Tuesday, March 31, 2020

His Lovingkindness

I'm finishing out the month of March with some sweet Jenna pictures, because she was definitely the best part of this crazy month!


Having an infant in the house is THE BEST reminder of resting in the Lord's care and love. Jenna knows nothing besides being loved and taken care of by her family. It wouldn't even occur to her that anything different would be possible!


I was reading Psalm 33 today and meditating on verses 4-5: "Your word, O Lord, is upright, and all your work is done in faithfulness. You love righteousness and justice; the earth is full of your lovingkindness."

Other versions say "unfailing love",  and "steadfast love" which all speak of the essence of God's love.


But in the midst of this world wide crisis, I like the word "lovingkindness". It speaks of a God who is kind in his love, even when to our eyes, we don't see the fullness of it, or understand it, given the circumstances around us.

Jenna gets it though!


Every look from her mommy, daddy, big brother, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents...is one of love.

We all love her just because she's Jenna! She just has to open her eyes and we all smile at her and speak loving words to her. Not because of anything she's done, but because of love that flows out of our hearts to her.


Imagine how much deeper, richer, wider, higher and more awesome is God's love for us?? It's something we spend a lifetime comprehending and receiving, if we will!

This evening Caleb and Haley blessed us with a take-out dinner from our local restaurant that has just started take-out, in the midst of all restaurants having been closed due to COVID-19.


This simple act of love was all the more meaningful because they said it was for our anniversary a few days ago!

We didn't deserve that; we didn't ask for it. But in God's lovingkindness, expressed through Caleb and Haley, we received it. And we were grateful!


During these strange times, I'm praying for myself and for those around me, that God's love would be so tangible. That I would literally feel my Father holding me, in the same way that Caleb holds his precious daughter.


And as I feel that love, that I'll joyfully receive it, and know I've done nothing to earn it or deserve it except to abide in Christ who made the way to the Father possible.

I pray you, my family and friends reading this, will also know this love that is freely given by your Father who is full of lovingkindness for YOU!

Unpredictable

It was a typical "end of March" kind of day!


Sunshine and blue sky, and then...


A few snow flurries that quickly turned into something much more than what the weather report called for.


When the skies cleared, I figured that was the last of it.


But no! It has continued snowing since 3 this afternoon.


And now it's 8 PM and I think it's finally stopped!


It feels like how all of life has been this month...so unpredictable!

I can't help but wonder what April will bring; I'm praying the Lord brings healing to our land and shows Himself mighty in the midst of all this unpredictability.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Masks or No Masks

If you've been reading my blog during these past few weeks of the Coronavirus being present here in the Czech Republic (our first case was on March 1), you know that we are required by the government to wear masks at all times when we are out in public.

Claire took this when Caleb was adjusting my mask for me before walking into Tesco!

Czech was the first country in Europe to mandate this on March 18th. And until Sunday the 23rd, when the first recorded death from COVID-19 occurred, it was reportedly the country in the world with the most confirmed cases but fewest fatalities.

Czech citizens mobilized in a national effort to make and distribute home-made masks after the government decreed face-wear mandatory for everyone in an effort to combat the coronavirus. The word is that the country was covered in masks within three days.

As of today we have 3257 cases, and 25 deaths.

The following video was released on March 27th, and explains the reasoning behind masks.

They say: "Homemade masks are partly effective in individual protection, but they are essential for slowing the spread of the virus in the population. The main outcome of our studies was that they stop around 95-100% of viruses that people emit by breath, sneezing, and coughing. People are the most contagious first days without symptoms, that's why we need masks for all."



I appreciate all that the Czech government has done for its people in taking quick measures to slow the spread of the virus. If masks are a part of that, I'll gladly wear them for weeks, and even months, in order to keep myself, and all those around me well.

#Masks4ALL

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Coronavirus Days

Oh the joys of simple styrofoam airplanes!


On this beautiful spring Sunday afternoon, while we're all on quarantine (lock down, rest...or whatever you want to call it because of the Coronavirus!) all the boys, little and big, were out in the yard enjoying sunshine.

But even more so... contests to see who could keep it up in the air the longest!


The funniest part was when the little boys went inside and the big boys continued! ๐Ÿ˜‚


What better way to spend a quarantine Sunday than the simple joys of flying airplanes...and climbs up into the trees when they got stuck!

Yes, that is THE oddest ladder! We can't remember who made it or why it's behind the garden shed, but today it served Caleb well! 

The temperature started to drop in the afternoon, so coats went back on for a little bit more outside time.


But then, a warm inside was more inviting!

One of our favorite activities these days are huge cities built with blocks!

Claire enjoyed some rocking chair time with Jenna who just keeps getting cuter and cuter!

Claire is cute too! ๐Ÿ˜Š

After Tyler, Lara and boys headed back to Ostrava, Claire ended the day with me by helping on an organization project in the kitchen...it may not seem like a big deal, but changing our system for how to handle coats, shoes, scarves, grocery bags and masks is HUGE here!

You can't really see the extent of it to appreciate it with me!๐Ÿคฃ

I was thankful for her initiative and help to get it done tonight.

We are all doing different kinds of things during this Coronavirus lockdown, quarantine, rest time...or whatever you'd like to call it! These are unusual days, but ones that we are trying to make the most of, while keeping our minds on the fact that "God sits enthroned over the flood..."...or the virus.

Praying you all are staying well during these days...and staying home!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Birthday & Anniversary

Before I ever met Lara, our daughter-in-law, we wrote back and forth to get to know each other when she and Tyler were students at Moody Bible Institute.

I remember the surprise it was to find out that her birthday was on the very same day as our wedding anniversary!

Because we didn't live near them for their first six years of marriage, we didn't ever get to celebrate her on the day of her birthday. And in the past two years since they've lived in Czech, we've always been gone on her birthday/our anniversary.

So today is the first time we've all been together on this day. And what a beautiful day it was!


The sun was out and it was warm enough to be outside without coats!


Lara taught the boys how to roll down our hill (which they did over and over and over...you get the picture!).

And enjoyed being outside most of the afternoon soaking in the warmth of sun and conversation.


Dave was taking advantage of the weather to do some outside projects, with happy spectators!


Caleb, Haley, Charlie and Jenna took advantage of the beautiful day by taking a walk (complete with required masks!).


And Jenna did what Jenna does...look lovely as she sleeps!


I happened to come around the side of the house just as this was happening.


Asher, happily barefoot all day, asking Papa a question, as he often does, about what something is or how it works! 

Soon after, Dave and I went out for an anniversary "date".


I don't know what it doesn't say "Tesco" on the building, but that's where we were, at just about the only store open these days! Dave bought me anniversary flowers, and we picked up some styrofoam planes to bring back for the boys!


As the sun went down, it became cooler outside, but the boys played with their planes until their little fingers were like ice cubes! So glad I remembered to get a picture with them.


Inside, Tyler was hard at work cooking Lara's birthday dinner, after Claire had just finished her birthday dessert!


He made Tom Kha Gai soup, (Thai coconut chicken) that was out of this world!! I don't know the exact recipe he used, but I found this one and it looks pretty close. If you're looking to spice up (literally) your cooking, I highly recommend trying out this soup!


After dinner we celebrated Lara with gifts, dessert and words to bless her.


The boys, already in their pajamas, enjoyed helping their mom blow out her birthday candles!


And after they were all in bed, it was time for a birthday game night!


Need a great new family game for these days of quarantine? You have to try Dixit!! This beautifully illustrated game brings out stories and imagination, and oh so much laughter! We had the best evening playing it together, to finish out this birthday/anniversary day!

Our Story

I published this as a "page" on my blog years ago when I first started blogging in 2006, updating it with a new picture every now and then. But a few years ago I had to take it away due to changes on the blogging platform that no longer allowed pages. So, on this day, our 33rd anniversary, I thought it would be fun to bring it back as a testament to how God led Dave and I together all those years ago!

Happy Anniversary to us!

***********************

"Dave and I met at my boyfriend's house."

Yes...that's my favorite opening line when people ask how we got together! Dave was interning at my home church, but I was away at university, so we didn't run into each other often. I heard about him, a student from Multnomah School of the Bible, and he heard about me, a student at Eastern Washington University. But the first time we actually talked was across the table from each other during lunch at my boyfriend's parent's house.

Fast forward a couple of years. I graduated from EWU and was in my first teaching job - a full time "sub" for a teacher who got sick in January and couldn't finish out the school year. I'd just been to KC '83 (a Campus Crusade event for college students) in December and had been challenged to missions while there.

My dear friend, Michelle, had made a point of finding Dave while we were at KC '83 to ask if there were any summer openings with Malachi, the singing evangelism team that he led in Germany ministering to American military dependents (through the mission organization OCSC, today called Cadence International).

When he said auditions were finished, she wouldn't take no for an answer and persuaded him to let me do an audition. Good thing he let himself be persuaded! :)

After auditioning (with Dave Schroeder, the man who would later marry Dave's sister and end up being my brother-in-law!), I got a call from Dave P. in February 1984, offering me a place on the team that summer. I said yes, and that put into motion some life-altering changes for me.

I spent that summer sharing Christ with young people on military bases in Germany and Spain, but was probably more impacted myself than they were. There is nothing like a summer mission's trip on a small team of four (with Dave as my leader) to purify and change you. The Lord did a lot of work on me, which was both hard and good.

While we were in Spain for a week at the naval base in Rota, the OCSC missionary couple there asked if I would be interested in coming to spend a year teaching their seven year old son. I remember Bill, the husband, asking me, "Do you have any good reason why you WOULDN'T come and do this?" That gave me pause for thought. I really didn't have one.

I called home and talked to my parents, talked with my Malachi teammates, and spent time in prayer that week asking the Lord if this was something He had for me. At the end of the week, I said yes to Him...and yes to teaching in Spain!

A month later, after finishing my time with Malachi Singers, I flew home (on my 23rd birthday!) for two weeks to pack things for a year, and headed back to Spain to start a new chapter of life.

It ended up that there were three kids in my "school" that year. Morgan, a first grader, Jeffrey in 2nd grade, and Kristen in 6th. Their parents rented a summer cottage at the edge of a cliff overlooking the Rota Bay, and we opened the school year in September.

That was a blessed year...and one of the most difficult of my life. I was teaching full time in a foreign country, living alone, there were not many women on the naval base thus I had few friends, and I broke up with my boyfriend in November. On top of that, the Christmas package that my mom and dad sent never arrived for Christmas...it came on Valentine's Day, complete with a little Christmas tree in the package! But it meant a very lonely first Christmas away from home.

In January, the annual Bible conference for OCSC missionaries was happening in Beatenberg, Switzerland. I flew to Germany to meet up with some of the Malachi workers and drove down to the Bibelheim for conference.

It was a happy reunion with friends that I'd grown close to over the summer, and I was more than happy to pour my heart out and share with them all that God was doing in me while in Spain.


The first night of the conference, Dave asked if I'd like to meet after the evening program so we could catch up. I have to admit...I had some feelings for him, but I didn't think he had any for me so freely shared as a sister would with a brother.

After the evening program the very next night, Dave came to me asking if I wanted to talk again. But this time there was a difference in how he asked me...it wasn't the brother asking, I could tell (that woman's intuition kicking in, I guess).

We met in the tea room at the Bibelheim, and it was SO awkward! For months we'd been talking freely and yet now, we could both hardly get a word out. It was so funny...in hindsight, but not at the time!

He finally told me he was interested in "getting to know me better"...famous last words that we've quoted for years now! But it was the beginning of our romance, and there were never any sweeter words at the time.

Our first date was on a 10 km sled run...on the same sled! When he asked if I wanted to go, I assumed we'd be on separate sleds. But no! Not so! When we told our middle son, Caleb, this story recently he said, "That was a great idea for a first date, dad! I think I'll use it!" And it WAS a great first date, sitting close together on the sled, letting him lead us down the long and winding sled run. I learned a lot that very first afternoon...it's better to trust and let him lead than stick my feet out and try to help!

Over the next two years, we dated - mostly long distance. That first date was in Switzerland, our next two were in Spain, another one in Denver, the next in Portland, Oregon and finally regular dates in Heidelberg, Germany. And that covers 18 month's time!

I went to the grad program at Multnomah School of the Bible in '85-86, while Dave was in Germany leading Malachi Ministries. We had bumps along the way (I broke up with him by cassette tape...some days he threatens to get that tape out again for us to listen to...OUCH!) but we grew in our admiration, appreciation and love for each other as the year went by, and in September 1986, I moved to Germany as a full time missionary with OCSC.

Originally the plan was to place me in a military community where I'd be working with youth. But there was a need for a soprano to fill a spot on the Malachi singing team for the fall so Dave deferred my placement in a community, and I spent the fall doing discipleship groups, concerts, seminars and week-end retreats...and dating Dave on Monday nights, our one common day off a week!

By that fall I was sure I wanted to marry him. Well...actually...I was sure I wanted to marry him back in Beatenberg, to tell you the truth! But by this time, nearly two years later, I was POSITIVE I wanted to marry him.

Dave, on the other hand, was not saying a word about marriage. To my dismay.

As December approached, I began to think, "AHHH...he'll propose at Christmas! That's why he's not saying anything! Of course! Perfect timing!"

Jerri, my roommate and Malachi singer teammate at the time, and I had a code word for the ring...we called it a "sweater".

"What color 'sweater' do you think you'll be getting" or "I sure can't wait to get that 'sweater'" were common phrases around our apartment. I was convinced that he'd be proposing Christmas Day, at his parents house, in front of the whole Malachi staff!

Christmas Day arrived...I dressed nicely...I sat through all the gifts...waiting for one from Dave...when finally...he handed me the box...a beautifully wrapped Benetton box...with lots of tissue paper...and...a...beautiful...pink...sweater...inside.

DISAPPOINTMENT!!!

I know he saw the disappointment on my face. How could I hide it? If he didn't propose at Christmas...when would he???

A month went by. A long, discouraging, sad, disappointing month.

By this time I was done with my Malachi Singer's commitment. Dave asked if I'd help him out in Karlsruhe where he was working with the youth group. He said it was temporary...until he secured my own community to work in. I began to wonder if he'd ever propose, even though we were still going out on dates and growing in our relationship.

The kids in the youth group tried to help us out...they were totally on my side and wondering what was going on with their fearless youth leader who wasn't proposing to this girl he'd brought into youth group! They even set up an evening with all the necessary props to make a proposal happen.

But it didn't. And I began to wonder how much longer I could keep going like this.

Towards the middle of January it was time for the annual Bible conference in Beatenberg again. First there was a week of conference with military people, then a week for the OCSC staff. I joined the conference in time for that week and sat through days of meetings with my head and heart somewhere else. Dave seemed preoccupied and busy at the conference, and we didn't spend much time together.

On the last day of the conference, during one of the sessions, a remark was made that I'll never forget. I have no idea what the context was...it probably had something to do with Dave leading Malachi and plans for the future. But what I remember was the comment, "And poor Connie...it seems she is romancing the stone".

That reference to the 1984 movie of the same name, was the last straw for me!

I excused myself from the meeting and rushed out of the room, hurrying down the stairs with tears in my eyes.

Dave was close behind me, and at the bottom of the stairs, as we were both rushing for the door, one of the dear older missionary women coming in the door remarked, "Aren't you two the cutest lovebirds!"

I wanted to yell, "WE ARE NOT LOVEBIRDS ANYMORE!!!" Honestly...I was done. I couldn't hold on any longer and just wanted to go bury myself in the feather comforters that the Bibelheim was (and maybe still is!) famous for.

Making it to my door before Dave did, I closed and locked the door behind me, just before he made it and stood there knocking and asking if he could come in.

"No. I don't want to talk to you. I just want to be alone."

"Could we go have lunch together...maybe talk a little...just get away by ourselves?"

"NO. I really don't want to talk anymore."

"Please??? Come out and just walk with me down to the little restaurant where we had hot chocolate the other day. No one else will be there...everyone will be here having lunch. Please?"

Long pause as I stood on the other side of the door.

"Okay. But not for very long. I really don't want to talk."

With that I opened the door, and we headed for the restaurant before anyone else could see us as I couldn't endure any more comments about the two of us.

I remember so clearly, sitting in that quaint Swiss restaurant, across the table from the man I wanted to marry. Yet thinking that it was never going to happen. Before I lost my courage I blurted out, "Dave, I can't take this any longer. I want to break up."

Silence. Then his hands reached across the table to hold mine and he said, "You know, this is probably not a good time to make that kind of a decision. We're in a bit of a fishbowl here so life just isn't normal. Why don't you hold off on that and let's just go out for dinner tomorrow night with no one else around. We'll just relax and we don't have to talk about anything hard...just have a nice time together. I know I haven't been very present here and I'm sorry about that. I'll give you all my attention tomorrow night if you'll go with me."

Sigh. "Okay. If you say so. Yes, we can go out for dinner. And I really don't want to talk about anything hard, okay?"

The rest of that day and the next are just blurs in terms of activity. I only remember my swirling emotions.

"I love this man...but I can't take this indefinite period of waiting anymore. What if he wants to wait two more years before he asks me to marry him? Can I wait that long? NO!!! I don't think I can do this any longer."

By the time he came to pick me up from my hotel room in the Bibelheim, I'd determined that I'd be nice and put no pressure on him that evening, or the rest of the time we were at the conference. But after that! When we got home...we were going to talk!!!

We drove across the valley, through Interlaken (one of the cutest cities in Switzerland...along with Beatenberg as the cutest village!) and over to Lauterbrunnen. After parking the car, we took the cog train up to Murren, a village perched on the side of the Jungrau mountain. In this quaint, snowy village, a horse drawn sleigh met us as we came out of the train station (there are no motorized vehicles in the village). Dave motioned for me to wait while he approached the driver and asked if we could have a ride around town.

The driver said yes, and we climbed into the sleigh, wrapping warmed blankets around us as the horse softly whinnied and took off at a slow trot through town.

Magical. Breathtaking. Serene. Peaceful. Finally, it was the perfect chance to let down and relax after the tensions of the past week...okay, the past months! I snuggled into Dave and thought, "He's not such a bad guy after all!"

We pulled up in front of the beautiful Hotel Alpenruh as Dave asked, "Would this be an okay place to have dinner?"

It was enchanting and the perfect place to have our peaceful dinner.

When we walked in, the waitress showed us to our table immediately, which surprised me since the restaurant was full. But when we arrived at our table, I had an even bigger surprise. "Patty" was written on a placard. They'd been waiting for us.

With a little grin, Dave explained that he'd called ahead and made a reservation - and in fact, he'd arranged for the horse drawn sleigh too. That definitely put some points in the bank for him at that point!

We had a truly delightful dinner after that. We talked, but not about us...just about life, the Lord, ministry, our friends. I actually relaxed and enjoyed it.

After a wonderful Swiss meal, the waitress brought the menu for dessert.

"Oh no...I won't be having any tonight, thank you," I said as I handed her back the menu.

I remember Dave actually took it out of the bewildered waitresses hands and put it in mine and said, "Well, why don't you just LOOK to see if there is anything you'd like."

It was honestly, at that moment that I realized something was happening.

Dave actually opened the menu for me and inside were sheaths of delicate blue paper, with the words, "To My Sweetheart - January 23, 1987" written on the front cover.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My breath caught and I was speechless. I remember just looking at him wide-eyed as he asked, "Can I read it to you?"

I handed it over to him with trembling hands and then listened as he read pages of a poem he'd written (that he'd been hard at work, writing and re-writing during the week of the conference!).

He finished with the words, "Will you marry me?" just as the waitress brought a silver domed tray over and opened it to display a spray of roses with a sparkling diamond ring perfectly centered among them.

I don't know how long I sat there with my mouth open...with nothing to say! I was completely and utterly surprised by this!

Dave says he asked me the question a couple times before I finally answered a faint, but happy "YES", still stunned by what had just taken place!

The restaurant full of people erupted in applause (I wasn't even aware there was one single soul in the restaurant while this was going on) and the waitress brought dessert over for us to celebrate. It was one of the greatest moments in my life!

For the next several hours we talked...and talked...and talked. About all the things that we'd previously NOT talked about! "When do you want to get married? What kind of wedding do you want? How many kids do you want to have? What do you want to do the rest of our lives?!"

After deciding that we wanted to get married within two months (why wait??!!) a funny moment occurred when he asked me how hard it would be to find a wedding dress in that short of time.

"Um...well...I have a little confession to make," I said biting my lip as I talked.

"You remember when I lived in Spain? Well...um...one day I was walking in Cadiz and I saw a dress in a window. It was...well...everything I always wanted in a dress. And it was a really good price! I talked it all over with Jeannette (the OCSC missionary) and she said if I was willing to wear it for anyone, and not just for you, that it'd be okay if I bought it, even though I wasn't engaged. But I always hoped that I'd get to wear it for you! Do you mind that I already have my dress????"

That's always been one of our favorite parts of the story! He laughed and nodded yes, that he was glad I was going to wear it for him and then said in astonishment, "You were really thinking about marrying me all the way back then???"

"Yes...I'm a VERY patient woman!!!"

We did indeed plan a wedding within two months time, despite me going to full time German language school, and Dave coming down with hepatitis. We even wrote almost all the music for our wedding!

On March 28th, 1987, in the beautiful Protestant cathedral in Speyer, Germany, we were married, with all of our family and friends there to celebrate with us.


To Dave's credit, he'd been planning our engagement for months. He wanted it to be something memorable, that I would never forget...and that would forever remind me of how much he loved me.

He'd bought the ring nearly three months earlier, but exercised great patience in waiting until we were in Switzerland to propose! That afternoon in the restaurant when I told him I wanted to break up, was one of the hardest moments for him, as you can imagine. He said in that split second before he responded, he weighed the possibility of proposing right there. But then chose to wait for the very next night, when everything was already planned, so that I'd know the lengths he'd gone to as an expression of his love.

I have told our story literally hundreds of times, and every time I do, it is with a fresh appreciation for his extreme thoughtfulness in planning such a romantic and perfect proposal. I am so glad that HE is a patient man!

***********************

This was a picture from 2014, when we were still young!


Here we are now! And Dave is STILL the love of my life at 33 years today, March 28, 2020!!