Sunday, November 29, 2020

Hope: First Advent

On this first Sunday of Advent, we woke up to our first snow of the year! 

During online church, I lit our first advent candle, representing hope, in remembrance of the prophets, especially Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. It represents the expectation felt in anticipation of the coming Messiah!

I'm sure we all can use some hope this year! Hope that the pandemic will be over. Hope that our lives can resume soon. Hope that our loved ones will stay well. Hope for a ray of light in this difficult season. 

Over 2000 years ago, a baby came to bring the greatest hope of all to this world. He is still our hope today!

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Family Thanksgiving Day

We are getting this Thanksgiving off to a great start, thanks to my little helpers! 

Since we weren't able to gather with our JV family this year due to the coronavirus, we are celebrating it with our family today here at our house. 

It's been a long time since I've hosted a Thanksgiving!

Except for one year when we were in the States with our kids during their college years, celebrating in Chicago at someone's home that was loaned to us, I think the last time I hosted a Thanksgiving meal was 1997! We purchased Malenovice for JV in 1998, and began to have our celebrations there even before it was renovated. 

So this year, we're on our own but doing well, I think! 

Tyler brought pumpkin, raised in our garden this past summer, and did everything needed for truly homemade, and home grown, pumpkin pie!

We did cheat a little when it came to the turkey!

The father of a Czech woman who used to serve with us in JV, raises turkeys and grills them on order! Every year for our JV Thanksgiving we order 5-6 turkeys to feed the whole group. We'll have turkey for days since it's only us for the meal this year!

Sadly, Claire is sick and not able to be with us this year. Caleb, Haley, Charlie and Jenna are in the States right now, so they're not with us either. But we still had a happy meal together (complete with reindeer antlers that the boys are producing for us here in this picture in preparation for the next holiday that's on its way! 😂)

We enjoyed Tyler's homemade pie later in the afternoon, which I wanted to remember with a picture.

Little did I know that at that moment, Asher was crying in the background!! It was over quickly, but it's just funny that it happened right then. 

The boys were all smiles and giggles as we moved on to the next task for today...decorating for Christmas!

This is the Day family of mooses (can you say mooses?!). Mr Day is in Judah's arms, and Asher is holding two new little ones I got for them this year. Beside him is Shirley, Goodness and Mercy. And these are "all the Day's". 😀

(If my little joke doesn't make sense, read Psalm 23, verse 6, the first line! Or you can read this blog post for perhaps more understanding!) 

With expert help, we moved on to tree decorating.

Asher's reindeer antlers make me laugh! He was so excited to wear them!

This is the first time I've ever had help from Judah and Asher; and it's been quite a while since Tyler's been here for a tree decorating too! He was my expert at getting the lights on this year.

As you can see, the bottom half is quite well decorated! 🤣 I'll get around to adding some more up top later. But it sure was fun to decorate with these four!

Now, after a wonderful Thanksgiving day, we're all ready to head towards Christmas!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Most Unusual Thanksgiving

Normally on this day, Dave and I would be up here at Malenovice, celebrating Thanksgiving with a crowd of JV people. 

But because of the restrictions due to COVID-19, we cancelled the big gathering for Thanksgiving and instead urged our team to meet together in small groups for the celebration.

Because Tyler and Lara were hosting their ForMission team today, and Claire is at her home, sick, we planned our family Thanksgiving for Saturday, so are alone for this holiday, for the first time in our married lives! 

It was actually a really sweet day, taking time to talk and pray with each other, thanking the Lord for His blessings over our lives. And then, as we usually do, we came up to Malenovice anyway!

The reconstruction project to expand the kitchen and dining facilities, is in full swing.

The beams covering the terrace have started going up in preparation for covering it. It's going to be iconically beautiful when it's finished...inside and out!

Changes are being made inside too. Not only is the kitchen getting a complete overhaul, but also the way that we serve food will also get a change. 

This space used to be part of our dining room, but will now hold a new cafe bar for ordering drinks, as well as a whole new place for buffet style service of food. It's going to be amazing and I'm super excited about the changes taking place.

But it was strange to be here on this day, the American holiday of Thanksgiving, where we would normally gather in this part of the dining room to give thanks with over 150 people, before diving into a literal feast of food that people had prepared. 

We weren't going to be here anyway for Thanksgiving this year (since reconstruction had already been planned), but instead would have been at our JV facility in Poland, H20. 

So in the end, Dave and I did get to make the familiar trek up here to Malenovice (it's all of a four minute drive from our house!), to see the progress and remember, with thanksgiving, God's goodness in giving Malenovice to us for furthering His Kingdom across this entire region. 

Lord willing, the pandemic will be over next year, and we'll be back again for another Thanksgiving up here at this beautiful place. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

JV Podcasts

Gwynne Gardner has served with JV in Slovenia for the past eight years, discipling young people, leading a Fusion choir, serving at summer camps, and giving herself 150% to whatever she does!

This year, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, God called Gwynne to something new within JV and in June she moved here to Czech to serve on the communications team in our home office in Frydlant n.O. as the social media director. 

This is such a perfect fit for her and we're so glad to have her gifts and talents for this position that we've been asking God to fill. I love that it was Gwynne, a teammate and dear friend, was who God had in mind for it!  

Besides her many tasks, such as managing the social accounts for JV (Facebook and Instagram), she's working on something new that I got to be part of today: JV Podcasts!

These will be made available in the new year on all the different podcast platforms. Stay tuned for more information, including about this podcast we made today!

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Bonfire with the Boys

This has been such a beautiful fall, with clear skies and sunshine many days, instead of wet, dark and rainy like it often is in November. 

Can you spot anyone in the skylight windows?!

Tyler, Lara and the boys came over for a "put the garden to sleep" day, and a "help Papa in the yard" afternoon, which included dragging branches out to the field behind us in preparation for a big bonfire.

You know how some things just catch a boy's fancy? This was it for Judah!

While Papa cut down some dying trees...

...Judah dragged innumerable branches over to the pile for him. It was really the cutest thing to watch him working so hard. And he didn't want any help with it!

My job was to simply untangle the branches and get them ready for Judah to pull or carry over. 

Oh and take pictures of it all! 

Papa was the branch "piler", getting it all ready for the fire. 

Once the match was lit, what else was there to do but bring out the lawn chairs and enjoy a good fire?!

As it got hotter we moved the chairs back and got some pictures as the sun began to set. The mountains were almost the same color as the bonfire!

Asher had come out to join us, ready to participate in a good bonfire tradition. Can you guess what that might be??

The time honored tradition of marshmallow roasting! 

Lara had brought a bag of giant sized marshmallows for this very occasion, that she'd found in Ostrava. 

The boys, Dave and myself roasted SO many as the sun went down and we enjoyed the warmth of the fire.

It was a magical afternoon, and on into early evening as we stayed close to the fire, enjoying its beauty and our time together.

I sure love getting to make memories with these sweet grandsons!

Grandparents in Oregon

Last week I wrote about Caleb and Haley, our son and daughter-in-law, being back in the States on Home Assignment after their first term of ministry with JV in Albania. They're visiting family, friends, supporters and their home church in Fort Collins, Colorado.

This week they're in Oregon visiting my family!

My mom and dad met Charlie when he was just 8 months old. So they're spending time with quite a different little boy this week!

And they're spending time with Jenna for the first time since she was just born this year, in February, and it's her first time in the States to meet everyone there.

It is the sweetest to see my mom with her great-granddaughter!

My brother, Mike is meeting both Charlie and Jenna for the first time. It looks like he and Charlie are bonding!

On one of their days in Oregon, they all took a trip to the Oregon Coast, a place we try to see every time we're there. I'm so glad they could introduce Charlie to that special place in our family!

Because we can never see too many pictures of Haley and Jenna, just had to include this one back at my mom and dad's home!

My mom said Charlie was always up for a "photo op", which means there are some pretty cute pictures from this time they all had together!

These are forever memories being made right now with all of the grandparents in the States!

Soon they'll be off to see Haley's grandma and grandpa in Iowa, and grandma in Florida! 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Filming for Academy

Three years ago our JV leadership team began JV Winter Academy, a training event for our team to bring everyone up to speed on everything related to serving with Josiah Venture! 

That includes going more deeply into our vision and mission, the strategy of Christ for discipleship, learning the tools we've developed over the years for reaching and discipling young people, and equipping our team to be healthy spiritually and emotionally for ministry. 

Everyone who goes through Academy does so over the course of two years, one week at a time in the month of January up at Malenovice. 

In January this year, when we held our third year of Academy, we had no idea what was coming the rest of the year. And how that would impact us going forward. We've had to think into 2021, and ask the Lord how we can continue to equip our team despite coronavirus. 

Winter Academy filming has just taken place to meet that need! 

Dave and the training team spent 8 hours yesterday and today, filming all the content for Winter Academy in case it has to fully go online. 

They filmed in Ostrava, at a very cool theater location (the home of a church that used to meet there before restrictions caused churches to go online), with our communications team bringing every piece of equipment necessary to make this happen. They are AMAZING at what they do!!

Not only was teaching filmed, but also conversations and interviews with team members from around the whole region as they shared personal stories of how they've applied the content of what's being taught.  

Because we still have hope for meeting in person, we've postponed Winter Academy until March this coming year. If we do get to meet, these videos will be used so that more time can then be spent with staff in dialogue and conversation applying what they've learned.

And if we can't meet in person? Well, then the videos will be there and we'll do a lot of Zoom meetings after watching them, to have those discussions! 

The pandemic is forcing us to creatively innovate and look for solutions to continue pressing towards our vision to equip young leaders to fulfill Christ’s commission through the local church as we pray for God's movement among young people in this region of the world. 

We still love what we get to do, and pray that God will take our "loaves and fishes" and multiply them for the advance of His Kingdom!!

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Master Class

On this pretty fall Saturday afternoon, Dave and I drove down to our office building in Frydlant. 

Dave had a very interesting afternoon ahead of him.

We came early to get him all set up to film, and then waited for 4:00 PM to arrive before he started a three hour "live" Zoom, with potentially 1000 people who had signed up for his master class on Spiritual Warfare!

Dave has been part of the European Leadership Forum for many years now, and has had the privilege of speaking at some of their conferences which are held annually in Poland. 

This year's conference went online in May due to coronavirus. But this opened the door for ELF to think strategically about how to get more resources online. They began to gather speakers to do master classes throughout the year, and today was Dave's turn to do one of them. 

From his office down the hall, I listened to all three hours of his teaching and was totally captivated. And I've heard it before! But he does a great job of walking you through the theology of spiritual warfare, and practical ways to deal with it.

If you're interested in listening, they've separated it into five different sessions which you can find HERE if you look for Dave's name and the November 14, 2020 date.

I hope for some of you reading, that it might be encouraging to learn more about this topic from Dave.