T.

The Last on the First

The First of May (5/1/15)

Today is kind of a special day. Almost twelve months ago our church family in the States brought us a box full of envelopes and each envelope was marked with a month and was packed full. Actually, I remember the night they brought them to us because it was a day or two before we loaded our shipping container that was headed for Czech and they wanted to make sure we were able to ship them to our new home here. We were instructed that we weren’t allowed to open them until we moved to Czech and that we should open one a month for the first year. So for the past year that’s exactly what we’ve done. Sadly, though, that all comes to an end today. We opened the May envelope tonight which is our last one and it feels like it’s the end of an era.

What made today’s envelope double special was it was marked as coming from Steve and Judy who were just here visiting us! I don’t think they knew when they packed this envelope that they would be visiting us just a week prior to us opening it, but it was so fun to see the gifts they sent, read the letter they wrote, and know that we are loved by them. I also don’t think they thought this would be our last envelope because well, it wasn’t supposed to be. Inside were many fun things and it was really fun to tell Titus and Avery that this was all from our friends who were just here visiting us. So without further adieu, here’s some photos of us opening our last envelope (captions beneath each).

The First of May (5/1/15)

Avery was especially excited for this envelope because it was colorful and “really heavy.” She was literally jumping up and down before we went and got it in our storage room down the hall. Both her and Titus assumed their normal positions on the couch and gave a big “cheeeeeeese” smile.

The First of May (5/1/15)

After helping them get the envelope open, the kids found alphabet stickers, construction paper, and new crayons! Bethany was especially excited that the pack of construction paper had the color brown because she was saying she didn’t have any during Thanksgiving when her and Titus were trying to make a little paper turkey.

The First of May (5/1/15)

Titus was thrilled for his new Lightning McQueen toothbrush. Here you can see him smiling and oozing with joy. He made sure we let him use it to brush his teeth tonight and he asked he if he could use it every night. When I told him, “Sure, bud,” he yelled, “Mom, I can use it every night!”

The First of May (5/1/15)

The one thing I love about Steve and Judy is their love for good books. We had a great time this past week talking books with them and swapping titles of what we have read and they have read. It came as no surprise that inside our envelope tonight were three books that they wanted us to have. There was one for the kids, one for dad (me), and one for both Bethany and me. The books are (from left to right in the photo above): God’s Wisdom by Sally Michael, Being A Dad Who Leads by John MacArthur, and one we discussed this past week which is Name Above All Names by Alistair Begg and Sinclair B. Ferguson. Fewer things bring me more joy than the gift of new books. Thank you, Steve and Judy!

Notes (5/1/15)

Outside the envelope, there were other gifts that Steve and Judy hand delivered us this past week that we are just spending time looking at tonight. These are physical gifts as much as they are the gift of words. We have a pile of cards and letters that we’re reading tonight above is just one photo of many which are handwritten notes of encouragement. Even as I type Bethany just opened a card that was from the senior’s Bible study, again with words and short notes of much encouragement. These are a special joy to us and we’re so very thankful for a sending church that deeply cares about their missionaries. This past week we have been overwhelmed by their kindness in sending Steve and Judy, the year-long envelopes, and even these kind words. To our friends and church family at Placerita, we love you and think of you often. There are no better words that describe how we feel than what Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:3-6).

O.

Opening the April Envelope

Opening April (4/4/15)

It has been on our agenda this week to open up the April envelope which is the second to last envelope we get to open. This one was signed by our friends the Millets and it was full of lots of fun things. As you can see in the photo above, the wrapping itself was something special and the kids loved trying to figure out how to get in to it. I took a lot of photos of the process today, so here’s the story in pictures (with captions beneath some photos).

Opening April (4/4/15)

Opening April (4/4/15)

Opening April (4/4/15)

It took the kids a bit to unravel the string and the large white plastic table cloth that the envelope was wrapped in.

Opening April (4/4/15)

Opening April (4/4/15)

Alongside the envelope was a big frame celebrating both Titus’ birthday and our resurrected Savior (Titus’ birthday is on the 24th). It was really fun to open this on Easter weekend!

Opening April (4/4/15)

Avery was pretty excited to find some colorful Tic-Tacs at first grab in the bag.

Opening April (4/4/15)

Opening April (4/4/15)

Opening April (4/4/15)

Titus found a present with his name on it and immediately got to work opening it. We were proud of him because he opened the card first and tried to read it, as well as asked if it was OK for him to open it even though it’s not his birthday. Since we were having so much fun, we though an early birthday present would be alright.

Opening April (4/4/15)

While Titus was opening his present, Avery was finding all kinds of things in the envelope.

Opening April (4/4/15)

Opening April (4/4/15)

Insides Titus’ gift were special markers with Bible story books! We love these kinds of books because the markers are special for this kind of paper and usually don’t cause a big mess. Titus was definitely excited about this one.

Opening April (4/4/15)

Titus got right to work coloring. I had been distracted by the other books that Avery had pulled out of the envelope and Bethany nudged me to take a photo of him coloring all by himself. He was very focused and as usual he picked the color red (his favorite color) to start with.

Opening April (4/4/15)

There were a ton of books and stickers inside, along with a sticker pack for the Passion week and Easter. The kids spent a lot of time working with their stickers and we had fun talking about Jesus and the tomb. We are so blessed to have friends from the States who were willing to sacrifice their time and resources to bless us like this. As always, thank you!

Beyond the envelope, the only other thing we did today was take the kids to the play place at the mall. This has become more of regular thing, but it made a lot of sense today because the weather was cold and mixed rain and snow. We talked about going to the zoo, but I’m glad we didn’t because it was just miserable outside most of the day. The kids had a fun time at the mall and we were able to do a little grocery shopping while we were out. Tomorrow we’ll have the Easter service at church and a bunch of missionaries are getting together for a pot-luck style meal in our town. Bethany is cutting veggies and prepping food as a type and I’m looking forward to celebrating the risen Lord tomorrow!

C.

Christmas (Part I)

Christmas Part 1 (12/27/14)

“Go big or go home.” It’s a phrase I use often, mostly joking, to describe certain situations or even little things like ordering lunch. But I guess when it comes to Christmas it’s “Go big AND go home.” I only say that because today we celebrated Christmas 1 of 2 here in Yakima. That’s how we’re describing it to our kids who by Tuesday will have celebrated Christmas 3 different times. Today’s Christmas was at their great-grandmother’s house where we opened presents and shared a big meal with Bethany’s mom’s side of the family. I remember being at it last year and us saying goodbye to family with no intentions of seeing them for at least two years since we would be moving to Czech. Little did we know that we would be back this Christmas celebrating together once again.

Christmas Part 1 (12/27/14)

The format is simple: eat and then open presents. Bethany’s grandmother always goes big on the gifts and I think she spend a certain set amount on everyone, though this still remains a mystery to me. I am pretty excited about my new pocket knife, shirt, and three more volumes that will be added to my MacArthur commentary set! Bethany was given a new necklace, salt and pepper shakers, and some clothes. Avery got some kitchen toys, including a working cash register and a stand mixer (think Kitchenaid) which she calls her ice cream maker. And Titus was pretty pumped about his big play ship thing that folds up. We’re definitely thankful for the wonderful gifts and kindness of our family!

Christmas Part 1 (12/27/14)

Overall our energy levels were better today and we were all up at 5am. I think we’re gaining an hour of sleep every night. It’s such a bummer to have to turnaround and flip back to Czech time in just a few weeks, but that’s just part of the life we live right now. Christmas part 2 will be on Tuesday will complete the triple Christmas celebrations we have had. It brings excitement for gifts, but a little anxiety as to how exactly we’re going to get all of this stuff back to Czech!

Here’s a few more photos from the afternoon.

Christmas Part 1 (12/27/14)

That’s Titus and Avery with their second cousin Savannah.

Christmas Part 1 (12/27/14)

Christmas Part 1 (12/27/14)

Christmas Part 1 (12/27/14)

H.

Heaters and Envelopes

Our radiators (heaters) are working again! The funny part about it is when I’m trying to communicate with our landlord I usually just send an email that I use Google Translate to put in Czech for me. I have no clue how it sounds when she receives it, but apparently it worked because she brought Bethany a space heater today and said something about calling a repair man. When I got home this evening our landlord took me down to the basement and showed me all of the equipment. Here are the words I understood: “light,” “bad,” and “reset.” I think what she was trying to tell me was that when the red light is on, it’s bad, so you have to hit the reset button. Or maybe it’s “hit the red reset button and the light will come on?” Ahhh! Either way, the heaters are working right now. And as our landlord was leaving me tonight she pointed to the space heater in our house and said, “provizorní.” Immediately I thought, “She must mean temporary.” After checking online I was right! Whew… Let’s just hope this communication barrier is provizorní.

Opening October (10/2/14)

We put the kids to bed last night before opening our monthly envelope from our Bible study in the States so we waited until today. If you’ve been following along with us then you know these envelopes were sent with us when we moved and we get to open a new one each month. This month’s had an autumn theme and came packed with magazines, gum, a Hello Kitty blow up beach ball, coloring books, instant oatmeal, and some Airheads candy. Oh, and a $15 iTunes gift card…woohoo! The kids always love doing it and it’s been a fun monthly tradition since we’ve arrived. Here’s some photos:

Opening October (10/2/14)

Opening October (10/2/14)

In the photo at the top of this post you’ll see a second envelope (the brown one). I found it on our doorstep today and brought it inside. It was addressed to Bethany from our home church in California! We decided to open it tonight after we opened the other envelope. Inside was an update on the women’s ministry at our church along with the book they are currently reading. What a blessing to have our church care for us in that way by sending us the latest information along with a good, Biblical resource. Here’s Bethany opening the envelope:

Opening October (10/2/14)

Opening October (10/2/14)

Tonight we had a special treat. Bethany made BBQ chicken and mashed potatoes. But…she used Stubbs Spicy BBQ sauce. The other day I was doing some shopping at the local grocery store and on the end cap where they have the sale items I saw the Stubbs bottles. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had heard about Stubbs in the States because it’s made in Austin, Texas. The bottles were marked down over 50% so I bought them both for just a few bucks. I’m pretty sure they were way too spicy for the Czechs so that’s probably why they were on sale. Even though it was definitely spicy, I was so excited to eat something more familiar over here. It was a fun treat.

Opening October (10/2/14)

I had the joy of video chatting tonight with a good friend. It was encouraging and a blessing to chat with him and just share about what we’ve been doing and how God has been working in our lives over here. I’m reminded tonight that we need friends in our lives to challenge and encourage us in Christ. As we continue to lay down roots in Czech I’m hopeful for more friends here who can do the same. And while I’m on the topic of friendship, I picked up a highly recommended book tonight called Relationships: A Mess Worth Making that is FREE today on Amazon.com (for Kindle). The title alone makes me want to read it…and apply it.

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.