B.

Bad Air, Opening December, and Pearl Harbor

Even though we were made aware of it by many people, I hadn’t really thought much about how bad the air is where we live. This week the city sent out warnings (we heard through a friend) that the air quality was exceptionally bad and that very young and the older should stay indoors. After checking the Air Quality Index (AQI) it confirmed everything: the air is terrible here, and it may just be the worst in all of Europe.

Bad Air (12/7/14)

Above is a screen shot I took of a map of Europe with the air quality indicators on top. Basically green is good and red and purple are bad. The higher the number, the worst the air. That pocket of red and purple you see, that’s where we live! This is today’s conditions but on Friday night our very city was the second highest on the map. We are actually starting to wonder if the air quality is part of reason we are getting headaches and haven’t been feeling well. We brought air purifiers with us that we have running in our rooms, but obviously you can’t stop all the bad stuff from getting in to your system. We’re going to keep a better eye on the air quality here and make sure we heed the warnings to stay indoors on bad days.

December Envelope (12/7/14)

Today we opened our December envelope. We’re halfway through our year long, monthly envelopes. Today’s had a couple things for the kids and a nice book on marriage for Bethany and I. There were two cards, one for our wedding anniversary on the 17th and another for Christmas day. Dates were written on both of them so we’ll wait to open those in a few weeks. Here’s a couple pics of the kids with captions below each:

December Envelope (12/7/14)
Avery got a Melissa and Doug “Decorate-Your-Own Picture Frame” which she thought was great. She loves painting right now so she’ll definitely enjoy that.

December Envelope (12/7/14)
Titus got a little kids Dodger hate which was excited about. He loves the Dodgers and if you’ve ever met the kid then you’ve probably heard that from his own lips. Thanks, friends, for loving on our kids from afar!

I didn’t want to end this post without mention Pearl Harbor. Today is December 7, and it’s the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Other than being an American, I don’t have any close, personal ties to the attack but I always think about it on this date. We had the privilege of visiting Pearl Harbor a few years ago and it was just unbelievable to see oil continuing to leak out of the USS Arizona and to visit the site where 2,403 Americans were killed. I am thankful to those who have lost their lives for our home country and those who continue to serve in the armed forces.

Here’s a photo I took back in 2011 of the USS Arizona Memorial.

USS Arizona Memorial

T.

The November Envelope and All Souls’ Day

Sundays are not easy. At first they were really fun and the experience was so new and exciting, but I feel honestly that today was harder. Nothing big happened and we didn’t have any issues, but as we were making the short drive to church I realized I wasn’t excited about going. Please, don’t misunderstand me. I love the local church. But sitting through a 90+ minute service in another language week in and week out is getting tough. Always feeling like you’re behind and not knowing what’s going on is just simply hard, and it’s not just me. Bethany struggles too, and so do our kids. Today I stayed with Titus again in his Sunday school class (photo below) and I wasn’t encouraged. He’s struggling with paying attention and he’s almost aloof because I think the language barrier keeps him from focusing on what the class is doing. Again, it’s just hard. Every week we are encouraged by our Czech brothers and sisters, but we just wish we could do a little encouraging of our own. Pray for us and for our kids if you think about it.

Church (11/2/14)

After church this morning we made another trip out to IKEA for a few organizational things. We’re continuing to try to improve where we store things and get our kids stuff more organized. We bought a few shelves and some plastic bins that I think will help a ton. We spent most of the afternoon/evening cleaning up and organizing the kids room. It needs more time but we’re excited about the progress we made today.

Tonight we opened our November envelope from our Bible study at our home church in the States. Each month for our first year here they have blessed us with these large envelopes that we get to open with fun presents inside. Pack inside we found coloring books, birthday cards, customizable gift tags, make-your-own card supplies, and taco seasoning! Here’s a few photos of the kids diving in. Thank you, friends, for blessing us each and every month!

Opening November (11/2/14)

Opening November (11/2/14)

Check out this taco seasoning! They got us two pouches and we are STOKED!

Opening November (11/2/14)

Avery’s birthday is at the end of the month, but we let her open this little birthday card that was included in this month’s envelope. This was her reaction.

Opening November (11/2/14)

Opening November (11/2/14)

Tonight I took a quick trip to a local cemetery around 9pm. I’m not usually one for visiting graveyards at night, but today is kind of a special day in Czech. They call it “All Souls’ Day” and even though it’s close to Halloween, it’s not really the same. From what I’ve read, it’s a time where people visit the grave sites of their loved ones and place flowers and candles on the graves. For the past few weeks we have been seeing a ton of candles at the stores and people have been buying them up. Out of curiosity I went out to a cemetery tonight and got a few photos. It was actually quite beautiful to see, even though it’s also pretty odd considering how nonreligious Czech is. There might be more meaning to it, but I thought it was interesting nonetheless. I only spent a few minutes with my camera in hand and below are two photos I got. If you’re curious about All Soul’s Day, I found this article to be really helpful.

All Souls' Day (11/2/14)

As the Czechs remember their dead family and friends today, I’m reminded of how many of those same people are spiritually dead. They are the walking dead. This is exactly what Paul says in Ephesians 2:1-2 when he writes,
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…” He’s talking about the spiritual walking dead. That was me before Christ saved me and that is the state of everyone before Christ, the light of thew world, opens their hearts to the gospel. While the graves tonight flicker with candle light, my prayer is that the True Light, Jesus Christ, would shine bright in this dark place. When His light shines it’s so much more than a flicker and it doesn’t represent death, but life!

All Souls' Day (11/2/14)

John 8:12 “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

A.

A New Month and a New Store

Opening September (9/1/14)

Tonight we had our monthly time of opening an envelope from our Bible study in the States. Until June of next year we have envelopes for every month which they have put together with gifts and fun things inside. The September envelope brought lots of fun things so here’s some photos of our kids unwrapping it all (captions below each photo).

Opening September (9/1/14)

Titus found a light up yo-yo which also wanted to take with him to bed. Avery found a rounded object that she began to unwrap.

Opening September (9/1/14)

Avery found a princess wand and finally unwrapped a great candle. She went around the house saying, “Sprinkle sprinkle, do your thing” with her wand. No clue where that came from or what exactly it means.

Opening September (9/1/14)

Titus found a Cars sticker book which he loved.

Opening September (9/1/14)

Oh… Avery found Daddy’s favorite, an iTunes gift card! She also found a book called “Lone Survivor” which is the background for the recent movie of the same name.

Opening September (9/1/14)

The kids found a letter from our friends, the Shanks family. It was written from their kids and had some great questions about our life here in Czech. Here are the questions with some answers:

Q: Do you play basketball in your new house?
A: Yes! But not in the house. We have a basketball hoop that we keep in the garage and when it’s not raining we roll it out and play in our driveway.

Q: Have you made lots of new friends?
A: Definitely! There are so many fun friends here and we’re having a blast getting to know lots of new people.

Q: Do you like your new church? What is your church called?
A: Yes. We love it. It’s called “Církve Bratrské” which means, Church of the Brethren.

A New Store (9/1/14)

In other news, we had a little hiccup at the Josiah Venture offices today which required me and my teammate, Brian, to go to Ostrava for a few things. We needed to get a couple new computer hard drives from the store because of some issues with someone else’s computer. The mall in Ostrava is actually where Bethany and I went on our second date in Czech and it’s just an amazing place. In the photo above you can see Brian using a giant touch screen display to find out where the computer store was. When he picked the location it showed us where we were and how to get to the floor above where the store was. I have never see anything like it in the States. We walked up stairs and got exactly what we needed.

A New Store (9/1/14)

Since we had already made the thirty minute drive, Brian called his wife to see if they needed anything from the mall. She said they needed brown sugar from this British store called “Marks and Spencer” which Brian knew of but I had never heard about. I couldn’t believe my eyes when we got inside. Chocolate chip cookies, English language packaging, sauces, salsa, and even brow sugar (which is apparently hard to find around here). The store was amazing considering this is the Czech Republic and I ended up calling Bethany to tell her while I was in there. I only bought two things but I think we’ll heading back at some point. Here’s the photos I showed to Bethany when I got home.

A New Store (9/1/14)

Funny thing is you have to walk through a department store to get to where this store is located. It’s all part of Marks and Spencer, but I was still confused by it.

A New Store (9/1/14)

These are the little bags of brown sugar. They cost a little less than $3.00 (US).

A New Store (9/1/14)

On the left is lots of coffee and on the right is lots of ice cream toppings. The ice cream stuff is probably splurge items, for sure, but it’s amazing that they have that kind of stuff.

A New Store (9/1/14)

Last but not least, jalapeños. I don’t know if these are hard to come by but seeing anything spicy which is even related to Mexican food makes my heart happy. You’d be surprised how these little things make you feel when you haven’t seen them a while.