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.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Around Wheaton

I did not expect to wake up to this in Chicago today!

Yesterday, Dave and I headed two different directions for the next 36 hours: me to Chicago, and Dave to Denver to see his mom and dad. He barely made it there because of a snowstorm that hit Denver, but I thought I was free and clear coming to Chicago. NOT SO!!

However the snow didn't stop any of my visits today!

First up was Chase, a special little buddy who's been through a lot in his nine years of life.

At two he was diagnosed with brain cancer. And now, for the first time since October 2013, he has had to go back on the inpatient cancer ward because they found a type of thyroid cancer in his little fierce body.

He'll begin treatment on November 14th. Please pray for Chase, and for his mom, dad and three siblings. You can follow his mom for updates here at "Chase Away Cancer".

I'll actually see his mom tomorrow, but today I picked up another friend at their house who was here serving them, as she does so well. I know because my family and I have been the recipient of that care too when I had sick kids many years ago.

Judi, or Grandma Judi, as my kids and all other kids call her, is a one in a million, godly, loving, servant hearted woman.

I wonder how many people she has served in her lifetime? Which includes her own family of four adult kids and many grandchildren - she even has great grandchildren now! And yet here she was today, helping Chase's mom at their house, while Ellie was at the hospital downtown Chicago with Chase getting things done in preparation for his treatment in a few weeks.

Two hours of talking as fast as we could, sped by at this delightful coffee/tea shop, K'Tizo! (I always like to add links here in case you happen to be in the area of someplace I've visited!) How I loved connecting with this friend who I first met when we moved to Wheaton in 1991!

After saying goodbye to Judi, I dashed over to downtown Wheaton and picked up this sweet friend.

Katka is a student at Wheaton Grad School, which is the very school that brought Dave and I here 28 years ago!

She is not American though...she (and her husband) are Slovaks, serving on our JV team in their country. Well...they WERE serving there until they came here for two years so she can go to grad school!

We're happy to loan them to Wheaton for these years, but will be very glad to have them back in Slovakia after she's done!

This has been a special day visiting friends in this town that has come to mean a lot to us over the years since we first came here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Last Time I Was Here...

Nearly thirty six years ago, in December 1983, I got on a flight here in Portland, Oregon headed to the same place where Dave and I headed to yesterday.

It was a trip that would change my life.

I had just graduated from college that December, and had come home from student teaching near Seattle. I didn't know what I was going to do once the new year started, except to start job hunting.

But the first Sunday back at my church, my friend Michelle told me about a conference happening at the end of the month for college students. Though I had no idea what this conference was about, by the end of that day, another friend had given me money to attend, and within three weeks I was on a plane bound for Kansas City.

That conference was Campus Crusade's KC '83, a conference to mobilize college students into God's work around the world. It was there that God put a desire on my heart to serve Him, and it was there where I met up with Dave, as Michelle tried to convince him to audition me for the Malachi team going to Germany in the spring. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I auditioned back in Portland, was asked by Dave to join the team, went to Germany that summer, felt called by God to give my life to missions, moved to Spain for a year, came back to Bible school for a year, and then moved to Germany in 1986 for full time work with American teenagers stationed on military bases with their parents.

Oh, and I married Dave in 1987!

All of that was set into motion by a trip to Kansas City, where Dave and I headed yesterday! This time we're not going to a conference, but visiting some dear friends at their lovely home.

I haven't been back to Kansas City since that life changing conference in 1983. It's crazy and wonderful all at the same time, to come back here after thirty six years of having served the Lord overseas for most of those years. When I was last here, I sure didn't know that's how my life would turn out!

It was pure delight to visit our friends Steve and Kelly here this time.

I hope I make it back here to see them again before another 36 years goes by! ๐Ÿ˜‚

"Steve and Kelly, Thank you so much for your warm and loving hospitality!! What a sweet time to be with you both!"

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Family and Friends

This has been a wonderful whirlwind week-end in Oregon/Washington, seeing family and friends.

So we finished out Sunday evening with one more set of dear people!

Angela was in Dave's and my youth group in Karlruhe, Germany back in 1987/88 when we were serving with Malachi Ministries! She finished university in Germany and then came to Portland at our recommendation to attend Multnomah Bible School (today, University). And she's still here today!

We laughed tonight saying how old we felt when she was in our youth group, when in reality the age span wasn't that great. She just celebrated her 50th birthday! With Dave and I both 58, there's really not that much age difference between us! But it felt like a lot more back in those youth group days. We have loved Angela for a long time, so it was delightful to see her this evening.

Dave had already spent time with his brother, Steve, this week-end, but I hadn't gotten to see him!

So we popped over to his place after being out with Angela and Tony, and enjoyed an hour with him too!

There are many others in the Portland/Vancouver area who we didn't get to see on this trip. But we'll be back another time and hope to see more family and friends then.

My Heroes

After our time at Laurelwood this morning, Dave and I got to spend the afternoon with my mom and dad, who drove up to see us from Eugene, a two hour drive for them.

My mom and dad are my heroes for the way they have loved and cared for me all these years, and for how they have entrusted me to the Lord and his calling on my life. While they deeply love me, they have always released me into that calling, and never stood in the way of what God had for me.

That is an invaluable gift!!

I love that my friend Michelle captured this spontaneous moment of laughter!

The other reason they're my heroes is because of their marriage, and how crazy they are about each other, even after 59 years (almost) of marriage!

They are genuinely each other's best friend, and love doing life together. That has always given me such security in my own life!

"Parents, love your spouse well! It's the best gift you can give your child!" (that's my own quote ๐Ÿคฃ)

Vancouver was absolutely showing off today as we drove to the Old Spaghetti Factory for lunch.

It was the sweetest afternoon with my parents there, telling stories and enjoying the time together. Aren't my parents so cute??!!!

My dad has the best laugh, and I love it when he gets amused or tickled by something. Usually I'm laughing too, so never capture that moment.

But I think I got a little bit of it here!

"Mom and Dad, thank you for your many sacrifices in life, in order to bless me and my family! There are countless ways that you have served us, loved us, blessed us, and given sacrificially for us. That means the world to me. Your reward will be great in heaven someday...which I hope is a LONG LONG LONG time from now!!"

Morning at Laurelwood

Dave and I were at Laurelwood Baptist church in Vancouver, Washington this morning!

I started going to Laurelwood nearly 40 years, shortly after I put my faith in Jesus. Dave went here as well, attending during his college years as an intern in the youth department. This is where we first met!

Jim Watson was the pastor there at the time, which is how I met his and Jan's daughter, Michelle, who is my lifelong best friend. They came to be with us this morning, as did my mom and dad, who drove down from Eugene!!!

After an encouraging time of worship, Dave and I came to the front to thank this church who has partnered with us since 1983, when they first sent Dave out as a missionary with Malachi, under Cadence International.

The next year, in 1984, they sent me as I also went with Malachi to serve American military teenagers across Europe.

Standing up here and still seeing many familiar faces who have prayed and stood with us all these years was so encouraging to my heart.

Dave gave the message today, "How to Step Into Your Calling".

"Most of us have an occupation, but each of us also has a calling. Because of the daily tasks that demand our attention, it is easy to become preoccupied with our occupation and miss our calling. A journey with Peter through John 21 will help us discover what holds us back, and how to step out of our fears and into our calling."

You can listen online or download that message HERE, in their list of sermons.

After the service there were so many wonderful people to talk with! I see Lisa, who's been out to Malenovice to serve with us many times; I see Larry who I've known since I was 18 years old! I see my dad talking with Jennifer, who's married to a friend I went to high school with. And you can see me, talking to a high schooler about coming out to do an internship with JV sometime!

We also got to see Gwen, a long time friend of mine who once served with us in Germany. It's always a happy day when we get to see this joy filled friend!

Mike, the pastor, and his wife, Susan, have been at Laurelwood 23 years! When they arrived, they embraced us as "their" missionaries and have always prayed for us and been so supportive through the years; they've even been out to visit us!

As usual, we closed down the church, being the last ones to leave!

We are so thankful for this church, who has invested in us when we were young, and who has stood with us for 36 years, and counting!

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Soon to Be Married

This evening, after the "Best Friend's shower" and a Christmas shopping trip, Michelle and I met up with Dave, Taylor and Jackson.

Wanting someplace quiet, we headed to an unusual, but perfect, spot - Nordstrom's Cafe at Washington Square mall!

Tucked away in a corner by ourselves, over a yummy meal, Dave and I did some pre-marital counseling with this dear couple who will be married in just five weeks.

If the four of us ever did an album, this could be our cover, thanks to Michelle's photo taking skills! ๐Ÿคฃ

When the server came to tell us the restaurant was closing (note to self, Nordstrom's cafe closes an hour before the store does!), we made our way out to the mall to finish our time with them.

Dave gave "father" words to Taylor (whose dad passed away when she was in high school), blessing her into this marriage.

Then we prayed for Taylor and Jackson right there in the middle of the mall, that they will lives of love for each other and God, and be completely humble, gentle and patient, bearing with each other in love as they soon become one flesh, husband and wife!

The Watson Women ๐Ÿ˜

Everyone needs a "Michelle" in their life!

I met Michelle almost 40 years ago, shortly after I trusted Christ right out of high school.

She began lovingly discipling me, teaching me what it meant to daily follow Jesus. Somewhere along the way, God knit our hearts together, not just as discipler/disciplee, but as the best of friends.

Which is still true today!

She walks deeply with God, loves people fiercely, gives everything, and then some, to whoever God brings into her path. She knows the Word of God, listens to the Spirit, and loves the Trinity with all of her being.

She's an author, speaker, radio host, worship leader, and professional counselor. For the past ten years she's been leading something called The Abba Project, a "group for courageous dads who are ready to commit to “kicking it up a notch” with their teenage and/or 20-something daughters over the course of a year in her life".

She's written a book for dads called "Dad, Here's What I Really Need from You", and will be releasing her next book for dads in Summer 2020!

Today this wonderful friend took me to the coolest little store in Lake Oswego, called "Glassybaby", to let me find my Christmas gift from her.

I love that it will sit in my living room at home in the Czech Republic, and be a reminder of this dear woman who has had such an impact on my life, and on thousands of others.

And who is behind this amazing woman? Her precious and equally amazing mom, Jan!

Michelle's dad is behind her too...he just wasn't with us for our little shopping trip! ๐Ÿ˜€

What a sweet and refreshing afternoon, getting to spend it with these two Watson women who mean so much to me!!

Love in the Room

Last night Dave and I flew in to Portland, Oregon, a very familiar place to us since I grew up in Oregon and Dave went to college here!

We're just here for the week-end, for a couple different events, one of which started this afternoon with these lovely ladies.

I've known Michelle and Jan (daughter and mom) for nearly forty years, and have shared a lot of life with them, even though I moved overseas in 1986. They're my prayer warriors, my disciplers, and my best friends! It's hard to even put into words how much they mean to me.

The reason we're together today is because we're celebrating another dear friend, Taylor, and her upcoming wedding!

I met Taylor when she came to the Czech Republic to do a summer internship with JV a number of years ago.

She was sent by Michelle!

Taylor lost her mom as a young girl, and her dad when she was a high schooler - such devastating losses for her. Michelle stepped into her life about ten years ago, and over time they developed a mother-daughter relationship, unofficially adopting each other. But "unofficial" is just a technical term! They live out their mother-daughter relationship in the sweetest way.

And now, Taylor is getting married to Jackson so Michelle is gaining a son-in-law!

Their story is truly a miraculous God story, beginning with Jackson originally being from Rwanda, and Taylor working with Rwandans who live in Portland.

A friend who knew both of them introduced them, even though Jackson lived in Arkansas and Taylor in Portland. Over the course of time they fell in love and will be married in November!

Debbie, a dear friend of theirs (they actually got engaged at her house!) and her family held a wedding shower today for Taylor AND Jackson, calling it a "Best Friends" shower. What a great idea!

Debbie prepared an absolutely incredible lunch feast for us all, and then we sat in their beautiful room with light streaming in from all around on this perfect fall day, and each of us gave just one word to the bride and groom, which we wrote on a mat that will go into a frame.

While you could only write one word on the mat, you could thankfully explain it with more words! All of the words were so specific and loving to this couple. It couldn't have been a sweeter afternoon.

I took the group photo of the "best friends" which will go into the mat and frame that they say will have a special place in their new home!

On every level it was meaningful to be here for this very sweet occasion.

So much love was in this room as we all celebrated the joy of Taylor and Jackson's lives becoming one in just a few weeks.

Travel and Blogging

I'm writing this post on November 4th, at the end of four weeks of travel in Europe and in the US for Dave and I.

I'm POSTING it on October 26th, because that's the last time that I had time to blog! I'll eventually go back and catch up on those missing days of blogging, but wanted to explain a bit about why I don't get to blog daily while we're on the road.

When I'm traveling, I especially love blogging because each day is so full of goodness that I might forget it I didn't write about it. And I don't want to do that! But the nature of travel makes that difficult since our days often start very early and end late as we're meeting with people or en route to the next place.

In the past, I used to do better at keeping up with my blog when we traveled. I'd stay up for an extra hour to do it at the end of a day. But for the past three years, my computer time while traveling has gone first to our Josiah Venture Prayer Room

Every day, whether traveling or not, I work in the Prayer Room, editing new requests being added by our JV staff, as well as their answers to prayer, and anything that's posted on the Reflection Wall.

I'm also troubleshooting problems each day, and communicating with our web design team who work in Slovakia when I can't figure it out myself. In addition to that, any time someone writes a note on the reflection wall that is specific to a person, I email that note to the designated recipient.

All of this can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours, or more, a day! Thus all my spare time goes to this while on the road, and I have to look for other blocks of time to blog.

I don't like to get behind! But it's the nature of travel and work along the way.

This afternoon I'm at Chicago O'Hare waiting for our flight across the ocean...and remember, this is November 4th, not October 26th, even though it says that on the date of this post! ๐Ÿ˜‚

I'm hopeful that I'll get a few blog posts done before we fly, but if not, I'll do it after I get home to our beloved Czech Republic!

Friday, October 25, 2019

Productive and Encouraging

Two days in beautiful Louisville, Kentucky and this is the only picture I have to show for it! ๐Ÿ˜‚

In case you don't know, a famous baseball bat originated here in 1884, known as the Louisville slugger. All we did was pass by a stadium downtown that is named for it!

During these days we've had incredibly encouraging meetings with a large church here that partners with JV. We're so thankful for their forward thinking, their desire to impact the world, and their commitment to stand with JV as one of their partners.

Now we're off to the airport and another couple flights! These are productive and encouraging days for us.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Earlier and Earlier

While traveling through sunny, blue-sky Indiana today for meetings, we stopped for a bite to eat at a mall. This sight greeted us.

I guess the message is, Christmas is coming soon so you'd better get ready!

In truth, it IS only two months away so I guess the encouragement to be thinking about Christmas is apropos!

And to be fair, just before I left home, this sight greeted me at a local store.

I was so surprised and took a picture just to remember how early these items came out for sale!

And this was even a few weeks earlier than the tree going up at the mall in the US!

Does anyone else remember Christmas decorations going up after Thanksgiving, in late November??

The one good thing about it for me is that I'm actually motivated to get Christmas shopping done early this year so that I can enjoy the reason for the season: Jesus, Immanuel, God with us!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

For our Farmer Friends

This week Dave and I are on the road, driving through Indiana and Kentucky, visiting foundations, supporters and a church that partners with JV.

Today's drive across the farmlands of Indiana was spectacular!!

Dave and I prayed for the farmers farming these fields, and for all of our farmer friends who work so diligently as unto the Lord.

We prayed they would see purpose in their work, and know God's pleasure in them for all they do to provide food and resources that enable them to give generously to His work.

They are the "unsung heroes" of America, living out of the limelight and working hard day after day to support their families, communities and missionaries around the world.

I'm sure behind many doors we passed today are farmers and their families who are praying, trusting God, and giving of their resources so that missionaries can do the spiritual equivalent of what they do physically day after day...till the soil, plant, weed, fertilize and reap a harvest.

Like farmer's work, spiritual work is organic and is often done one soul at a time.

It takes time, prayer, thought, energy and hard work to lead someone to Christ and disciple them so that they in turn do the same. And this is the work of JV: to till, plant, weed, fertilize and pray for a great harvest of believers in our part of God's movement in Central and Eastern Europe!

Thank you dear farmer friends (you know who you are!) for all that you do for the sake of God's Kingdom advancing around the world!