these glimpses into his time there.

I remember so many of these sites, like Ceaserea, from our visit together three years ago. What a spectacular day for taking pictures there!

And what a view from Mount Arabel, over looking the Sea of Galilee! That was one of my favorite spots.

And just as pretty right down at the edge of it.

Yesterday they visited the ancient gates of Dan, where it's believed Abraham walked through. That was built around 5000 BC!

So glad that he, our JV staff, and other GYI participants, are having such an awesome time in the Holy Land as they tour and study the bold moves of Jesus while they're right there on location.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Another Great Risotto

Looking for something satisfying and relatively easy for dinner tonight? How about a new creamy, flavorful risotto that I recently discovered?

You just have to love Google sometimes! I put in the search box: risotto, mushrooms, bacon, onion and lemon. And THIS recipe from Taste in Australia is the first option it gave me! I couldn't wait to try it.

Somebody else was pretty excited that I was cooking this week (though she'd be disappointed to find out later that it wasn't for her!). Meals have been a little scarce while I've been working on edits for my book.

Do you know why the rice you use for risotto is called Arborio? I didn't know until I looked it up, but there's a town in Italy named Arborio, in the region where the rice is grown. I had no idea!

There is something super satisfying about working with arborio rice, watching the glassy sheen as you twirl it around in some butter and olive oil before beginning to add liquid. In this recipe you start with the bacon, mushrooms and onion in butter (yes, butter for the bacon...go figure) before adding the rice.

Later on, after the liquid's all been absorbed, you add the rest of the yummy ingredients.

Which includes a good bit of lemon zest, rather than lemon juice. It really makes the lemon taste shine through the finished product.

Speaking of bacon, I found this at Tesco the other day. While Anglická slanina (English bacon) is the same thing, it was kind of fun to actually find "bacon" written on the package. It was tasty too!

Adding the liquid and waiting for it to absorb is the time consuming portion of making risotto.

But it's my favorite part too. Standing there stirring and stirring as the rice soaks in the chicken stock/white wine mixture, you have time to think, pray, sing, dance or do whatever you long as you stay in one place and keep stirring.

And then finally, it becomes its creamy, delicious self and you've got an incredibly tasty meal, all in one bowl.

This is a recipe I'll be making many more times! Hope you enjoy it too.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Dirt Road Iris

Last week while driving along a dirt road on the south side of Hvar, I came across this exquisitely pretty site.

While the water, rocks and trees were gorgeous, it was the irises that caught my attention. Not because of how nicely they balanced out the picture. Or even for their pop of brilliant color amidst the greens, browns and blues.

No, what made me stop to take a picture was the fact that they were there, in the middle of nowhere. There is no town nearby, nor any houses. They're just alongside the dirt road between Sveta Nedjelja and the entrance to the main road that leads to Hvar town.

As I stood there taking photos of them I thought about what I know of irises. Don't they come from bulbs? Or ryzomes? (Yes, I had to look that name up though I knew of the concept!).

So if they do, then it means someone, at some time, squatted down in that spot, dug a hole and planted them.

Very likely without anyone knowing.

It's impossible to know what that person's motives were in doing so. Or if they ever saw the blooms after they'd planted it.

But one thing's for sure, they knew it would be for the enjoyment of others. And that act of kindness touched me that day.

There are a lot of things that I've done without anyone seeing. But how many of those things were for the enjoyment of someone else, let alone someone I might never even know? That makes me stop in my tracks and think a bit!

I might just go buy some iris bulbs and plant them somewhere here in Czech, in a place that will surprise and bring delight to someone next spring!

And if I find out that irises actually grow in the wild without anyone planting them, then I'll thank God for his act of kindness to us all.