Thursday, March 31, 2016

Prevailing Winds

By looking at this tree, can you tell which way the prevailing winds blow here?

The past two and half years I've felt a bit like that tree, buffeted by the spiritual winds of opposition in regards to the book I've been writing. I feel a little funny saying that because I don't know what its worth and value will be. But I can say that it's been a fight to get it done.

Perhaps every author feels that way. I do know now that writing a book is a laborious process, from the concept stage, all the way to publication.

And I'm still not there yet. But I'm working hard this week to finish so that it can be finally be published.

After seven hours of pushing through the 'wind' today, I thanked the Lord for his help as I edited yet another section. I'm truly serious when I say that he is the one who helped me. Oh to him be the glory for this book! I could never have written it without his help.

Needing a break and a walk in the afternoon (someone else needed the walk too!), I drove down a dirt road to get to a remote beach I've wanted to hike down to.

Since I've ever only seen this beach from the road, getting to see it closer was a thrill today.

With a towering mountain of solid rock as its backdrop, it's truly one of those magnificent sights where you can only say, "How did you do that God??!!"

I didn't go all the way down to the beach. I'm saving that as a treat for the day I finish these edits.

Getting this close to seeing it is good motivation to keep persevering! What a happy day it will be when I get to stand on that beach!

Soon I hope to be finished with my book, and standing on that beach in celebration of what God has done. While it's been a laborious process, there has also been a lot of joy in recounting the stories of his faithfulness in our lives these past 30 years of ministry.

I can't wait for you to read it and praise God with me for his amazing, awesome work in this part of the world.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Back to Israel

After a special time with family, a building project for the Hvar house, and a happy celebration of our anniversary, Dave left from here yesterday.

Jumping on the morning seaplane from Jelsa, which took him over to the mainland, he caught a flight from Split to Israel, where we just returned from two weeks ago.

Why Israel again? Dave is part of the executive leadership team for Global Youth Initiative, a partnership of organizations around the world that are similar to Josiah Venture, all working towards and praying for a movement of God among the youth of the globe.

Once a year they meet together to pray, strategize and encourage each other in this mission. And this year, like it has been for the past few years, they are meeting in Jerusalem.

Photo from Dave this afternoon!

He'll be in meetings there until Saturday, then will fly back here on Sunday.

While he's gone, I'm staying on Hvar to complete a few projects, and work on details for the rental of the house this summer. We already have six bookings so we're trying to finish in time for our first guests.

With our sweet little dog to keep me company, I'm looking forward to some quiet days with the Lord here, as well as making progress on these projects.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Celebrating Amy: Take 2

This dear friend is having a very special birthday today!

Amy Ellenwood, who came into our lives 18 years ago when she, Mel and their three little children arrived in the Czech Republic to serve with Josiah Venture, is a beautiful 50 years old today!

What joy to be with her on this day to celebrate, and to watch her be celebrated by others in a very special way.

Through the thoughtfulness of her mom and daughter, Hannah, they pulled off an incredible gesture of love for Amy by inviting people from every time period of her life to share words about what she's meant to them through the years.

After several weeks of pulling it all together into a digital book, Hannah (who was up until 2 AM in California finishing it for her mom...way to go Hannah!) called this morning and told her to check her email. And there Amy discovered nearly two hundred letters and photos with life-giving, loving, heartfelt and honoring thoughts and wishes for her on this significant birthday.

I watched her laugh, cry and exclaim in delight as she read letter after letter, overwhelmed by the generosity, kindness and love expressed in them. I know she'll treasure those words for years to come.

As Amy read a few letters out loud throughout the day, I heard a theme come through: this is a woman who loves God and people well. She has laid down her life for the sake of the Gospel and entrusted herself to the One who would sustain and hold her through anything that would come her way. She would be the first one to say that it is the grace of God that has held her and made her who she is today.

And that's what we all love about her.

There is nothing but unselfish love, rich kindness, deep generosity, beautiful servanthood and an utter dependence on God that makes her the woman we all love, treasure and honor today.

"Happiest of all birthdays Amy!! I, along with so many others, love and treasure who you are. I think all of us would say "My life is richer because you are in it!!" 

Personally, I am so very thankful for you and love you with all my heart!"

Monday, March 28, 2016

Anniversary on Hvar

Twenty nine years...

Of love, laughter, tears, joy, children, family, friends, memories, vacations, ministry and so so so very much more. All shared with this dear man I get to call my husband.

We've come a long ways since taking our engagement photo downtown Heidelberg, before we were married in Germany on March 28th, 1987. Who were those young kids?!

Waiting at the back of the Gedächtniskirche in Speyer on my dad's arm that chilly March day, I was simply ecstatic to see Dave at the front of the church, waiting to become my husband. Oh what a truly happy, joyful, blissful day that was!!

And life with him has continued to be better than I ever could've imagined that day. Oh how I love being married to Dave.

I woke this morning, the day of our anniversary, with the worst migraine I've had in quite a long time. I have no idea where it came from or what brought it on. But as he has so many times through these 29 years, Dave cradled my head, prayed over me, and got migraine medicine from Amy (who, praise the Lord, had some with her), staying with me until I fell asleep. How treasured and cared for I am by my dear husband.

Amazingly, the migraine broke by evening and we were able to head to Jelsa for dinner.

While cafes and ice cream shops in town were open, only one restaurant was. Thankfully it was a favorite of Mel and Amy's from the time they spent here on sabbatical last summer.

And now it's a favorite of ours too! What a sweet celebration of not only our anniversary, but a day early for Amy's 50th birthday!

I am blessed beyond words to share life with this godly, wise, strong, kind and oh so loving man. How I thank the Lord for giving me Dave to share marriage, children and life with. I pray for at least another 29 years with him, hopefully more!

"Love you so much Dave!"

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Beautiful Easter Morning

By the pictures, you'd think all we did on Easter was eat!

But truly it was a profoundly simple, sweet, meaningful celebration of the best holiday of all.

My mother-in-law brought a ham all the way across the ocean, which then traveled down with us by car to Croatia and waited in the refrigerator for this special occasion. Oh how good it was on Easter evening!! "THANK YOU MOM!"

The night before, while sitting around after dinner, someone brought up the subject of songs we used to sing on Easter. I grabbed my computer to get on You Tube to listen, and that was all it took to lead us on a sing-a-thon for the next two hours!

Karaoke at its best, we sang song after song by artists like The Imperials, Sandi Patti, Dallas Holm, Twila Paris, Michael Card, Michael W Smith, Amy Grant, Whiteheart, Glad, Take 6, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Silverwind, Steven Curtis Chapman and Petra. The four of us knew all the words to every song we could think of from the era of the 70's through the 90's!

So of course on Sunday morning, glorious Easter, we had to sing again as we ate breakfast together! "Trumpet of Jesus" by the Imperials never sounded so good as it did with the four of us belting it out around the table. That will be one of my all time favorite memories of an Easter celebration.

"He's alive, He's alive, He's alive and I'm forgiven, heaven's gates are open wide - HE'S ALIVE!!!" ~Don Francisco

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Building a Pergola

I suppose this is true with any building project: it will take longer and be more complicated than you expect.

But add on to that another culture and country, and the fact that you don't live in the place where the building project is occurring. Then you really find out how complicated it is!

Such is the case with the house we've been building in Hvar.

This project started nearly eight years ago, the dream of our three families who vacationed together. We bought property and then decided to build a house to rent out, and use ourselves in the off season.

The building part of the project started nearly three years ago and is still in process.

While we hired out a lot of the work, we also did a lot of the work. We've painted, caulked, put in doors and the kitchen, scraped every inch of the tile, cleaned and done a hundred other little details.

Our latest project? Putting in a pergola over the terrace.

We had hired this out to be done months ago. But when the man didn't follow through, it was left to Mel and Dave to do it themselves since we've already got our first renters coming this summer so have to get everything finished by May.

After the guys carefully measured and sawed the beams, it was left to Amy and I to stain them all.

We laughed saying, "I hope you know we're not professionals!" But we did our best to coat every inch of the surface, twice!

Low and behold, it all turned out beautifully and the first beams went up today!

What a feeling of accomplishment, to have everything come together, as they hoped it would. So proud of these guys for doing it!

It's going to be a beautiful addition to the terrace.

Our summer renters will have no idea the amount of time, love, energy and effort that has gone into this place by a bunch of people who love this island.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Procession of the Cross

The day of dad, mom and Carol's departure from Hvar dawned early this morning.

Up at 4 AM, we were off to put them on the ferry which would take them to the mainland. They had a two hour ferry crossing by themselves, then caught a bus to Zagreb, had a four hour ride, and were met by Josh, Dave's brother who lives in Slovenia. They'll spend Easter there with him, Kristi and their kids.

SO thankful we had them for nearly a week, both in Czech and on Hvar!

After making sure they were safely onto the ferry, Dave and I headed towards Jelsa for a special event taking place this morning.

See all the lights on in homes? They're on for a very special reason.

Beginning the evening before, on Maundy Thursday, which ushers in the weekend that commemorates the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, a 500 year old tradition starts here at 10 PM.

Six simultaneous processions depart from the towns and villages of Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirce, Vrbanj and Vrboska, as pilgrims follow a cross-bearer and his acolytes on a 22 kilometer pilgrimage through the night along a route which takes in the churches of the other communities taking part. And houses in those places keep their lights on throughout the night.

They return to their original location at 7:00 AM the following morning, with the last steps taken by the exhausted cross-bearer in the form of a run to the awaiting.

Having heard about this tradition over the last years we've been visiting the island, we were in Jelsa by 5:30 AM this morning to see it for ourselves.

Amazingly, the bakery was open that early - I guess for people like us! So the Croatian "burek sa mesom" (a pastry filled with meat) made a good breakfast as we went back to our car to wait.

We knew that the procession was not due back in the town square until 7 AM, so expected to wait in the car until then.

Little did we know that it circled through the square at 6 and headed up to a church on the hill for a short mass. Thus we joined in the procession along with many other townspeople.

Having had mostly cloudy, windy, rainy, cold weather this week, it was a spectacular morning of sunshine for this beautiful remembrance of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

Listening to the men in the procession sing as they came out of the church was absolutely thrilling, even if we couldn't understand what they were saying.

We followed them back down into town, listening to their songs in the otherwise quiet, solemn crowd.

Many people joined in as we walked through the tiny streets of Hvar, heading towards the square.

While the procession circled around in order to come along the water front, we took a short cut so we could be there to see them coming in.

By this time, quite a crowd had gathered on the square, young and old alike. Even if this is just tradition (hard to know if people are there for the spiritual aspect or not), it touched me to see so many waiting for the procession of the cross.

And was equally as thrilling when it came down the harbor, the men singing in full voice as the man bearing the cross came forward after his nine hour journey through the night.

The man chosen to bear the cross was barefoot (walking in woolen socks) and had applied to be the crossbearer in 1995. He's waited over 20 years to do this! You can find a fascinating article about him

There are more pictures and a video HERE is you'd like to see more.

Along with Mel and Amy (who arrived last night to be here for Easter with us), we enjoyed coffee on the square with hundreds of others who came for the end of the procession of the cross.

This was such a beautiful way to enter into this Easter season. How grateful I am for what Jesus did for us on the cross, bearing our sins and giving his life so that we might have life.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Must Sees

Dave and I each had our special things that we wanted to make sure to do with his parents and cousin while they were visiting us on the island of Hvar in Croatia.

This morning, despite cloudy skies and windy weather, I got to take them to one of my "must sees".

Unless it's a complete downpour, I always like to come to the square in the town of Hvar and sit at a particular outdoor cafe.

And because I like to have coffee and pastry while I sit there, that's what we did together!

I must admit, it was almost too cold and windy to enjoy it, but we managed!

While Dave ran some errands, we enjoyed the ambiance and atmosphere of Hvar town, joining the locals for coffee and hot chocolate at the Pjaca cafe.

And if you sit there long enough, you just might see some clearing of the skies!

Ah, that looks more like the Hvar town we know and love!

Of all the pictures I took of Dave and his parents while they visited, this is probably my favorite! Don't his mom and dad look fantastic?! Would you ever guess that dad is about to celebrate his 90th birthday? They are so full of life, soaking in all the travels and activities that we wanted to do with them.

We loved having Carol, Dave's cousin, with us too. She is so much fun to be with, and my fellow picture taking buddy!

Wherever Carol goes she likes to take a moment to sit down on a bench and appreciate the view, while also remembering to quietly thank and appreciate the time and effort of the person who placed the bench there. I love that idea!

After a nice walk around town, enjoying the sights and sunshine, we ducked into our favorite restaurant in Hvar town, "Mizarola". Don't miss the lasagna if you're ever there!

The last "must see" in town was the view up above the harbor at the Hvar castle. You wouldn't want to miss seeing that would you?!

With the day coming to a close, there was just one more place to take them to.

The campground and beach that started us coming to Hvar eight years ago. We discovered this place when we came for vacation, having no idea that it would become such a dear place to us. I'm so glad we got to share it with mom, dad and Carol!

"Thank you dad, mom and Carol for coming to spend these days with us! Your enjoyment of a place that is so dear to our hearts meant the world to us. Please come back sometime!!"