Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Taste of My Childhood

After some wonderful meetings in Portland this past week, Claire and I headed back down to Eugene for a few more before we wind up our time in the Pacific Northwest.

Sure glad to get one more time with my mom and dad!

And with my brother as well!

Sitting around after dinner, the conversation migrated towards an important Oregon topic: the delicacy of marionberries. Don't know what those are? That's okay! They are only grown locally in Oregon, so you wouldn't find them anywhere else in the world!

The berry, developed through cross breeding two different types of blackberries, was released in 1956 under the name "Marion", after the county where it was tested at Oregon State University. Between 28 million and 33 million pounds are grown annually, but because they don't ship well, they stay in state.

Growing up here in Oregon with marionberries, I had no idea about that fact until I read it tonight! I thought everyone knew about this delicious berry!

As we were looking up information about it, I got to thinking about how good a pie is with those berries. So do you know what we did??

Yes, all piled into the car together and went to Shari's restaurant here in Eugene to pick one up and bring it home to enjoy!

It's been a long time since I've had a marionberry pie. But once I tasted that familiar tart, yet sweet taste, the memories came rushing back of pies my grandma used to bake with this berry. SOO yummy!

"Thanks mom and dad, for indulging me tonight with a taste of my childhood!"

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

An Exquisitely Beautiful Story

There is so much more going on in this photo than you can imagine.

Sixteen years ago, an almost-college-graduate came out for her spring break to see what God was doing in Central and Eastern Europe. She was assigned to spend two nights in our home, and we all promptly fell in love with her. Especially a normally timid six year old little girl who couldn't get enough of jumping into the arms of that college aged young woman.

As you might imagine, that six year old was Claire. And the almost-college-graduate was Becca McMartin, who ended up coming back after graduation and staying for EIGHT YEARS!

Her pioneering ministry of developing care for the children of our JV missionaries, including our own kids, changed all of our lives. And started something profoundly beautiful by creating a community of missionary kids who have an identity that we call the JV Kids.

Even though Becca has now been gone for eight years from that position, something very special took place today here in Portland.

After several hours of sweet, happy reminiscing of the life we once shared together, the conversation turned serious.

Becca, who long ago caught that little six year old girl into her arms in our living room in the Czech Republic, passed on the mantle of care for JV Kids to the grown-up version of that little girl.

Tears pressed into my eyes, and rolled down my cheeks as I listened in on a very sacred conversation between these two: the older woman commissioning the younger woman into the very position that she'd created because she fell in love with Claire, and the rest of the JV Kids.

As Becca's kind, loving and profoundly impactful words poured over Claire, I wrote down a few nuggets because they were so meaningful.

"I'm so glad it's you!" Becca said with that beautiful gleam in her eye that we all know and love.

"I've loved you since you were six, and I love who you've developed into today - someone that I resonate with, now as an adult! You are passionate about the same things as I am, and I love that about you."

"Now it is you who has exactly what the JV Kids need. They need what you will bring to them. Don't be Becca. Be Claire! Eight years ago I left a letter - I hope it's still there somewhere! It says 'To the next Becca' - who knew that would be YOU?! But I don't mean that you should be me. BE YOU! And in the end, know that it always was God doing something for the JV Kids, something that's bigger than either of us."

And then she prayed over Claire. Oh what a mighty, powerful prayer it was! I silently wept, hardly believing that this moment was happening. The moment that God knew all along.

That those eight years of Becca's love and life, would be the inspiration that God used to direct Claire into the life that he now has for her.

Only God. ONLY. GOD.

How I love him for weaving this exquisitely beautiful story.

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Feast of Goodness

Yesterday afternoon Claire and I traveled to Milwaukie, Oregon for a special performance.

A friend of ours is the executive director for Journey Theater Arts Group. This is a place where youth are encouraged and inspired to grow into and embrace who God designed them to be by expressing their talents and honing skills in theater, voice, dance...and probably even more that I don't know about!

Kristi leads this professional-level youth and community theater throughout the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area, and was having the final performance of their current show, "High School Musical 2".

We've known Kristi for nearly ten years, ever since she came to serve our JV Kids at two spring conferences. But it was something entirely new to see her world firsthand, and experience the excellence she inspires in the kids she works with. What a fantastic show they put on! And how fun to tell her in person what a good job she and they did!

In a twist of "fate", not only did we get to see Kristi, but ran into a former JV team member and her daughter!

Amy and her family served in Slovenia for many years! They didn't know Kristi, but knew a cast member and were there to support her and her family. I'm still in shock that the Lord gave us that sweet reunion in the most unlikely place.

Today we met up with Kristi again, along with another friend, Lori, who came out to serve our JV Kids the second year that Kristi came to do a theater production with them. What joy to have brunch together and tell each other stories of God's goodness over the years.

This trip has been a feast of relational goodness, as we've been able to connect with so many from years past who share our love for the JV family!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Pure Joy at Laurelwood

In May 1984, I stood in front of my home church in Vancouver, Washington being commissioned and prayed for as a summer missionary. I was 22 years old.

Who would have EVER guessed that thirty three years later, my daughter, also aged 22, would be in this same church sharing about her upcoming ministry??!!

No, I truly didn't see that one coming. But oh praise the Lord, HE DID!

Claire and I had the joy and privilege of standing together on the platform at Laurelwood Baptist Church, as she shared a bit about what God's placed on her heart in coming back to serve with us in Josiah Venture, reaching the next generation of young Josiah's, our JV Kids!

Oh my mama heart just about burst open! How I loved hearing her share her heart for the Lord, her calling, passion and vision. And she was doing it in the very place where I once shared my heart, calling, passion and vision for God's work in the world!

This church has faithfully prayed for our family for over thirty years, and I'm so glad they get to see this tangible fruit of their prayers.

Not only have they prayed, but they've come to minister to us through the years. These two, along with a whole team from Laurelwood, were JUST with us a few weeks ago, at Malenovice, working on our new children's play area!

And this is not the first time they've come! Many have come to serve and care for us, including the pastor and his wife (sorry you weren't in the photo Susan!).

Some have even served on staff with us, though not in Josiah Venture, but in our earlier days with Malachi in Germany. Oh how I love this lady!

Gwen and I were at Laurelwood as teenagers, through our college years, before I left to go onto the mission field. Even though I only see her every few years, it is like no time has passed when we're together again!

Our dear Jim and Jan, adopted grandparents of our kids, and once pastor and pastor's wife at Laurelwood, came as they always do, to love on us, and bring support and encouragement.

"Thank you Jim and Jan for loving me all these years, and our kids too!"

It was an extraordinary day, to be with this dear body of believers who have been my church home for nearly forty years. I'm so incredibly grateful and honored to still be prayed for, cared for, thought of, supported by and ministered to after all these years.

And now to bring my daughter in, full circle, to be loved on today too...that's pure joy!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Five Years in the Making

Five years ago this month, Claire and I met a young woman at Josiah Venture intern training at Malenovice. She'd come from Portland, Oregon, on the recommendation of my long time best friend, Michelle, to serve as a summer intern in the Czech Republic.

We didn't know her until then, but it was one of those "it feels like we know you" types of things when we met downstairs in the big meeting room amidst a hundred other interns. That began a sweet connection and friendship from afar.

Until today.

After all those years, it was such a delight to reconnect with this dear young woman who we have come to love! How very sweet to spend a whole evening with Taylor and my dear Michelle, catching up on what God's done since we last saw her.

As we sat over dinner, she talked about how that summer laid a foundation for her life that shaped and developed her into the person she is today.

She is one confident, deep, happy, fun, mature, selfless, godly and beautiful-inside-and-out young woman! To think that Josiah Venture had a little part in her growth and development, SO thrills me.

"Taylor, you are a delight! Thank you for giving us a glimpse into your life and the ways God is using you here in Portland to live out the Gospel!"

Friday, May 19, 2017

Oregon Friends

One of the sweetest parts of being on this trip with Claire as she shares her vision and passion for JV Kids, is getting to connect with friends who have lived on mission with us in Central and Eastern Europe.

Meet dear Anna, and her sweet daughter.

Anna served on our team in Slovenia many years ago, discipling young women and being part of our JV Kid care team at summer camp. Back in the day, she was actually Claire's camp counselor for several years! And any time there was a JV event, Anna would check into "her" girls, the same-age group of JV girls who were Claire's age at that time.

She had a significant impact on Claire's life then, and has continued to be available to her, even while Claire's been in college. Oh the sweet privilege of being in her home yesterday, being ministered to by her deep faith and tender love for her family. While we didn't get to see her husband, we were so blessed and ministered to by time with her and her daughter.

Next, meet Lauree!

Lauree served with JV for five years, stepping out in faith to live on mission with us and begin the development of our communication's team ten years ago. She's been gone five years (how is that long already??!) but seeing her yesterday was as if no time at all had passed.

How good of the Lord to give us kindred spirits to reconnect with!

And then, there's Michelle!

I met Michelle thirty eight years ago, as a teenager (don't spend too much time adding up those numbers! HA).

She was the first one to disciple me, the one who prayed me into my first summer of ministry, and the one who foresaw that I'd marry Dave! Needless to say, she's my very treasured best friend.

Not only that, but she has prayed me through years on the mission field, while she has served here in Oregon in such a variety of ways that it's hard to even keep track of! She's a woman of many gifts and talents, and uses them so well to the glory of God.

She's been Claire's adopted aunt all these years, so it's a joy to be back here with Claire to enjoy the sweetness, impact and great love of her friendship.

How I thank the Lord for these precious friends.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Trip to the Coast

If at all possible when in the State of Oregon, my heart's desire is to get over to the Oregon Coast!

Growing up here, we lived just an hour away from the beach. It was not unusual for my family to jump in the car and "run" over to the coast for a few hours on a week-end or a summer day. I love that my parents were that spontaneous, and made the Oregon Coast a special place for my brother and I!

So today, in honor of a long-standing tradition, we did the same thing.

Today's route took us to Florence, to stop at our favorite coffee shop, and then on to Newport! Nye Beach has become a regular stop for us!

Whether or not it's windy, cold and rainy...or pleasant, warm and sunshiny...we walk the beach!

It was such an unusually nice day, we could've walked for hours! There is nothing like the smells, sounds and feel of walking here.

Tradition always takes us to the wharf of Newport as well.

If you've never seen the Oregon sea lions, it's a "must see"! They are the strangest, funniest and loudest animals! I wish you could hear their "roar" and see them fighting for a spot on the platform!

Not only did I get to grow up going here, but my kids have as well. My parents always made it a priority when we brought them from Czech. So they love it now too!

And it's always more fun when Uncle Mike joins us! He's the best uncle around!!

One final stop always has to be the Newport candy store! Salt water taffy, caramel corn, chocolates or any number of their offerings hits the spot, and brings out the best in us!!

It was, as always, a wonderful day at the beach with my family, happily reminiscing, soaking in the familiar and beloved sights, as well as making new memories.

"Thank you for yet another trip to the coast, mom and dad!"

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Sharing the Vision

Speaking with clarity and poise at my parents' home church, our daughter, Claire, shared the vision of Josiah Venture and her upcoming ministry with the JV Kids in Central and Eastern Europe.

It was not common for their church to allow someone "from the outside" to come in and share, yet it was so evident to see God at work, opening the doors to make this connection. This evening was only possible through the many prayers of those who were standing with us, and our faithful God!

Beautifully articulate and delightfully winsome, she shared her heart, passion and calling to follow God to care for, equip and help launch JV Kids.

It was moving, motivating, and inspiring to hear her talk so powerfully about this group of kids on mission with their parents, kids who are part of the next generation of young "Josiahs" that we want to see raised up for God's Kingdom.

She captured the hearts of many who heard her speak, and there are already some who want to partner with her and stand in faith for this strategic ministry with the JV Kids.

I think it's okay as a mom to say I was so proud, listening to her articulate her thoughts and vision!

The evening was also very special because of many dear family and friends who came to share in it.

My cousin, who I grew up with here in Oregon, was there with her husband and parents, my aunt and uncle. It meant the world that they came to support and encourage us!

Not only that, but some lifelong friends of my parents, who I haven't seen in nearly 50 years, were able to come down from the Salem area to be there as well. I would have recognized them anywhere!

We have my mom to thank for this very special evening! I'm sad we didn't get a picture with her tonight because it was her inspiration, planning, invitation and thoughtfulness that went into creating such a beautiful event!!

"THANK YOU MOM for your kindness, love and hard work that made this night possible!!!!"

And Claire wants to tell you dear blog readers, if you are following and praying for her in this journey towards coming alongside and ministering to the JV Kids, THANK YOU!

This is a body of Christ effort to launch another missionary into the calling of God on her life!

Glory Bee

My brother, Mike, works at one of the coolest places in Eugene!

Glory Bee began here in a family garage in 1975. For over 40 years now, they've been supplying honey, sweeteners, spices, dried fruits, nuts, oils, and bee-keeping equipment to places all over the nation.

I love that my brother has become an expert in all things concerning bees and honey. And that he works somewhere that we get to do honey tastings!

If you've never tried a variety of honeys all at the same time, you can't quite appreciate HOW DIVERSE honey can taste!!

Mike's job is mostly on the bee-keeping side of the business, so he knows A LOT about that subject. It was so fun listening to him explain things that I know absolutely nothing about. Hopefully I'm a little smarter on the subject now that my brother has shared his expertise!

After enjoying this part of the tour, he invited Claire and I back later on.

To put on bee-keeping suits and help him out!

Mike needed to check some of the hives that are nearly ready to go to customers. So Claire and I suited up to go help him.

Well...sort of. Notice we didn't get the memo that you're supposed to wear proper foot gear as well as the suits!

Mike is a good sport though, and told us we'd probably be okay.

After all, what's a little bee sting?

Notice how he protects himself from any bee stings!

In all seriousness, it was absolutely THE COOLEST to watch him handle the bees, and tell us more about them. They are truly one of God's amazing creations!

As he checked the hives, I took notes for him on whether or not the hive was ready for pick up by the customers.

All from a safe distance!

I loved watching my brother do his job, and listen to his passion for the bees!