Saturday, November 16, 2019

Continue Steadfastly

As Dave and I drove home this evening, passing by the beautiful church on the hill near our home, we talked about how we've prayed for ten years for someone in our life.

There were many times during these ten years when it seemed like our prayers didn't affect anything.

But recently we saw this friend, and got to see with our own eyes, and hear with our own ears, some of miraculous transformation God has done over these ten years. It's truly beautiful!

Colossians 4:2 says, "Continue steadfastly in prayer..."

While we don't earn answers to prayers by our persistence, God does call us to persevere in prayer. And through doing so, our requests move from the natural realm to the spiritual realm, where God hears and answers.

Do I understand exactly how prayer works? Or why it is that He tells us to pray continuously and steadfastly? No! I just know that it's His way lined out in His Word. So I persevere in prayer.

There are a lot of unanswered prayers requests on my list of things that I pray about these days; some of those things have been on the list for longer than ten years.

But our time with this friend, that we've prayed for over these past ten years, gives me courage and strength to persevere in prayer for other things that seem to be stuck right now.

We don't know when it might be God's timing to open the floodgates and answer; and my prayers might be part of opening those floodgates. I wouldn't want to miss out on being part of God's plan to do that!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

It's the Best

A dear friend of mine, from years ago when we served together in Germany with Malachi, wrote to me a few days ago. Her daughter had just birthed her first child, my friend's first grandchild. She wrote:

"This grandma thing is the best! 💕🎉🙌🏼"

I couldn't agree more!

Dave had to be in Prague overnight tonight, so I invited myself over to Tyler and Lara's for dinner, and had the sweetest evening with them, and just being "Nonnie" with the boys.

Tyler took that photo at bedtime, when I was reading a new book I'd just given Judah for his birthday, "Spiderman Swings through Europe". Based on the relatively new Spiderman move, it has him and his friends traveling through three major European cities, including Prague! Though I haven't seen the movie, and the little boys won't see it for many years, it's still fun that part of it takes place in a city we know and love (which is why I bought it when I found it at Target a few weeks ago in the States!).

It was fun to read it and especially fun to have them recognize the astronomical clock on Old Town square that makes an appearance in the book!

Yes, this "Nonnie" thing is the best! 💕🎉🙌🏼

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Looking Back

Across the ocean, in Englewood, Colorado, my sister-in-law, Joyce, was looking at photos while over at her mom and dad's house today.

She was searching for one particular photo, but in the process came across some pictures she thought I'd enjoy, so started sending them to me.

What a treasure!

That's Dave in his mom's lap, in the Philippines, where he was born, and where they were missionaries until Dave was 4! I'd never seen that photo before - so sweet, isn't it?

And here's another one that was new to me, taken in California at a church that supported the Patty family.

When they came back to the States from the Philippines on that trip, they thought it would be for just a year of furlough; but it ended up being a permanent move.

Dave's dad became director for the mission organization they were with, Overseas Christian Servicemen's Center (today called Cadence International) and served in that position until Dave graduated from high school. Their family moved to Englewood, Colorado and the kids grew up there.

Clockwise from the top: Joyce, Dave, Josh, Steve

Josh joined the family, and then they were complete!

Not only did they live in Englewood, but Mom's sister and her family did as well! Living just down the street, there were a lot of cousin connections that took place in their growing up years, like singing together!

From family stories, I've heard a lot about the "white van" that they traveled in when they drove out to Oregon (where Dad Patty was raised). This must have been one of those trips!

And for sure this was at the Oregon coast!

Joyce sent one photo of the extended Patty family from 26 years ago. I know because Caleb is a baby in this photo!

Many more children/grandchildren joined the family after that...two more for David and Joyce, one more for Dave and I, and four for Josh and Kristi! I love that although we've lived much of our lives in different places, we are all still very close, and even these cousins know and love each other!

"Dad and Mom, you did a great job with your family!!"

This was Dad and Mom yesterday, looking at these photos!

God Honoring Excellence

I only took one photo today, and it doesn't even look like Dave's doing anything...but that's not true!

Dave led our extended iTeam meeting this morning up at Malenovice, something we do every couple of months.

It's a time for this team, who serves the whole of JV, to receive some extra training. Sometimes we're going through new JV training material so we all know how it works. And sometimes we're working on JV core values, as we were today.

The teaching today, on our core value of "God honoring excellence", was a culmination of practices Dave has studied and honed over the years. It was so good! I said to him afterward, "Who ARE you that you know so much about this, but more importantly, DO IT?!" 😂

He gave us five skills of God honoring excellence that got all of us thinking because they were so applicable to our real lives.

1. Think Forward: one minute of planning saves 12 minutes of execution, say the experts!
2. Find the Third Option: don't get caught in binary traps; force yourself to broaden your view.
3. Recognize Decision Points: don’t start a new task without consciously deciding it’s the right one.
4. Manage Mental Energy: plan your energy – don’t waste it on small things. Do your biggest most difficult things at the beginning.
5. Optimize your Environment: noise, clutter, light, distractions are all within your control.

I'm condensing two and a half hours of teaching into a very small package! Even though I have more detailed notes, I want it here so I can quickly go back to it when I need to.

I came home and right away made some changes in the environment where I work, and in planning. And it already helped!

I'm not a strategic thinker like Dave, but I'm a good student and can apply what he taught!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Judah is Four!

We have a four year old in the family!

This afternoon Dave and I drove into Ostrava to get to Tyler and Lara's a little early, before the birthday party began, so we could have a few quiet minutes as a family to celebrate Judah.

At 4:00, guests started arriving...outside!

Today is not only Judah's birthday, and Veteran's Day in the US, but it's Saint Martin's day here in Czech, which gets a celebration all of its own here in Ostrava on the square, just below where Tyler, Lara and boys live!

Friends began to meet us outside on the square where booths are open with food and drinks.

There are a few booths selling fun things, like this one that Papa found!

Judah got to choose whichever balloon he wanted as a special gift from Papa!

After watching some folk dancing and a sword fight for the celebration...

...we all came inside for dinner and birthday festivities!

Judah's request was cupcakes (and hot chocolate with marshmallows) so he got to blow out a lot of candles!

Soon after it was time for gifts, which were happily opened and appropriately oohed and ahhed over by all!

It was such a sweet evening with family and friends, celebrating our dear Judah!

Judah, maybe someday you'll read this when you're older, and if you do, I want you to know how much I loved and enjoyed you today as a new four year old!! You are full of joy, energy, strength and delight in life. And it's so special to watch you grow into such a wonderful boy! Your Nonnie loves you a lot!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Fusion Musical

Last night, Claire and I went to see a very unique Fusion choir concert led by some of our JV staff!

Shelby and Hanka, who live in Ostrava and serve at a church there, produced this western themed musical for their Fusion camp this past summer. The students learned all the music, all the lines, all the blocking (that's theater language for precise staging of actors to facilitate a performance), and all the instruments in just one week's time!

Because it was so much work, and turned out so well the first time around, they decided to work with their Fusion students this fall to prepare another performance of it. I'm so glad they did!

Sitting in the audience reminded me of all the years I did musicals when I was in high school, and how much fun they were to be a part of. These Czech students don't have those same opportunities in their high schools here (no drama, choir or band in the sports, honor society or cheerleading either), so this was a very unique experience for them.

Using English songs, Shelby and Hanka wrote a musical based on the biblical story of the Prodigal Son, put in a western cowboy context!

This resulted in a delightful and truly excellent performance tonight!

Before the show began, as Shelby was introducing it, she said something to the effect of hoping we would not only laugh and enjoy the performance, but that perhaps we might even cry.

I literally did, as the son came home to his father in the end.

As I sat in the audience, on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, which then led to the fall of communism and open doors for the Gospel in this part of the world, I thought, "This wouldn't be happening tonight if it wasn't for that monumental event that took place through the prayers and bravery of people who stood for freedom back then."

What's so cool about tonight's performance is that these students don't leave this community of people in Fusion and just go back to their regular lives. They will continue to meet week after week, learning more songs and how to play more instruments.

But more importantly, they'll continue to hear about the Lord at each Fusion practice, and get to live in community all school year long...and then go to another camp next summer!

I'm so proud of Shelby, and all those who do Fusion ministry across our JV countries. If I was a high schooler here, I'd DEFINITELY want to be in one of those choirs!!!

Shelby, Claire and Denny (who serves on our iTeam) with me after the concert!

So proud of you Shelby and Hanka for giving these young people such an awesome opportunity to be part of your Fusion choir!!!!

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Thirty Years Ago Today

"We had calculated for everything," said Horst Sindermann, a representative of East Germany's communist SED party, "except burning candles and prayers. They disarmed us."

The protests against the Communist regime, which included those candles and prayers, began in Leipzig, East Germany in October 1989. And just one month later, on November 9, 1989, a miracle took place.

The Berlin wall came down, the beginning to the end of 41 years under Communist rule for East Germany. People were able to cross freely from East to West for the first time since the wall was erected on August 21, 1961.

Today is the thirtieth anniversary of that life changing event that truly changed the face of Europe.

The fall of the Berlin wall opened the way for other countries who had been under Communism, to fight for their freedom as well.

The Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia began just eight days later, on November 17 and lasted through to December 29, 1989, when Vaclav Havel was elected President of Czechoslovakia by the Federal Parliament (democratic elections were held in June 1990 for the first time since 1946).

As history goes, this end to the Cold War didn't happen very long ago! And yet so much has changed in those thirty years since the Berlin Wall was opened.

From our perspective, it changed our lives as well! We were living and serving in Germany as missionaries at the time that the wall fell. Little did we know the impact it would have on us in the years to follow.

Who knew that students who protested, families who brought their children, and men and women who came into the streets of Czechoslovakia that November of 1989, all seeking freedom, would become the people that we would love and serve for so many years?

Dave and I moved to the Czech Republic in November 1993, four years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet Revolution of Czechoslovakia (the Czech Republic and Slovakia split into two separate countries in January 1993) and began praying for and seeking God's movement across this region of the world.

Today Josiah Venture serves across fourteen countries in former Communist countries - and we'll be in two more countries in 2020: Montenegro and Moldova. God is moving across this region!

In this part of the world where people were brought up to believe that God doesn't exist, and that religion was a thing of the past, we continue to pray and believe God for His supernatural movement in people's lives, that they will be transformed by the power of Jesus, and be part of transforming society into a new generation of vibrant believers who live by faith in our great God!

Friday, November 8, 2019

Precious and Treasured

While I was in the States recently, I received a message from someone asking where they could send something to me, that I would receive while still in the States.

The message was from the mom of our JV teammate and dear friend, Mel Ellenwood. I couldn't imagine what his mom, Troy, would be sending to me.

And in my wildest dreams I would never have thought of how precious it would be!

Troy "felted" this incredibly beautiful and treasured piece of art for me!!!!

It's my sweet Kaylee, who passed away this year; who I still miss every time I come home.

Kaylee used to go in and out of that door dozens of times a day! Had to take a picture here in this spot,
 of this 'oh so lovely' likeness of her!

When I opened the package while still in the States, I couldn't believe my eyes...that she would do something so personal and so meaningful for me!

The likeness of her in this "one of a kind piece of art" that Troy so lovingly made, brings Kaylee to life for me back here at home now.

I could hardly wait to come and find a home for this beauty!

It's nearly been nine months since Kaylee died, but I still think of her all the time, especially when I'm home. The house is so quiet without the little clip-clap of her toenails on the floor, and her sweet snuffles as she slept.

But having this likeness of her makes me smile and brings me such joy remembering what a good dog she was, and how much I loved her.

With ALL MY HEART, thank you Troy for this most precious and treasured gift!!!!!!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Thankful for Family

In 2009, Tyler headed to the States for college, followed by Caleb in 2012 and Claire in 2013.

So for nine years, at least one of our kids was in the States, which meant that when we'd be there, we'd go to wherever they were for a visit.

It's crazy today because none of them are there, which meant not seeing any of our kids for a month while we were in the States this time...until today when Claire stopped by!

She's busy these days, serving our JV kids and families across central and eastern Europe, as well as serving locally in our church with the junior highers.

Tyler and his family are just "down the road" in Ostrava, serving with JV too in the ForMission school, as well as in their local church where Tyler preaches and is an elder.

While Caleb and his family are not local, they are just a plane ride away in Albania, serving with JV as well! They lead the camps ministry for their Albanian team, and are working on language since they've been there just over a year.

It's such an incredible gift that God brought all three of our kids, and their families, back to not only serve in Europe, but to be in the same organization as us.

In this month November when we celebrate Thanksgiving, this is one of the things I am most thankful for!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Good and Normal

Nothing says welcome home like lighting a candle in our living room and sitting in quiet on the first day back after a month away!

We were already at the office this morning for a meeting with our iTeam, the group of people who serve the movement of Josiah Venture across Central and Eastern Europe. How good it was to be back with that family!

Having no food in our refrigerator, I needed to grocery shop after the meeting so we'd have something to eat tonight.

And guess what I found for the first time?? 😂 😂 😂

In the past few months, I've had sweet potato fries in a couple restaurants here in Czech, but have never seen them in the frozen food section of any grocery store. Until today! I'm kind of excited to try them and see how they turn out!

Other than that, life is good and normal back here. It feels so good!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

On Our Way Back Home

What a surprise to find that one of our JV teammates and her daughter were on the same flight as us from Chicago to Munich last night!

Brooke, and her husband and daughter had been in the States for a wedding over the week-end, so were flying back to Slovenia.

Thanks to her mom, who works for the airline, they get passes that make it much more affordable to fly. But it also means they sometimes have to take separate flights! So she and her daughter were on ours, and her husband was on a completely different one.

What a sweet connection to see them on our way back home!

We flew on to Vienna where we picked up our luggage for the last time on this particular trip.

While I actually enjoy flying, being in airports, and seeing all the people we get to meet with, it felt great to get in our own car this afternoon and head home to the Czech Republic after a month on the road.

I'm looking forward to sleeping in our own bed tonight!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Thanks for Prayer

We left Orlando this morning, where we've been visiting friends for the week-end, and headed to Chicago in order to catch our flight over the ocean this evening.

We've been on the road for nearly a month, visiting people and churches literally coast to coast across the States. Dave and I both commented today as we began our travels back home, that this has been one of the richest times we've had here. Which I think is true because people have been praying for us!

I put a request into our online JV Prayer Room before we started, and have been receiving messages throughout these weeks from people who let me know what they were praying for. What an encouragement to us!

As we got on our transatlantic flight tonight, we both said that we don't feel weary, but rather energized by our travels. That can only be thanks to God and his people who have upheld us! 

We'll try to get some sleep on the plane tonight, and maybe, just maybe, avoid jet lag when we arrive home thanks to all those prayers!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

God's People

This morning Dave had the joy of preaching at The Grove Bible Chapel in Orlando, Florida, a church plant launched by some dear friends of ours in 2016.

What a great morning it was to worship with this body of believers!

One of the things that I enjoy so much about our travels is that no matter where we go, God connects us with people who are passionate and committed to the Lord - like this dear one who I got to hear some amazing "God stories" from in just our short time together!

We've also spent hours with our friends here, hearing their stories, and sharing ours, of God's faithfulness since we last saw them a year ago in Czech. These are friends we've known and loved for almost thirty years! It's always such rich fellowship when we're together.

Oh and I got in some doggie love too while at their house!

We leave Florida tomorrow, with our heart refreshed and nourished after being with God's people here!

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Cold and Hot

In the space a few hours and one plane ride, yesterday Dave and I went from this in Chicago...

To this in Florida!

All of God's creation is beautiful - the snow and cold, the sunshine and warmth - and I honestly love each climate for its own beauty!

It's actually hot here today as we're visiting friends for the week-end. I sure don't have the right clothes for this temperature! But I'll soak in these warm days and enjoy the sun before we head home to Czech early next week.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Ellie and Family

I can't remember exactly when Ellie and I started connecting over coffee years ago; but I DO know we've known her since she was a junior higher!

We met Ellie and her family when we moved to Wheaton in 1991 for Dave to attend Wheaton College Grad School; they were also going to Grace Church of DuPage which became our home church during those years. Dave spoke on a junior high youth group retreat that Ellie was on, so we go back a long ways!

I love this dear woman, who has been faithfully walking with God in the midst of "hard" for the past seven years, ever since their third child, Chase, was diagnosed with brain cancer. And now, cancer is back in his body. Pray for Ellie and her family: Bob, Ellie, Darcy, Aiden, Chase and Karsten...that they will continue to be rooted in faith, trusting God for what is ahead in the days, weeks and months to come as Chase enters treatment again on November 14th.

Ellie is a gifted writer and has been writing about their life and cancer journey for years at Chase Away Cancer. Her thoughts and words are rich, poignant and genuine. She doesn't gloss over the hard, but writes with hope and faith.

Despite having their lives turned upside down by being buried in the cancer world for these past seven years, beautiful color remarkably shines through their lives despite grief and weariness.

A little over a month ago Ellie wrote on her blog:

We call them brave.

We call them warriors.

We say they have a strength we could never comprehend.

And it’s all true.

But they’re also weary and fragile and maybe afraid too. They are the parents who stand with broken hearts and empty arms.

She and her husband are all of these things. They, and their children, have my utmost admiration and my prayers as they walk this difficult road once again.