Saturday, May 30, 2020

Baking with Sorghum

During these months of quarantine, our family has done a lot of cooking and baking, as many others probably did as well.

It was good to stretch ourselves and in doing so, gain some new these!

When our family went gluten and dairy free back in 2008, it was very stretching for me. I basically had to learn a whole new way of feeding my family, as well as providing snacks and treats.

Today it feels quite normal to cook and bake that way (though in all honesty, I don't do much baking if it's just Dave and I at home!) and I genuinely prefer it. But there were some recipes from the past that just didn't go forward into our future, like chocolate chip cookies. We tried, but never landed on anything that was similar to a good old Nestles Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie.

It "only" took twelve years to finally find the answer to that problem!

Claire's handwritten notes for me! If you try this out, you don't have to refrigerate the dough; bake at 180 C until golden brown, 12-15 minutes! They're best after they've cooled; and even better if you put them into the freezer!
(Also, here in Czech we use Rama jednoduše rostlinná as a substitute for butter)

It was Claire who made the discovery of this recipe, which uses sorghum flour (for Czech friends: mouka čiroku, found at Albert) and ground flaxseed.

Where has sorghum flour been for the past 12 years?! 😂 It has become a new favorite to use in baking!

Up until today, Claire has been the one to make them on week-ends for us. But I pulled out my rusty baking skills and attempted them today, using a scale for precise measurements. I felt a little bit like a scientist as I measured and prepared the dough, but am happy to say the results were just about as good as Claire's cookies have been over the past few months!

Of course, if you don't need to worry about gluten and dairy, go for the original Tollhouse recipe! But if  that's not available for you, I highly recommend trying these out.

HERE is the recipe online.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

App Design in Progress

During these months of quarantine, we have all continued to do work and ministry remotely, using all sorts of methods for online communication. It's not the same as being in person, but it works.

And in some cases, it's the only method because we are separated by an ocean!

This is John, our lead graphic design artist on JV's C-team here in Czech.

He and his family went to the States for a brief trip in late February, and ended up getting stuck there because of the coronavirus. After much prayer, they decided to stay for six months, to take care of the Social Security requirement we have of spending six months out of Czech every nine years. So they are in the US until August.

But like everyone in JV who is working from home, he is too! And what he's working on is SO exciting to me!

After I did the initial work to design the wire frames (what information is on each page), it went to our app developer who programmed a working model. And now it's in John's hands for the artistry of how it will look!

I felt like crying when I saw his first designs today - they are so beautiful and fully reflect what I'd hoped the new Prayer Room app would look and feel like.

Of course we're a long ways from finished. I'm learning so much right now about app development and ALL it takes to make a vision become a reality. Next time you use an app...think for a second about how long it took a team of people to produce it!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Goodbye Dear Ones

The day has finally come. Caleb, Haley, Charlie and Jenna are heading back to Albania today. 

As you can imagine, a lot of emotion accompanies a day like today.

But how can I do anything but praise the Lord and give Him thanks for the gift of these past five months? Every day has been a gracious gift that we didn't deserve.

Today is Jenna's three month birthday! Imagine that...we have seen her day in and day out over these past three months. Such a gift!

Charlie wanted one last play time in the play area so of course I joined him there!

All too soon it was time for last I loved those little hands on my face!

The last bags were loaded in the car, coats put on, and then a final picture in our house.

Already I was feeling the tears behind my eyes, and wondering how I'd manage to hold it together so it didn't worry Charlie to see me cry.

We gave last hugs and kisses, and then waved goodbye to them.

And then the tears poured down my cheeks as they drove off down our lane.

They are mostly happy tears - how can I be sad when I was given such a gift?? And yet still...there is sadness in them leaving.

I went back inside and heated up the cold cup of coffee that Charlie had made for me, but that I hadn't had a chance to drink, and just sat in my chair and cried softly. How hard goodbyes are.

I knew it wouldn't be good if I sat there too long, so I got up and went to the play area to tidy it up when all of a sudden I saw a beloved item of Charlie's.

That Lightening McQueen car is his BUDDY!! I knew he would be really sad to not have it. So I called Caleb, hoping they were still in town (he'd had to stop at our town hall for one last errand), and they were!

I jumped into the car and raced down into town to deliver that beloved item!

One last "grace" from the Lord! Getting to see them one more time was just what my heart needed.

As I watched them drive away the final time, I was content and at peace.

All is well as I realized once again how God has overseen every single detail of these past five months they've lived here in Czech.

I can trust Him with all the days, months and years in the future!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

So Glad We Had This Time

With the mystery of the missing wallet solved, we all went out into our yard this evening to take some last photos of Caleb, Haley and family before they really do leave for home in Albania tomorrow.

There were a lot of smiles and sighs of relief (from all the adults!) that this evening is ending so happily!

While Claire shot photos on her camera, I captured these on my phone and asked Claire to edit them so they look even better!

And then she took this one on her camera, of me with the kids. A sweet last photo to capture these months we've lived life together.

These are not edited...but they're so sweet and capture the feel of being outside on a beautiful spring evening, reveling in the miracle that God had just done by revealing Caleb's wallet!

It felt so celebratory taking these photos, remembering ALL that God had done in these five months that they've lived with us...through the birth of Jenna, and through the coronavirus pandemic.

A crazy song came into my mind as we were out here. I thought to myself, "I'm so glad we've had this time together...", and that's when the lyrics of a song from long ago came to me!

I'm so glad we had this time together

Just to have a laugh, or sing a song.
Seems we just got started
and before you know it
Comes the time we have
to say, 'So long.'

Do you know where that's from? The Carol Burnett show that ran in the US from 1967-1978! She would sing that song at the end of every show, and then tug on her ear as a secret message to her own grandmother, letting her know that she loved her and was well!

It's a funny song to have come into my mind - not sure how I even remembered it! But it's sweet melody and lyrics sing in my heart as I say to these dear ones, "I"m so glad we had this time together"!

The house will feel empty and quiet at some point tomorrow after they're gone. But our memories are forever in our hearts for this special time we've shared.

When Judah hasn't wanted to leave our house, I've said to him numerous times, "If you don't leave, you can never come back. And you want to come back, right?!" He always nods his head, and then I say, "I'll see you later because you'll be back!"

So though Caleb, Haley, Charlie and Jenna will leave in the morning, they'll be back! And we all have that to look forward to.

The Search Continues

We didn't expect to still have Caleb, Haley, Charlie and Jenna with us today, as they had intended to leave for Albania yesterday, after having spent five months here with us - due to Jenna's birth, and the pandemic afterward that locked them in with us here in Czech.

But due to a missing wallet, they are still here so we're doing what we do...making music! Figuratively and literally.

Playing the piano is in Charlie's genes. With both sets of his grandparents able to play (Mark and Amy, Dave and I), as well as his mom (and his dad is musical too on guitar!), it seems he's destined to play at least some instrument!

While he's been living here, he's sat down many a day to "play" and actually really does seem to have the touch and gift for it.

Today he kept wanting me to put different music in front of him as he'd finish each piece. No playing two songs out of the same book! I have some cute video of his compositions, that I'll keep just in case he does turn out to be a pianist someday. He might want to "rework" them later on!

While he's got musical genes, he's also got his dad's "adventuring" genes as well. So off we went upstairs, with him climbing the steep part by himself!

I bought this slide for the kids during this season of lockdown so there would be something they could do physically over and over again if we had inside days, which we did. It's been a lifesaver!

The kids love sliding down into the ball pit...or sending other things down, like the blue bear. This purchase turned out to be a very versatile play tool for them!

A year ago I was given a doll house by friends who moved back to the States, and that's also been a hit as I've filled it with my kids' stuffed animals from their childhood, along with a few other animals that make story telling come alive.

We've spent hours up here, lining up animals, naming them, and talking to, and about, them! I want to encourage their imaginations.

As the day was going along, the hunt for the wallet continued as well. I took a break for a few hours and helped Caleb take out over bag and suitcase from his car and trailer, searching through them piece by piece. But to no avail. It wasn't in there. So I went back to spending time with Charlie!

Caleb went into Ostrava to look through the camping things that Tyler had at our house over the week-end, but that too produced nothing. But at least the search was narrowing down. We knew where the wallet WASN'T!

In the middle of the afternoon, our electricity went off so we had no way of cooking dinner. I called Claire and asked if she'd be willing to pick up food for us at our local restaurant that has been doing take-out during quarantine. She said, "Sure" and headed out to go pick it up.

What happened next is the miracle we were praying for!

When she went to get in her car, she opened the door behind her driver's seat to set something in there. She saw her opened up hammock on the floor, that had been there for a couple of weeks after she'd had it over at our house. She'd just never put it back into its bag. But thinking to herself, "I know I already looked for the wallet there, but I'll just look again."

And this time, underneath all the folds of the hammock, laying on the car mat, was Caleb's wallet. UNBELIEVABLE!!!

How had it gotten there?? An angel??

Caleb had been in Claire's car for a very short trip on Sunday afternoon. He doesn't remember grabbing his wallet, nor seeing it as he sat in the passenger's seat while they ran up to Malenovice. But perhaps he put it on the console between them, perhaps he knocked it off with his elbow, and perhaps it somehow managed to fall all the way through the folds of the fabric and onto the mat. It's hard to imagine how that happened.

What's also crazy is that Claire had searched her car and had never seen it the numerous times she's looked.

We'll never know the full story of how or why it got there. Just that it's clear God's hand was on it, and that He was in the delay!

Haley is giving Claire the BIGGEST hug after she'd revealed it to Caleb!

What an answer to prayer that was! Now he's got his driver's license and credit/debit cards and they can be on their way to Albania in the morning.

Monday, May 25, 2020

While We Search

While the search was on for a missing wallet, happy life continued on for Charlie today at our house in much the same way as it has over the past five months that they've been here.

 This unexpected delay made way for more of what he loves to do here!

While Caleb and Haley searched, along with Dave and Claire (and me too when I was free!) I took Charlie up to the play room.

This newly reclaimed room that used to be Tyler's, but was then just for storage over the past 8+years, has been such a hit with the kids!

There is much more space to romp and play up here than downstairs in the little play area behind our  couch. 

I now keep books up here which always leads to a good long time of reading to the boys, one of my favorite things to do.

I love that all our grandchildren love books!

Downstairs I could hear that Jenna was awake, so went down with Charlie and was able to capture a sweet photo of him with his sister.

She was so talkative and cheery, having no idea that plans for today had been put on hold for her family.

Dave and Caleb are downstairs, making alternative plans to figure out how they can be on their way back home to Albania. It will most likely be at least a few more days before they can go (in order to get his Czech driver's license reissued).

Unless the wallet appears! We're still praying for that miracle.

Didn't See That Coming

Caleb, Haley, Charlie and Jenna left our house early this morning, first heading to Frýdek-Místek in order to get necessary COVID-19 tests done before they can cross some of the borders between here and Albania.

They left their trailer in the driveway so they didn't have to worry about parking there, and then planned to come back here, hook it on, and head out.

But once again, God had other plans for them.

After they did their tests (1000 Kc each, for anyone who is interested in that detail. Blood tests were done at the Krevní centrum in Frýdek-Místek) Caleb realized his wallet was missing. Claire and I drove there to get money to them so they could pay and leave.

They came back to the house, assuming it would be easily found here; but it wasn't.

So their day has looked much different than they expected.

Amidst rain showers, Caleb has unpacked the car, trailer and car top carrier, searching everywhere for it, while we searched inside the house. But as of now, it hasn't shown up.

They are in need of a miracle.

Caleb's driver's license and bank cards are in the wallet; Haley's bank card isn't working. They had fraudulent activity on it a month ago and are waiting for a new card, so they have no way of getting money or paying for anything without Caleb's cards.

We are praying as we search, and acknowledging God's hand in this delay. What at first seemed like it might be a few hours delay, has turned into a day, as they will spend the night again tonight. We'll try searching again tomorrow.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Enjoying Jenna

Our dear granddaughter, Jenna, continues to grow and develop in the sweetest way!

When Caleb and Haley made the decision to come to Czech for her birth, we thought they would only stay for a few weeks after she arrived in February.

But God had different plans! Before her US passport arrived, the borders locked down and we went into quarantine because of the worldwide pandemic.

Little did we know how long it would last, and that we would get to see Jenna grow in her first three months of life.

During this stressful time in the world, life has been peaceful according to Jenna! She is a good eater and sleeper, is not fussy other than when she can't get a burp out or is hungry! Otherwise, she has just been a darling baby, enjoyed and loved by all.

With our other three grandsons, I only saw them for a few days in their first three months of life. So it's been extra special to see so much of Jenna as an infant.

My favorite moments have been in this chair, holding her while she sleeps. So I'm soaking in one more time of that before she and her family leave in the morning.