Two Years Later

2014-06-23 19.10.42

On this date, two years ago, we lifted off from Los Angeles headed for Czech Republic. Just prior to lifting off, I wrote this Tweet:

I sent that Tweet out at 10:00pm and I remember feeling really tired. I also remember getting our kids settled into the plane and thinking to myself just how crazy we were. I also distinctly remember sitting on the plane reflecting on a story I once heard from a missionary about his feelings when he took his family, with their little baby, to the jungles of Papua New Guinea. I remember him saying, “I was sitting in the airport in San Diego thinking to myself, ‘What am I doing?! This is crazy! Should we really be doing this?!'” We weren’t on our way to the jungle, but those were my feelings exactly. A little excitement. A little fear. A little “oh man… what are we doing?!”

We did make it to Czech that day. In fact, that was the night that I wrote my very first blog that would be come the daily blog of our life in Czech. You can read it here: http://www.itsallgrace.com/this-is-the-first/ — In it you can hear my excitement and my tiredness. Just re-reading that post brings a few tears to my eyes (which is what basically happens every time I read one of those blogs!).

I originally wanted to title this post “The Two Years That Weren’t.” We had made a two year commitment (minimum) with our organization in Czech and I was very intent on keeping that commitment. In fact, I thought it would pretty easy because in our minds and hearts we were basically “lifers.” You could say we were “all in” on being and living in Czech. But as many who read our blog and know our story, that wasn’t what God had in mind at all. Right around a year and a half later, we were back on a plane headed for the States.

And here I am. Two years later sitting at the same desk, writing on the same blog, but in a very different place. Last week I took a group of students from the youth ministry I direct to camp called Hume Lake in the Sequoia National Forest here in California. Never in my wildest thoughts would I have imagined that. But we had a blast! Bethany and the kids were able to come and enjoy the week while I worked. It was so much fun to hang with the students and be in the mountains, but it wasn’t the fun I had imagined just a few years ago, and those definitely weren’t the mountains I imagined being in.

Hume Lake (2016)

Despite the changes the Lord has asked us to make in the past two years, I don’t sit here upset or angry or even second guessing any of it. Have I had my moments? Sure. But as I sit here today, I’m thankful for all the Lord has done because it’s growing our family to look more and more like Jesus.

Right now I’m taking our students in the youth ministry through Kevin DeYoung’s book The Hole in our Holiness. We’ll be finishing the book this Sunday and in the last chapter he makes a point about how often we should use our “spiritual thermometer.” Helpfully, he writes,

…you shouldn’t take your spiritual temperature every day. You need to look for progress over months and years, not by minutes and hours. As David Powlison likes to say, sanctification is like a man walking up the stairs with a yo-yo. There are a lot of ups and downs, but ultimate progress nonetheless.

The only question I’m asking myself tonight is if I look more like Jesus today than I did two years ago. If Kevin DeYoung is right, then this is a good opportunity to check my spiritual temperature. As God uses His Word and my circumstances to form in to who He wants me to be, do I look more like Jesus today than I did on June 23, 2014? In my pride, I always want to say yes without hesitation. But is that the truth? Have I really grown? My honest, humble answer is yes. Yes, I have. In fact, I’d probably tell you that I’ve grown more in the past 6 months than just about any other time in my life.

God has used our time here in the States to stretch me in ways I didn’t know I needed stretching. And just like stretching new muscles doesn’t feel good, it hasn’t always felt good to me to be in the midst of a little Godly stretching. But that’s part of growth. That’s part of becoming more like Christ. It takes work and it might even hurt a little at times, and yet the Lord promises us that it’s for our good.

Today has already brought it’s own challenges. Today was even one of those “harder” days where both Bethany and I have to look to the Lord for strength and comfort. And just because we’re not on an airplane taking what we thought was a huge leap of faith doesn’t mean that today we can just relax on faith. Oh, that we would believe always and trust always in the Lord! This is my prayer. This is my heart tonight. Thank you Lord for using whatever you have to make us trust in you.


A Baby Checkup and Snow in April

Baby Checkup and Snow in April (4/2/15)

Today Bethany had a baby checkup and since there was going to be an ultrasound we decided to take the whole family. We got everyone out the door and to the doctor’s office on time, but when we arrived there were more people in the office than we really had ever seen before. Normally we get right in and out, but today it took about an hour before we got in to see the OBGYN. Once in, the doctor had lots of questions for us which were really good. I appreciate how thorough she is, even if it means things take a little longer.

Since the kids didn’t have much to play with at the office, and we had been there a while, they were getting a little restless so I was really glad when we all moved in to the ultrasound room. We had been telling the kids we would be seeing their baby sister today and they were excited to watch the screen as the doctor showed us the baby. At first, the baby had her hands in front of her face, but I think she moved and we got one really good photo of her. The technology of a 3D ultrasound never ceases to amaze me. Look at this face.

Baby Checkup and Snow in April (4/2/15)

It was really cold this morning as we were walking in to the doctor. I think all four of us were surprised how cold it was and with the cloud over I thought, “What? Is it going to snow today?!” Titus even said to me as we walked across the parking lot, “Daddy, it’s really cold.” But nothing transpired…well, at least not until about 4pm today. I was in a meeting at the Josiah Venture office and got a picture sent to me from Bethany of snow falling hard at our house (shown below). I looked at the windows of my office and there wasn’t anything happening, but I could see the wind was blowing. About ten minutes later it began to snow and another missionary walked in to my office and we stared out the window in shock. I had to remind myself it was April 2!

A photo posted by Bethany (@wifeyness) on

And here’s some video Bethany got.

Snow in April from Shay on Vimeo.

I finished up my meeting (which was over video chat), packed up my computer and headed outside. When I got to the car it already had at least a half inch of snow or more piling up on it. Here’s a photo of the car and then me clearing off the window shield in the second one.

Baby Checkup and Snow in April (4/2/15)

Baby Checkup and Snow in April (4/2/15)

Driving away, I couldn’t believe how much was coming down and that it was sticking so well. I called Bethany from the car and we were just laughing about it. She wanted to make sure I would be safe and as I got on to the highway things looked good, but it was pretty slushy. I made it home safe and the snow let up a little as I came into our town. As I pulled in to the drive way the kids met me from the kitchen window and were really excited. I couldn’t help but a get a photo of their little faces too.

Baby Checkup and Snow in April (4/2/15)

The kids and I ended up playing out in the snow for a bit while Bethany made dinner. It was just crazy to see the new planted flowers in our landlord’s garden covered in snow. As well, the church next door has trees lining the property that we can see over our wall. It was as if we had jumped back to Christmas with all the snow. Here’s a few more photos of the flowers and trees.

Baby Checkup and Snow in April (4/2/15)

Baby Checkup and Snow in April (4/2/15)

No, it’s not Christmas, it’s just Czech Republic. I checked the weather and it’s supposed to snow late tonight and in to tomorrow morning. I have a meeting at Josiah Venture early so I’m hoping things won’t be too bad. Our jaws are still on the ground. April in California is when you hit the beach and work on your sun tan, but in Czech you get out your snow gloves and make sure there’s enough fire wood!


A Chocolate Lamb

Rain/Snow/Sleet/Hail Today from Shay on Vimeo.

I don’t want to spend too much energy describing the weather, but it has been pretty wild the past few days. Today was no different with rain, hail, sleet, and snow all falling at different times. Again, the sun only shown through the clouds for a few minutes this evening, but mostly it’s been overcast and dreary. Bethany took the video above today of the snow and rain falling, but even tonight we had a lot of hail coming down. What’s weird is that at the Josiah Venture offices today it was mostly dry and I may saw a snowflake or two, but the weather didn’t do much. It’s amazing how much different the weather was at home versus there and they’re really not that far from each other geographically.

No Fooling (4/1/2015)

Tonight we enjoyed eating our “lamb cake.” I put that in quotes because I don’t know what else to call it. It’s a lamb shaped cake covered in chocolate (which you can see above). It even had two little icing dots for eyes. I did a quick Google on the subject and here’s an excerpt from one site about this Easter tradition,

Even before the days of Christianity the symbol of the lamb was widespread in Mediterranean culture, with its long pastoral tradition. For Christian churches the lamb came to symbolize the Lamb of God – Jesus Christ. In the southern Czech Sumava Mountains there used to be a tradition that blessing a lamb would help wayfarers to find their way through the forests. These days lamb is rarely eaten in the Czech Republic, but this does not mean that lamb has disappeared completely from Czech Easter celebrations. It still appears in the form of a cake.

No Fooling (4/1/2015)

Above is a photo of us sacrificing our lamb. It seemed appropriate during the Passion Week.

No Fooling (4/1/2015)

Finally, today Bethany and Avery were counting plastic eggs. This weekend we were invited to spend Easter with some other missionaries and their kids, and we’re going to combine our eggs for a little fun. Bethany said she separated the eggs by color and then Avery lined them up. I’m especially proud of our baseball eggs which you can see in the bottom of the photo.

But more than plastic eggs, Easter is coming Sunday and I’m excited to think on the cross and our resurrected Lord. I know it will be hard to not hear the sermon this week in English, but to join the saints in worship here and around the world to proclaim the gospel will be a great joy. I can’t wait!


Mommy Is Back

After 3 days away in Krakow, Bethany came back today around 4pm to the delight of the kids and me. I did my best to have the house clean and ready for her return because well, I think that’s some kind husband law. We actually left the house shortly after she arrived to take the kids to play, so I enjoyed hearing about her time with the ladies. They did a study through the book of Job on “Doing Hard Things Well” and Bethany was blessed. She also told me that the weather was pretty wild today in Poland with wind, rain, sleet, and snow coming down as they were trying to grab lunch and leave town. It’s never easy being pregnant and walking through an old city when its cold and miserable. Thankfully they all made it home safe and we’re happy to have mommy back!

Speaking of the weather, it’s been a little wild here in Czech. This afternoon we saw rain and hail, but tonight there were crashes of lightning, thunder, and heavy rains as we were getting the kids ready for bed. Like yesterday it was pretty gloomy and cold today, but the sun broke through late in the day and gave us a wonderful view from our kitchen. Above is a fifteen second timelapse video I did, but it’s actually tewnty minutes of footage that has been condensed down.

Before Bethany came home today we had some unexpected visitors. Zach and Kara stopped by late this morning because they were in town for a Czech conference. I actually didn’t know they were going to be in town, but it was nice to see them for a short time this morning. They moved to Prague late last year and they used to be only about twenty minutes from us. They brought the kids some chocolate and treats and even a few things for Bethany and me, so that was fun. One thing they brought are these caramel wafers that melt in your tea or coffee…mmm…can’t wait to try those. And with that, I’m out!


The Sunday Shredder

Sunday School (3/15/15)

Today was a another great Sunday at church with our kids. I think it may be one of the last Sundays that I stay in Titus’ class, and we’re trying to figure out what to do about Avery and her class. In the States we would normally just let her cry a little when we leave the room, but it doesn’t seem to be allowed that much in her class here. However, we’re having fun spending time with each of our kids in their classes.

Below is a photo that I took of a board game that Titus got out during the play time after they had their Bible lesson. I have no clue what the game is, but the kids gathered around Titus when he started getting the pieces out and helped him set it up. It’s always fun to see him playing with other kids, even if they have no clue how to talk to each other.

Sunday School (3/15/15)

Traditionally Sunday is a day of rest, but today our shredder was working over time! This past week Bethany and I realized the amount of paperwork that we have just lying around has gotten out of hand and we wanted to make space and clear out old files. So this afternoon we spent a few hours just separating the recycle versus shred piles and let the kids go to town putting paperwork through the “shrinker” (as they were calling it). Spring is only five days away, so we really felt like we were getting some Spring cleaning done! As I type Bethany is still going through files and I think we’re going to have a few days of this left, but it end we should have cleaner desks and a little more space.

That’s all from us today. We hope you had a blessed Sunday!