Thursday, April 28, 2016

Done, Again.

One of the things I've learned along the way of writing a book is that there are multiple layers of "Done".

Done with the rough draft.

Done with submission to an editor.

Done reworking the manuscript after the editor returns it (with thousands of remarks and corrections, I might add).

Done with my edits on top of her edits.

Done submitting to her another round of edits.

Done editing on her edits again. Done, done, done, done.

Sometimes it has truly felt never-ending. This process takes months, if not years. As is my case, I started writing in October 2013, and here it is April 2016 and I've just submitted the final manuscript to the agent today, the one who is managing this process for me.

So that's another "Done".

From here, the manuscript goes to a technical proofreader and then I'll get it back to go through those edits. That shouldn't be too hard as it's a matter of accepting all her additions or deletions of commas, semi-colons, other punctuation and spelling errors. But I won't do any more editing of the text. It's as good as it's going to get. I remember reading something that Anne Lamott once said about edits - that at some point you ... just. have. to. stop.

That day came today for me. The book itself, for all my purposes, is done. And you know what? I feel good about it!

Today I received a letter I wrote to myself a year ago, sent through the Future Me website that I like to use. In the letter I said,

"I've done a number of hard things...

Birthing three precious kids...

Moving to a foreign country and learning to live there

Training for and running a half marathon...

And thousands of other things.

But today I've come to the point where I'm not sure I can do this one thing: edit this book to my own satisfaction.

I read something today that JK Rowling said...she said she couldn't stand book 3 of Harry Potter by the time she was finished. Well, that's how I feel about my book right now...and it's NOT finished. I'm tired of it. I don't like it. I don't know how to make it better."

A year ago I was completely stuck on the editing process, which is why it's taken so long to finish. The book didn't feel right and I didn't like it. So I put in on a shelf (well, not literally...just had it sitting on my computer) and let it be for many months.

After a lot of prayer and thought, I began to edit and re-write, multiple times over, last month. Thankfully, I can now say that I like it. It just took a l-o-n-n-n-n-n-g time to get here.

I'm thankful to have had these days in our beloved little village of Svete Nedjelja on Hvar to finish (to this point anyway!) a project that's been on my heart for so long. We're heading home tomorrow. I'm got done just in time!

When will this book be in print? Hopefully this summer!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Her Majesty, the Bura

Borrowing the phrase for my title from another website's post, we're in the midst of a certain phenomenon here on Hvar. More on that in a second!

With Dave studying for the six session he'll teach at our upcoming Josiah Venture spring conference in two weeks, and me reviewing the final edits of my book, this is pretty much what life looks like here on Hvar right now. Not an exciting photo, but real life!

At least one of the three of us is getting in some good snoozing! See who's getting in a nap??

Dave and I had to run errands earlier today so I snapped a couple of photos outside as we walked by.

If you've ever been to Croatia, or read my blog, you know about the "bura", a special type of storm that occurs here.

What you can't see well in these photos is the fierce northern to north-eastern katabatic wind in the Adriatic known as the bura, which has been blowing the past few days. It can bring in some fierce weather including wind, rain and cold at this time of year, and we've been right in the midst of it trying to stay warm.

There is a certain beauty to the bura, not to mention that it's known for blowing out all sorts of viruses and bacteria from the air, leaving it pure and clean. As long as you can stay inside until it passes, it's a rather wonderful phenomenon to experience from the inside looking out! Perhaps the bura will pass before we leave and we'll get to see some spectacularly clear air afterward.

If you want to see some videos and read a bit more about the bura, check out this link HERE that tells about it last month in Croatia!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Traveling Days

With the back of the car completely filled, Kaylee looks a little less than thrilled to be squeezed into the front seat with me.

But if she'd open her eyes, she would have quite a view out the window.

We left home yesterday morning bright and early and enjoyed a feast for the eyes as we passed the glowing canola fields in Czech. When the crop rotation brings these dazzling fields to us every few years, I am so happy! The incredible carpet of color fills the landscape as we drive.

But that's not the only lovely sight. From our moving car I caught this beautiful moment too.

Continuing on, we headed for the border which means driving past the Mikulov castle, first built in the 13th century. As we drive by, I smile thinking how our daughter, Claire, would love to see this as it's a favorite sight of hers.

We drive on, over the border into Austria. They too have the glowing fields.

And spring planting has begun! What a gorgeous day for a drive.

With a long day of travel ahead of us, this little one wonders how much longer she'll be on mom's lap! Sorry to say, we've got quite a few more hours ahead of us.

We made a stop to pick up yet another round of necessary items for the house in Hvar, in order for it to be ready to rent out to guests this summer.

As I watch Dave repacking the car in order to fit everything in he jokingly says, "What? You think I can't get everything in?"

Do you see why I'm wondering if it will all fit??!! :)

Amazingly, it did. Dave has seriously good packing skills!

We continued on down south and ended our day of travel in Split, Croatia where we had the joy of spending the night with our JV staff there, John and Amber Hinger. Oh the joy of swapping stories late into the night of God's work and faithfulness!

We're now on the ferry, headed over to Hvar where Dave will spend the week preparing his talks for JV Spring conference. In two weeks, over 300 of our missionaries and their families will gather at Malenovice for five much-anticipated days together of enrichment, encouragement and fellowship.

Dave is looking forward to digging into God's Word over these next few days as he studies for his theme: Milk and Honey - How to Not Get Lost on the Way to the Promised Land!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Where in the World is Dave?

It's another installment in my mini series on where Dave is! This picture doesn't give many clues, though maybe if you knew some of the faces, you'd know where he is.

Give up? :)

He is in Glasgow, Scotland for JV UK board meeting this week!

We praise God for these faith-filled men who are believing God to raise up a new generation of missionaries from the UK to serve in Central and Eastern Europe with JV. We already have two families and one single serving with us, but are praying for many more in the coming years!

"Thank you JVUK board for praying, serving with us, standing in faith and believing God for his movement in the lives of young people across Central and Eastern Europe."

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

All is Well

At last, I'm legal in the Czech Republic!!

It's been two weeks since my car died on the autobahn in Austria and we had to buy another one. The day we drove away from Graz, it was on temporary Austrian plates that were good for 21 days until we registered the car in Czech.

We'd forgotten a small detail though.

Czech doesn't let you drive on temporary plates while they're working on your new registration. So the car has been in the garage ever since we returned home, languishing until the day it could be driven again.

And that happened today.

Legally, Czech has 30 days to give you new license plates. So I'm feeling VERY thankful that the man in the town hall office who does all that paperwork was able to push it through and get it to me today.

I have to admit, it was kind of a thrill to walk out of the vet this afternoon and catch a glimpse of my car with its Czech license plates! This is SUCH a gift from the Lord all the way around.

The silver one straight ahead is my little miracle!

Dave left for meetings in the UK this morning, so it was up to me to go into the office to pick up the plates, and then put them on my car. Easier said than done.

Who knew that Austrian license plates are bigger than Czech ones? I had to get a whole new rim so they could be put on. My friend Petr came to my rescue when he met me at the auto parts dealer and then put them on my car (also easier said than done...the holes for the screws to go into were different too!). "Thank you Petr!"

But in the end, it was done and I'm good to go.

All is right in the world again. Well, at least as far as my car is concerned!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

What a Day This Has Been

Not long ago I was reminiscing with a friend about our high school days and the subject came up of musicals that we were in many years ago.

Lo and behold, he too was in "Brigadoon", a rather obscure musical that my high school in Washington, and his in Texas, performed! We laughed as we burst out singing the only song either of can remember: "What a day this has been, what a rare good mood I'm in, why it's almost like being in love!"

While it's not rare for me to be in a good mood (call me optimistic!) today was one of those days where it was just pure goodness from beginning to end.

After an excellent service at church where Dave preached on our series out of Proverbs, we headed to lunch with some of our dear, longtime friends.

Paul and Sharon moved here twelve years ago to join BMA, the high school that our kids attended. What a great day that was for many when these two, and their family, came to be part of our world! They brought innumerable gifts and talents to not only the school, but to our church and community in Frydlant. We love and appreciate them so very much, and treasure our friendship all these years!

Spring seems to have finally come to this part of the world, and another beautiful part of the day was a glorious manifestation of that fact.

Bright green, neon yellow, cool blue, tender white...just a few of the colors found on my walk this afternoon.

Every four or five years all the fields around us are planted with canola, and this is the year!

It looks like the neon yellow flowers will burst forth anytime this week, not to mention the sweet smell that accompanies the color. I can't wait to see those fields in all their glory.

Lysa Hora (the inspiration for my blog...Living by LYSA!) was in her glory today too, surrounded by billowing clouds with bright spring colors to frame her. Oh so lovely!

And finally my day ended with pure delight...a FaceTime with my precious little friend from Jackson!

She played the piano for me, read to me, showed me treasures from her spring break trip, and just let me, her adopted aunt, be part of life for an hour this evening. What a sweet ending to my day.

Yes indeed, 'what a day this has been'!

And above all, I'm basking in the Lord's love and kindness for bestowing on me such a day full of His richness and goodness.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Work of KAM

When we drive up to Malenovice and I head down the driveway to enter, I just smile. Every single time. What a special place this still is.

Camps, conferences, seminars, workshops, training events, schools events, weddings, celebrations and more have all taken place here over the past 15 years since it was renovated, and over the past 18 years since we purchased it.

As I sat downstairs in the meeting room this morning, for the "how many-eth time", I thought about all the spiritual work that has gone on here, and all the lives that have been impacted.

Yes, this is a special place where God delights in getting His work done.

Today's work was the KAM annual conference meeting, held over the course of two days.

Milan Michalko, the current director of KAM

KAM (which, in the Czech language, stands for 'Christian Academy of Youth') is the Czech national partner organization of Josiah Venture, founded in 1997 under Dave's leadership. He led KAM for ten years as its director, then passed on that responsibility to a group of Czech men in 2007.

They have been doing such a great job ever since of carrying on the vision of Josiah Venture that Dave wrote years ago: a movement of God among young people in the Czech Republic, that finds its home in the local church and transforms society.

As I sat in the meeting room, listening to the annual report and all that God is doing in this country, it brought me SO much joy. We love this country and long for people to know the saving power of Jesus Christ...and it's happening!

This team, JV's largest of the 13 countries, is faithfully at work sharing the Gospel, discipling new believers, training youth leaders and sending out workers. We are so proud of them, and thankful for all God is doing through them to make a difference in people's lives, for the sake of Christ, across this country that we love.

As Dave keeps saying, "It's harvest time!" and KAM is doing all they can to be part of that process.

Many of us pray that we will get to see real revival here someday, where not just hundreds, but hundreds of thousands, if not millions, will know Jesus as their Savior.

So thankful for the work of KAM to work so diligently towards that cry and prayer of our hearts.

Friday, April 15, 2016

My Sunshine

Today is one of those days where I'm feeling the distance from my girl.

Claire and Judah yesterday in Highland Park, IL

She is nearly at the end of her most difficult (and yet richest) semester thus far at Moody, and it's pressing her to the edges in terms of time, energy and emotion. She has so much on her plate, both with school things and figuring out life things (like getting a US driver's license before summer).

I WISH I COULD BE THERE FOR HER!! It's these kinds of times when it's hard to live an ocean away from my kids. I wish I could make her dinner, do her laundry, take her shopping, or figure out some of the details that would take a load off her.

Instead, I pray for her, and I text her. Things like this:

"Two things come to mind in light of this demanding stretch: the Lord has resources (aka manna) prepared for you that you wouldn't otherwise know about unless you were in need; and second, in four weeks this will all be behind's nice to remember that these kinds of pressure seasons don't last forever. So be on the lookout for manna and keep your eyes to future."

But in the midst of all this pressure, she still maintains such a sweet spirit and deep trust in the Lord. That brings me so much delight, knowing she's walking with Him through these stretching days. And when all is said and done, it's much better for HIM to meet her needs than me anyway. I just wish I could help Him and her out! :)

Do you ever click on those funny little tests on Facebook? Every once in a while I do because I'm pretty sure it's going to make me smile. And this one definitely did.

Yes, despite a grueling schedule, many demands and lots of things to accomplish before the end of her semester, she still has sunshine in her soul.

And she's still MY sunshine!

I'm praying for you Claire, that the Lord will uphold you and be your strength during these days and weeks before the semester ends! 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Five Months

I missed it by a few days, but how can I resist posting five month pictures of our Judah when he is this cute?! :)

The 11th of each month is his birthday, but since we can't be there with him to celebrate his milestones (he lives with his mom and dad near Chicago!), Tyler and Lara are beyond kind and indulgent, doing such a great job of sending pictures to us adoring grandparents so we can at least enjoy those milestones from a distance.

Like today, when he was at the park in a swing for the first time.

And yesterday's milestone of eating solids for the first time, like a champ!

We'll make it to Chicago to see him the day after his 6th month birthday in May, so stay tuned for Nonnie's pictures of Judah at his half year mark!

Until then, I'm SO grateful to share in these sweet milestones through pictures that Tyler and Lara send to us. I mean, who wouldn't love getting this picture sent to them?! :)

Thank you Tyler and Lara for giving us nearly daily windows into your precious boy's life! It means the world to us!!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Friends at Frýda

I remember when the very first mall opened in Ostrava, the big city near us, nearly fifteen years ago; it was a big deal! Since then, two other large malls opened in our area which felt quite extravagant, and I was completely satisfied with them.

So when we started noticing another mall being built a couple years ago, it felt like overkill. Why did we need another mall?

I've since come to "eat my own words" as it's now the one that I frequent the most! Just fifteen minutes from home, it's much easier and more convenient to get to than the ones that are 30-40 minutes away.

Never was it sweeter to go to this mall than yesterday when I stopped by for a quick errand and ran into these dear ones.

Lukaš and Lucka were high schoolers many years ago when we led Koinonia, our Havířov church youth group! We watched them trust Christ, grow up, fall in love and get married.

And now they have a family and Lukaš is an elder in the church! How sweet it was to run into them at our little mall, a place he said they hardly ever come since they live 30 minutes away. But on this day, God led us to be in the same spot at the same time. Oh how good it was to see them and catch up on our lives with each other.

Today I was on my way back home from an appointment when I remembered that I needed a gift to take over to someone's house this evening. So once again I stopped in at the mall I didn't think I needed and this time was in the right spot at the right time once again!

Amy Evans, to the right of me in the photo, and her husband just moved here to Czech a month ago to join our iTeam in Frydlant.

Three weeks later, they had a baby (Logan, who is down in the bottom corner...sorry my arm wouldn't reach far enough to get his sweet face into the photo!)

Yes, they are amazingly adventurous, faith-filled people to move to a new country weeks before having a baby! They moved from our JV team in Slovenia, so at least it wasn't across the ocean...but STILL, very courageous of them! We are so happy they're here to serve with us.

Amy's mom is here to help for a few weeks, and since they were out at a doctor's appointment with Amy Ellenwood along to help with language, they stopped into Frýda Mall for a bite to eat. And I happened to run into them there.

So, for a mall that I didn't think I needed, it's proving over and over to be a blessing to me in a myriad of ways. I'm glad someone thought we needed another mall in the area!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Flowers and Friends

During my high school and college years, jazz music was a significant part of my life. I played keyboard in a jazz band, piano for jazz choirs, and sang too.

But that was long ago! It's been years since I've had the opportunity to be at a live jazz concert.

That changed last night, thanks to my friend, Shelby at her concert: Flowers and Friends

Shelby, who lives here in Czech, serves on Josiah Venture staff in our international Fusion ministry. A graduate of Vanderbilt, she uses her gifts and talents for sharing the Gospel and building God's Kingdom in a variety of ways.

And along the way, she blesses a whole lot of people with those gifts!

Shelby is truly one of the most gifted pianists I've ever known - so effortless, excellent and enjoyable in what she does (that's her, to the left of the singer, on the keyboard).

I don't know when she got the idea, but I know that for the past few months she's been working with a group of talented musicians to prepare for this night - a night to bring a lot of joy and good music to all those who packed into the club where it was held.

And what a night it was!

She had prepared, with her musicians, a two hour show that was so incredibly delightful! I seriously couldn't stop smiling the whole evening. I know full well what it took to do that; while I never had that kind of talent, I know from past experience the amount of time, thought and energy she put into it.

She wrote about half (hope I'm getting that amount right!) of the music, with one piece being as recently as this January! She arranged the songs as well, working with the singers, guitar players and drummer to get just the right tempos and sounds - which seriously produced one of the best and most enjoyable live jazz concerts I've ever been to!

When it was over, I wished that they'd just start over again and play for another two hours; yes, it was that enjoyable!

She laughingly called Terry English her manager (he's also one of our JV missionaries, who heads up Fusion International) as he'd been one of the ones responsible for making the arrangements for the concert. He came up at the end with a bouquet of flowers to thank her.

Very appropriate since her last name is "Flowers"!

From oldies but goodies, to a recent jazz number by Chick Corea, and an adaptation of a Mozart (or was it Chopin??!!) sonata turned into a jazz piece, every song was just pure fun. And all done with such poise, professionalism, joy, and winsomeness by our dear Shelby.

I'm not sure how many were in the club, perhaps 200 people or so; but when the concert was over, the clapping started and of course we wanted an encore! Shelby obliged by playing one last great jazz piece: "Mary Had a Little Lamb".

You've never heard it played like that before! I wish so much that I had a recording of it. Maybe another time I'll get her to play it for me so I can record it. It was AMAZING!

I did record one song, "Hey There" that she said was her mom's favorite! Click on the Vimeo link below.

"Shelby, you delight all of us with your God-given talent! It blesses me like crazy to see you using your gift so unselfishly, letting others enjoy what God's given you. Thank you for one of the best jazz concerts I've ever been to...and I'm not kidding! I can say that because I've been to a lot! But this one was pure fun and was made all the sweeter because it was your vision, your leadership, your tone and your playing, and of course your amazing band, that made it such a great night. I sincerely hope you'll do another concert someday! I'm totally a fan!!"

Flowers and Friends: Hey There from Connie Patty on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

48 Hours

Two days ago, Dave and I were driving on the autobahn through Austria when my car suddenly died.

Our insurance company in Czech took good care of us, sending a local tow truck to pick us up and then deposit the car at a garage in the city of Graz so it could be looked at by a mechanic. Not only that, but they paid for a hotel that night.

This is where I woke up Wednesday morning.

Dave did too, but much earlier than me. He was in a taxi at 6:30 AM on his way to the garage so he could be there at 7 when they opened in hopes that they could take a look at it first thing.

But of course they already had their work lined up for them for the morning, so it wasn't until 10 that they could finally take a look at the engine. It wasn't good news.

While he talked with them, I was talking to someone else.

Although in human terms this turn of events came as quite a surprise, I knew it wasn't a surprise to the Lord.

And yet, I had some grieving to do upon hearing that the engine was gone when Dave called later in the morning.

We have no idea what happened. The mechanic said it would cost time and money for him to tear into it to find out precisely what went wrong, but his guess was that the timing belt slipped, broke some valves and the head, and that was that. No warning, no noise, no smoke, no visible damage. And yet, it was gone.

I sat on that bench processing this news the Lord in the afternoon, praying, trusting and believing him to take care of us, even though the situation looked rather bleak.

In the meantime, Dave stayed at the garage and tried to figure out our options. The mechanic gave him the rundown on what it would cost to repair the engine or replace it with a new one but those options came with a very large price tag. We called our mechanic back home in Czech and received similar news. It costs a lot to repair or replace an engine.

So Dave began to gather information about the used car market in Graz and see if there were any options available.

And we both prayed.

The garage that the tow truck had taken us to is also a car dealership for six brands, and has a used car lot. By mid afternoon, after doing a lot of research and going to look at various cars in the area, Dave determined that the best option was actually a car that was on their used lot. What an answer to my prayers in the afternoon! I had specifically asked the Lord that if he had a new car for us, that it be right here there in Graz.

Dave and I talked on the phone, prayed, he sent pictures for me to look at, we looked at our finances, and in the end we decided that God was making that car available to us (not to mention that the people at the dealership made him a great deal on it).

But then the question was: how to get money to the dealership to pay for it. They don't take credit cards, we don't have an Austrian bank account to wire from, and we certainly didn't have that kind of cash on us!

As evening closed in, and many rounds of phone calls and texts had gone back and forth across the ocean with our bank and with our folks in the JV office, all trying to figure it out, we went to bed asking the Lord to do a miracle in the night.

At this point I have to mention that there was quite a time crunch going on for us.

In Slovakia, our largest youth leader training event was starting Thursday evening (tonight) at 7 PM, and Dave was supposed to be the main speaker. It was a five hour drive from Graz so we needed to leave by noon in order to make it there with enough time for Dave to be ready.

We went to bed not knowing what we'd find in the morning, but praying like crazy that God would make a way for him to get there on time. And that we'd have a car to get there in!

No, that's not our car, just our dog and suitcases!

Dave again had to leave early from our hotel (where we'd had to spend another night) to begin another round of trying to get money from a bank or from ATM's in order to have cash to pay for the car.

It is just too long of an explanation to say why that was so difficult (it mainly has to do with banking security in Austria) but perhaps it will tell you something if I say that Dave had to use four bank cards, pull cash 22 times from different ATM's, and in the end, plead with the car dealership to let us put the last $1000 on a credit card. That is how difficult it was to get the cash in hand to buy the car.

In the meantime, Kaylee and I waited at the front door of the dealership once, we arrived by taxi later on. It felt a bit awkward to be there with our suitcases, and was even stranger when the fire alarm went off and we were evacuated from the building.

How much weirder could this whole story get, right??!!

(The fire truck arrived just minutes later, while everyone was standing outside, but it must have been something back in the garage area because we were allowed into the building again after just ten minutes).

During this whole time I'd only seen Dave for all of one minute and actually had very little idea of what was going on - if we were getting the car or not. What a strange feeling, to know that we'd most likely be leaving our old car; a very sentimental one at that since my dad had bought it for me 9 years ago - it was used back then, but had been such a great car all these years.

Yet I didn't know if we were getting another one to replace it.

But by noon, the deal was done! Dave had persevered, as he is SO VERY GOOD AT, and we had a new/used car to drive away in.

Wow. Just WOW! Hard to believe.

It's another Hyundai Santa Fe, a 2008 model. It had one owner who recently traded it in for a new one. Thankfully (and this may sound like a very funny thing to be thankful for!), while it sat on the lot it incurred two small scrapes. Because of that they actually took off $2400 from the asking price!

"You were lucky there was damage on this car - I gave you a really good price," the salesman told Dave.

All I can say is "Thank you Lord for taking care of us!" and "Thank you Dave for your hard work to see this whole process through!"

We left the dealership at noon, just when we were hoping to, and after we got out of the city, I got in to drive for my first time in my new car. Yes, I feel VERY thankful for it!

While I drove, Dave worked on his Powerpoint and talk for KPM, the leadership conference in Slovakia. Because we had to stop along the way to find wifi so he could email it to the team in charge of the evening program, we arrived into Zilina with FIFTY SEVEN MINUTES to spare, after all that happened in the previous 48 hours.

I dropped Dave off at the cultural house so he could go in to get ready and speak at 7.

In the meantime, I had to miss the evening program and drive the rest of the way home to Frydlant to drop off our dog and pick up clothes and things we needed for the week-end. I made it back here by 10 tonight.


And that is the story of how I spent the last 48 hours!!! Now I'm going to bed!!