Wednesday, August 31, 2016

When Work Was Restful

You wouldn't think a day of work while on vacation would be restful, would you?

Well, somehow it was today.

Both Dave and I have some pretty big projects we've got deadlines for, so today was a work day. But not really! It was fun work tucked away at a cafe, with cappuccinos and good food to keep us going all afternoon.

I prayed I'd be able to get a lot done today, so we could go back to the other kind of vacation (reading books, soaking in the beautiful sunshine and enjoying pretty sights!). The Lord MORE than exceeded that request. I finished more than I set out to do, so am feeling quite thankful this evening.

And this little one? She wins the award for patience today!

This was literally the only moment when she asked for my attention. And it wasn't to go for a walk or get a belly rub. No, it was because I had MEAT on my plate and she was hoping for a morsel.

Be assured, she got it. There have to be treats for everyone on vacation, right?!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Dave's Bucket List

The term "bucket list" hasn't been around all that long. Coined by a screenwriter in 2007 for a movie of the same name, it's a phrase that quickly caught on with people making their lists of things they want to do in their lifetime.

Today, we crossed off one of those items from Dave's list!

The island of Lastovo is a long ways out from land. It's actually a collection of 46 islands, with the largest one named Lastovo.

A few years ago we anchored for the night on this island, but didn't actually go anywhere farther than a restaurant at the harbor. Dave always said he wanted to come back and explore the island.

Today was the day!

After tying up our boat, we started the hike up to the town of Lastovo (yes, named the same as the island), taking in the magnificent views from up above.

The hike was gorgeous, with completely different foliage on this island than what we're used to on Hvar. It's much more deciduous, with almost no pine trees (at least from what we could see), which are common on Hvar. In fact, it's almost jungly, with vines creeping through the forest.

After a half hour walk, we crested the hill into the town.

Since we'd seen almost no one hiking up, I was surprised to see a German tour group at the chapel!

Of course there were some locals hanging out there too.

We met an interesting woman as we stood looking out over the town. She and her film producer husband bought an old house here ten years ago and have been in the process of renovation for the past four years. Even though she has Croatian roots, with a French husband and them now living in the UK, it was near scandal level that a townsman sold them property as no foreigners had EVER owned something in the town! Usually property stays in the family.

She said they've worked hard at building relationships all these years, but with just 650 people on the whole island, it's a pretty tight clan of 11 or 12 families that mostly make up the population. So very interesting to hear about it from her perspective.

She also told us the two perspectives on why this town is located where it is. Unseen from sea, some people say it was settled there in the 7th century to protect themselves from pirates who roamed the sea.

But she says the real reason people chose to settle here is because they WERE the pirates!

Who knows what the truth is, but in any case, it's a walk back in time to roam the streets here.

Many of the buildings are in ruins, others in some state of renovation. All are quaint and beautiful in some way.

Set down in a valley, there are hundreds of stairs leading everywhere throughout the town. We loved wandering up and down, exploring the beautiful nooks and crannies everywhere.

Since it was lunchtime, we decided to look for a place to eat. Nestled down in a shaded garden, we found Konoba Fumari to be the perfect spot to enjoy some nourishment.

Tourist season is nearly over here, so there were no other patrons while we waited for our food.

Our sweet waitress is a local who studies at university in Split, a five hour ferry ride away. She comes for the summer to work in her hometown.

When we asked if she wants to live here she said, "Not now as I'm enjoying my studies - but when I get married and have a family, yes!"

With a small menu, we ordered "chicken, vegetables and cheese", and assumed it wouldn't take long for our order to arrive.

But after 30 minutes, it still wasn't there. With no one else there, it was hard to understand why the food was taking so long.

When we asked our waitress how long it would be, she laughed and said, "Oh a while longer". At that news, Dave put his head down and literally fell asleep!

An hour after we'd ordered, our food arrived. It was nothing like what we thought we were ordering! I assumed it would be grilled chicken and vegetables with a side of cheese.

Little did we know it would be something completely different, something I've never eaten before. But something I will DEFINITELY order again, given the chance!

On the order of a quiche, but with chicken as the "crust" it was a layered and baked egg, vegetable and sheep cheese dish that was positively one of THE tastiest things I've ever eaten. I wish it had been twice the size! It was surely worth the wait.

After enjoying every bite, we continued our walk through town.

At the heat of day, no one was out except us, which gave a certain sense of "back in time" as we meandered our way through the empty streets.

As we wandered through, you couldn't help but imagine what all these walls and streets have seen over the past 1500+ years. Who were the people who walked in these very places? What was life like for them? And as I always, wonder, did they know the Lord?

We took one last moment to enjoy the view of Lastovo town, and then headed back down to the harbor.

As we got back on to our little boat to continue on our way, a happy Dave said, "Thanks for going with me to one of the places on my bucket list."

"Anytime Dave, anytime!" 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Joy in Getting There

This is the side of vacation that Dave and I laugh about. ­čśâ

I can't begin to count how many times we've stopped by this particular building supply store in Split for something: Foam to sleep on? Check! Found it here. Duck tape in case something happens on the boat? Yep, picked some up here. Dog bones for Kaylee? Yes, those are here too. Somehow it just wouldn't be vacation without a stop here.

Our drive down to Croatia has its regular stops too. 

After sleeping in the parking lot of a rest stop/gas station (this is where towing our little boat comes in handy - we can sleep anywhere), we head to the little restaurant there for breakfast. Omelette, French fries and a cappuccino? Perfect Croatian breakfast!

Oh and can't forget the first Apple strudel and Franch's Croatian coffee along the way...pure goodness in a bite and drink.

Then there are those certain spots that call out "Hello! Glad you're back!" as we drive along the highway. It's the first time we see the Adriatic on our twelve hour drive south. 

We will take a ferry over to Hvar soon and put our boat in, then live on twenty feet of space for a week. I can hardly wait! 

The simplicity of the boat is is one of the most refreshing things we could do to rest our souls, spend time with each other, and soak in God's beautiful creation. 

I'm not even there yet, but am feeling happy and thankful already!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

No Better Than This

There was a time when vacation was no better than this.

Or this!

When our kids were 3, 5 and 7, we started vacationing in Croatia - and it just stuck! We never wanted to go anywhere else. Spending all day at the beach, riding bikes, sleeping in a tent, cooking over a little charcoal grill, and just having long days together...there was nothing better!

Well, except maybe the ice cream! :)

Even on cloudy days we found things to do, like take a ferry ride to another island.

Or play mini golf on funky little courses!

Mostly we just loved being in sunshine, playing together and making memories.

This year Dave and I heading off, once again, to our beloved Croatia for some vacation time. We'll think about our kids and remember those special days, while making some new memories of our own, I'm sure.

One of which will be some vacation days with this guy...and his family!

Towards the end of our vacation time, Tyler, Lara and Judah are flying in to Croatia to join us for a few days before we head back home to Czech.

The Lord is kind that way. While our kids have been long gone, there has actually never been a year where Dave and I have vacationed completely alone! Somehow there has always been one of our kids around to be with us for at least part of our vacation. And we like that!

We're excited that this time it also involves a certain little grandson. :)

Until then, Dave and I are off to have some much needed rest and refreshment with each other. I'm looking forward to that too!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Package in the Mail

Driving home last night after a long day out, I stopped by the mailbox and was surprised to see a package in there. We don't get many these days so they feel special when they come.

But I didn't have my glasses on, and it was getting dark so I couldn't see who it was from, or who it was to until I got back into the car and turned on the dome light.

And then I recognized what it was.


Wow, what a surreal moment to hold it in my hands!

This is a "proof" copy, sent by my agent, the handler of this whole project so that I can take one last look at it before it becomes available for purchase. Don't look for it on Amazon yet! It's not there, but will be soon.

This represents three years of work for me. Oh how the Lord has seen me through this proces, as well as my husband and our agent friend! They've all been so very patient with me.

You might read it and say, "What was the big deal to write that??" But oh my...if you've ever written a book, you know what the "big deal" is! There are so many more steps, and lessons, involved in a project like this. Maybe it would go faster on a second book. Or maybe not. And who knows if I'll ever find out!

But I'm proud of this one and happy it's almost finished and in print.

And I'm praying it will bless many people who read it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Last First

Long ago, in what feels like a very far away land, these three had a first day of school here in Czech.

If I remember correctly, it was Caleb's first day of first grade. Tyler would have been heading into fourth grade, and Claire was finishing up školka (kindergarten) that year.

Somehow, a lot of time has passed and now we're at this point: Claire's last 'first day of school', her last semester of college!

Tyler and Caleb are finished with school. Well sort of! Tyler is busy writing his master's thesis and will graduate in December. But he's not on campus so doesn't have a 'first day of school' picture to send me!

So, Claire's picture represents the end of an era for our family. We and they DID IT!!

They each completed thirteen years of Czech school (more if you count školka!) and now they've almost all finished college and even graduate school.

How thankful I am for the ways they've grown and developed, for the richness of education that they've had, and for how they're living their lives today for the Lord.

That's the best part!

Monday, August 22, 2016

A Happy Ending: Answered Prayer

Do you believe in the power of prayer? I would definitely tell you that I do.

But I'm also still learning, and have many questions about it.

What are the conditions to God answering prayer? Why pray if he already knows what will happen? Are there some prayers that are considered selfish? If he doesn't answer yes, did I pray wrong? Why does he answer some of my prayers and not others? How long should I keep on praying for something? Is anything too small to pray for?

Oh yes, these and so many more are the questions that I ask.

And yet, I still pray. Because God's Word tells me to...over and over again. Even if I'm not sure I'm praying the right thing, I go ahead and pray, in hopes that when he answers, I'll get to give him glory and honor for it.

That is my utmost desire today.

I sure didn't expect to be standing in this train station today.

Oh I'd prayed that I would! Well, not for this particular spot, but I prayed with faith for days and days that God would hear my prayers for something very specific. I didn't know if he would choose to answer, so I kept on praying, even when the situation looked pretty bleak.

But now I'm here today to tell you that he graciously and mercifully answered!

Sam, the daughter of JV missionaries who live here in Czech, arrived to visit her parents today:


In exchange, I'm holding a bag of gluten free goodies to trade her for my computer! Yes, I'm happy to generously reward her for going to pick it up from Claire in Chicago, and for bringing it in her carry-on so it would stay safe. THANK YOU SAM!

The rental agency wrote a personal letter to me last week saying that the next renters of the car that I'd left the computer in, found it, kept it the whole week they had the car, and then turned it in when they brought the car back.

PRAISE GOD!!! I give him the glory and honor for sending honest people to rent the car after me! I had prayed so specifically that he would keep his eye on it for me, and bring it back to me somehow.

That was a hard prayer to pray when I knew that it was my mistake that brought about this situation. Oh praise God for his grace! Giving me what I don't deserve. How many, many times he has done that. I am so grateful for his kind and loving care for me.

I wish all my prayers had such a happy ending. I always tell him that I'd give him all the praise for his answers! But I know he knows better than me what the best answers are.

So for the many, many prayers still on my heart, I'll keep praying and hoping for his best answers, the happy endings of his choosing.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Suchdol and the Moravian Missionary Movement

On a wet and cold summer Sunday afternoon, Dave and I headed out for a little trip.

If you literally translate the name of the town we were visiting, it would be "Dry Valley". It was anything but that today!

This is the museum of the Moravian Brothers in Suchdol nad Odrou. We're here today on a research trip in preparation for our JV fall conference.

In September, we'll have 350 people at our fall conference, to study movements of God that changed the world.

The story of the Moravian Brothers is such a movement. And in fact, we believe it's part of the reason why we're here.

This movement started in Moravia, the very area where we live.

This man, Daniel, has given his life to documenting and displaying the story here in Suchdol of the Moravian Brothers, to share what they did to bring the Gospel to the world.

The story is nothing short of amazing! I wish every one of you could go through this museum and hear the story.

Dave will be recording it in English so that it's downloadable for our conference when we take a tour this fall around Moravia to some of the significant sights of this movement, such as the Jesus Church in T─Ť┼í├şn.

In order to flee religious persecution, the Moravians, led by Christian David (who came from the town of ┼Żenklava, just a half hour from where we live), fled to Herrnhut, Germany in 1722.

In the village of Suchdol, 250 of its 700 inhabitants were among those who left.

Their names, ages, occupations, etc are all documented here!

After walking 350 kilometers, an eleven day journey, they arrived in Herrnhut where they were taken in by Count Zinzendorf, a man of deep spiritual conviction.

It was in Herrnhut in August 1727, that during a baptism and communion service, the Spirit moved among the people who had taken refuge there.

As is written in an article HERE, differences dissolved, all embraced one another in forgiveness and a spirit of love, and Christ became central to their thinking. They established a twenty-four hour around-the-clock prayer vigil which lasted one hundred years. The fervent prayers resulted in the sending out of missionaries to many lands--the first Protestant missions outside Europe and North America.

The far reaching places they went to is simply staggering. Greenland, West Indies, Africa, the the Indians, to the Eskimos, to those in the new colonies of what would become the United States, and more.

Within twenty five years, the Moravians had sent out over 100 missionaries, more missionaries than the Protestant church had sent out in total over the previous two hundred years. And over the next 150 years, they sent over 2000 missionaries to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the world.

There is SO much more to this story, so many twists and turns, triumphs and griefs (as you can imagine, many died serving the Lord).

But the good news is that they brought the Gospel to millions, and we are continuing with their legacy as that is the hope and vision of our ministry with Josiah Venture.

The seeds they planted right here in this region hundreds of years ago are still in the soil.

We are some of their fruits of their labors!