Monday, September 18, 2017

Oregon Through the Eyes of a Toddler

There are some days when you realize that even in the midst of "ordinary", you are actually witnessing the extraordinary.

We packed up after a slow morning and managed to all pile into my grandparent's van - all eight of us. Tyler and Lara and their two boys, my Uncle Mike, Grandma and Bapa and I took the familiar drive from Eugene up to the coast. Tyler and Lara haven't been to the Oregon Coast since they've been married, and it is quite spectacular that the first time they came together was with their two boys.

Judah experienced sand and the ocean for the first time on this day. We walked along the blustery shores and soaked in the salty air. The sun warmed us, but the wind had an autumn bite, which meant that Lara and little baby Asher couldn't stay out for too long.

Before I knew it, it was just me, Tyler, and Judah left on the beach, and we meandered about, exploring the ins and outs of what might be interesting to an almost two-year-old. Judah loved the dogs on the beach the best, as well as the stick we found for him to draw in the sand with. He ran and ran and the coast had a new wonder and charm through the eyes of a toddler.

We found some Oregon blackberry bushes close to where we parked and made a pit-stop to pick them. Judah calls berries "buddies", and he can't get enough of them. 

"Thank you for taking us to the coast, Grandma and Bapa (and Uncle Mike - somehow I didn't get a picture with you!), and for being such amazing great-grandparents to these two cuties!" 

It is so sweet to share this support raising journey with family along the way. As I had meetings with supporters in Eugene, I also got to spend time with my grandparents before I move across the ocean. Oh, how I cherish and treasure this time! And Tyler and Lara, I can't wait to be on mission alongside you all over in Czech very soon! I can't believe Judah and Asher are both my nephews and JV Kids!

Monday, September 4, 2017

JV Kid's Camp 2017

It amazes me the way that time works. These past few weeks have been a cultural mish-mash, and the Lord's grace has abounded throughout each of these transitions! It was the greatest gift to get to be at JV Kid's Camp this year. Even though it was a quick trip over to Czech and then down to camp in Croatia, the Lord completely ordained that time and answered so many of your prayers!

There are countless stories to tell that I hope to share in person with you someday if ("when", I hope!!) we sit down for coffee or share a meal. From early mornings to late-night campfires, nutella to peanut butter, water games to "ultimate what" (ultimate frisbee, but played with food items instead!), Bible teaching to sword drills, small group time to worshiping our Lord and King together - it is the week that the kids look forward to all year.

Though we may not be catching up over an aeropress coffee (my personal favorite!), here are some photos to give you a glimpse of camp - some of the highlights.

Oh, and God works in the hearts of children. He truly does. And it's the most beautiful thing ever. Thank you for praying!

If you'd like to read more stories of the JV Kids, what God is doing in Central and Eastern Europe, and what's ahead for me in ministry, sign up for my updates! Fill out your info in the box in the right column of my blog (the one that says, "you can receive my updates!").

I may not be showing direct photos of kids' faces here on this post, but I hope you get the feel of the camp through all the in-between photos too! 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

122 Steps Closer


That's how many steps it takes to get to the top of that the Svatojánská Věž ("Holy John's Tower") in Frýdek-Místek.

In this time of preparation for JV Kid's Camp (I leave tomorrow with the team!), I have a few days with my parents to get over jet lag, catch up with the town's happenings, run errands, and pray. 

We also got to finally see something we have wanted to see for years - the view from the top of the tower, which is only open during quite random hours of the week. To get there, we walked past shops and parking lots, my favorite antique bookstore, and other familiar sights. 

This particular verse written out in stone and placed at the top of the stairs stopped me in my tracks. 

The verse reads, "'I tell you,' he answered, 'if they remain silent, the very stones will cry out." 

To see that written here in this little region of the world reminds me that the Lord is at work, and he will accomplish his purposes. The question is, will we join in the joy of proclaiming alongside other believers that the King has come, and he is Lord?  

"As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, 'Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!'"

I leave for camp tomorrow. Wow. Soon I will be with the JV Kids, and I absolutely can't wait. I will only be here in Central and Eastern Europe for two weeks this time, but it won't be too long before I move here!

These past few days here in Frydlant have been sweet, but I sure am ready to head into what I came here for. At the same time, I recognize all the more these days that I can do absolutely nothing without Christ. 

I texted back and forth with my mentor (in Wheaton) today, as I was feeling the spiritual battle and weight of my own sinfulness, and her words of prayer meant more than I can even say. Would you pray this for me, my fellow staff at JV Kid's Camp, and the JV Kids this next week? 

"My prayer is that... when all is said and done, your life and your actions and your heart will glorify Him alone. What a wonderful gift it is that God created us to be able to do that for Him." 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

What You Find in American Homes

It has been so sweet to live life alongside my church family in these past six months, as well as to meet many other dear families who live locally in the Chicago suburbs. It has been especially meaningful to get to know their kids and their family culture. Each home that I have lived in, come to for a meal or babysat in has a unique style, set of values, traditions and family lingo. As someone who grew up in Czech, I have truly enjoyed seeing more of this day-to-day home culture here in the Illinois.

I love to observe cultural differences and nuances. It tickles me to think that so many people view the world differently from one another, yet we were all created in the image of God! I have learned much from living in my American culture (more on that another day!), and I have also enjoyed noticing what is considered "normal" in an American home.

After babysitting in many homes, I thought it would be fun to start noticing which things show up most frequently in family kitchens here. What are commonplace "kid snacks"? What do parents direct me to for feeding the kids for breakfast?

Many of these things are ones I grew up with as well, since my parents are American (and there is also some crossover), but here is my imperfect list of what you will typically find in most homes in the Midwest:

1. Cheese sticks - I find that most kids get really excited about this one, even though they are common! Now the real question you peel them, or do you bite them? In Czech, they use spreadable cheese, like the farmer's cheese below.

2. Cheerios - Growing up, we only had honey-nut cheerios, but I love that the plain ones are in style here in the States! Kids love them, and it's a staple for snacks, breakfast, and really any time of the day. I would say that in Czech it is more common to have Muesli or cornflakes.

3. Peanut Butter (and Jelly too!) - I love that you can find PB in almost every home here. PB+J continues to be a classic among kids, and I fully agree that it makes such a delicious combination. My Czech friends were baffled by this when I was in elementary school, but our imported peanut butter back then was a treasure, and the PB+J never seemed strange to me!

4. Ice-Cream - Well let's just say it's maybe a good thing that I can't have dairy, because otherwise it might be difficult to resist the ice-cream that is sitting right next to the ice-cube trays in the freezer.

5. A Gallon of Milk - Although, alternative milks show up quite commonly too these days! It still surprises me how often I see almond/cashew/coconut milk right alongside regular groceries. In Czech they still like to use what they call "shelf milk". Many Czechs use fresh milk, but boxed milk is still quite popular as well, as it can be stored for months unopened in the cupboards.

What else do you think belongs on this list? What do you keep on hand in your own kitchen at all times? 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Hello and Ahoj

Did you know that the Czech word for "hello" is "Ahoj"? Yes, the word does sometimes sound like a pirate's "ahoy matey" (as English-speaking kids love to remind me), but in the Czech language the emphasis is on the first syllable, not the last.

On another note...

One day I hope to learn more about graphic design. It's not an area I am particularly skilled in, but I find it fascinating. Is there anyone reading this who would like to teach me some basics...and in return I'll send you some postcards or a bar of Czech chocolate? Hmm...I don't know if that would be a fair trade.

What are you creating right now? How does the process of doing so point you to the Lord?