Friday, October 31, 2014

ready (or not) for baby number four

I am 37 weeks pregnant with our baby boy (yep, it's a boy). Our twins were born at 34 weeks, so we are happy to have made it this far. Much of our weekends these past two months was spent painting rooms, refinishing furniture, and moving stuff around our house to get ready for this little guy's arrival. I think we're ready.
To be honest, I have had fear that Number Four (we'll give him a name when he arrives) will limit my capacity. When our boys started preschool last January, I began to increase my involvement and expand the ways I serve in JV and in our community. A few months later, I found out I was pregnant. The truth is, my capacity will be limited, for awhile. However, this week, Brian and I had dinner with Dave and Connie Patty, and they helped us to think practically about ways I can be involved, use my gifts, and serve JV in the next few years. This conversation meant a ton to me personally.

Also, I recently finished reading The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis. After finishing the book, I began to pray and share with God all the emotions I was feeling, a lot regarding having four kids. As I was praying, I got a picture in my mind of our family of six standing on the edge of heaven (much of the imagery came from the book). I saw Brian, myself, Cece, Gabe, Alex, and this little toddler boy bounding through a field toward these mountains where heaven awaited. Then, I heard the Spirit say, "This baby is eternal."

In these next few months, I so desire to keep eternity and Christ's Kingdom in mind.

fall conference

This year was JV's biggest fall conference ever, with close to 300 young leaders attending from 13 different European countries. I still remember when Brian told me, "I think there are going to be 300 people at this conference!" Because he carries a lot of details, he had excitement and a little fear in his eyes as he said it!

The first challenge was figuring out where they would even put 300 people for the sessions. The solution was a semi-permanent tent that our conference center added to their facility a few weeks before the conference started. 
300 young leaders gathered in what ended up being a pretty sweet tent to receive training on how Christ modeled discipleship and how to multiply your ministry.

One of the first times I was trained in this material, ministry according to the life of Christ, was by Dan Hash in 2002 at JV intern training. I remember thinking:this is so good; why don't all ministries just study Christ and how he did ministry? 

Amy Nickerson did a great job of blogging on the JV website about the conference. Check out her Now That the Conference is Over blog for a great summary.

JV's 20th anniversary

This year, JV is celebrating its 20th anniversary. During Fall Conference, one of the evenings was dedicated to a celebration of all that God has done in Central and Eastern Europe through JV in these past 20 years. (Read more about it on Connie's blog.)

While I wasn't apart of JV 20 years ago, I did start serving short-term with JV in 1998. I also lived with the Hashes in the summers of 2002 and 2003 where I had the privilege of hearing a lot of stories from those early years.

20 years ago, two families, the Pattys and the Hashes, took a step through an open door to do Kingdom work in a part of the world where the church was almost dead. They just came. They didn't always know exactly what they were doing, but they did one of the most brave things that anyone I know has ever done. I'm just walking in the path they paved.

Here's a video that shows the fruit of that bold beginning. More people in this part of the world now know Jesus. To be even a small part of that is truly an honor.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

triumphant and cracked pot parenting

Yesterday morning was one of those mornings in our house when you wonder if anything you are doing as a parent is working! You're not sure whether to cry, scream, or laugh at how terrible your kids are acting. (Don't they look cute in the dinosaur's mouth? Maybe the dinosaur should eat them!)

I awoke yesterday morning 10 minutes before my alarm went off to Cece yelling at us from her bed about how mad she was that she was wearing a pull-up. Cece still wets the bed, and while we've made great progress in the past few weeks, the night before she had peed, so we stripped her sheets and put a pull-up on her to get her through the rest of the night.

I purposefully set my alarm for a half-hour before our kids wake up/need to get woken up to get ready for preschool. That gives me time to make breakfast for them and have it ready to go when they come to the kitchen dressed for the day, and it gives me time to make coffee. I think the fact that I make breakfast and have it ready for them is pretty darn awesome; however, they don't seem to always grasp the awesomeness.

I laid in bed and ignored the attack until my alarm went off. I don't parent well until I've had a cup of coffee, so I decided to ignore the malice coming from down the hall and stumbled into the kitchen.

Brian woke the boys up about 30 minutes later. Cece made it to the kitchen table, and with my coffee cup in hand, I proceed to explain how crazy it was for her to be saying such things to two gracious parents who had helped her the night before, and how next time she pees on herself, she could deal with the mess herself! That seemed to clear that up, for the time being.

Alex made it to the kitchen and climbed up to his breakfast, only to complain about what had been prepared for him. After several minutes of whining, he was escorted back to his bedroom. Gabe came out about that same time wanting help with his jeans when I noticed that he hadn't changed his underwear. I told him to put clean underwear on, which incited a fit of outrage. How dare I make such a request?! Well, we go to school with clean underwear in this family; I'm sorry! Gabe was also escorted back to his room, and he never made it to the breakfast table that morning, missing out on what I thought was a fabulous yogurt parfait.

Two of the three kids were crying when Brian left the house with them at 7:50am. I, funny enough, had language at 8am that morning, so I needed to get out the door at that same time too, with real clothes on ready to learn language. I somehow managed to leave the house at 7:54am.

As I walked to language, I wrote Brian a text that said, I'm so sorry, thinking of him dragging crying kids into preschool.

He sent me a text a short time later that said he brought each kid into preschool separately. I guess one of the teachers asked him if things were okay. He said, "We've had one of those mornings!"

After I got home from language, I began formulating a plan for the evening after I picked the kids up from preschool: extra chores, no shows, early bedtime. And a plan for the next morning: assigned seats at the table, no choices about breakfast, I choose the chores, what you don't eat at breakfast becomes dinner, etc. I was ready for battle!

Funny enough, I picked up angels from preschool yesterday; I mean, angels. A good report from the teacher about the day. Cooperation like you wouldn't believe about the extra chores. Pure delight in the dinner that I made (something new even that everyone tried with excitement). We had a family meeting to discuss the following morning, and all kids went to bed with limited drama! It was like night and day!

This past Tuesday, we had what is now being called the international teams' bible study. Those who are on a team that serves all of JV make up the iteam. Dave lead our bible study from 2 Corinthians (photo credit to Connie; click here to read her post for more about the bible study).

Together, we charted the characteristics from the verses that describe our lives as followers of Christ that are triumphant and those that show we are cracked pots. We talked about how, because of Christ, we are triumphant in all that we do, but that we have these treasures in jars of clay; therefore, we are afflicted, but not crushed; preplexed, but not driven to despair. We are humans living in a fallen world, but by the grace of Christ, we are triumphant!

2 Corinthians is not really talking about parenting, but I am reminded today that I am a cracked pot, Brian is, and so are our kids. We will have mornings like yesterday because I'm a sinner who needs Jesus just like my kids are sinners who need Jesus. However, by the grace of God we are triumphant, and our kids are sometimes angels reminding us of heaven! Whew. What will tomorrow be like?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

preschool apps my kids are into

The other day I was texting with my brother, Rollie, about education. (He teases me sometimes about stuff, and I get sucked in.) I was sharing with him about how even though I have a masters degree in literacy, on that day, I had downloaded an app on the iPad, stuck my kids in front of the TV, and mirrored the app onto the TV. I called it learning time.

The funny thing is that ever since, I've seen Cece using some of the concepts she learned from the app to help her read. While screen time is no replacement for actually reading books, I'm finding that some educational apps are engaging to my kids, and they are learning something from them. So, I thought I'd share which ones we're into right now.

Endless Reader
This app introduces sight words. Kids drag the letters of the word to their proper place, and then the word is shown in a sentence with a little animation to illustrate it. It's very interactive, and my kids are into it right now. It's free, but then to unlock most of the sight words, you need to pay. Definitely worth trying out.

I was a bit skeptical about this app. The app is a bunch of videos of Mr. Thorne teaching letter sounds and modeling sounding out words. For some reason (maybe his British accent), my kids are really liking him, and it's helping Cece sound out words in her just right books. It's not very interactive, but hey, if it works.

My sister-in-law told me about a few years ago. My kids have been using this app for a long time, and I think it's great for learning letter sounds. The little songs that go along with the sounds get stuck in my head even!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

guess who's Brian's intern

The summer of 2002, I was a JV intern with Dan and Laura Hash in Poland. It was a very transformational summer for me, and I learned so much about ministry. I spent a lot of time with the Hashes that summer, which included time with their son, Jacob, who was a young boy then.

Now, Jacob is all grown up, and he's about to enter his sophomore year of college. Well, guess whose intern he is this summer? He is Brian's intern. Jacob spent most of his time in a van traveling from country to country visiting Josiah Venture camps shooting footage and doing video editing. (Ironically, I spent a lot of time the summer of 2002 traveling around in a van going from camp to camp.) Jacob is serving on our new Communications Team helping to make videos like this one:

Our 1000th Camp from Josiah Venture on Vimeo.

It seems crazy to me Jacob is now Brian's intern! In addition to Jacob, Amy, who is another grown-up JVK (Josiah Venture kid) is also interning with the Cteam. She has kicked off our jv20 blogs, celebrating JV's 20th anniversary. Read her latest here. Both are doing an amazing job conveying the JV story.

We had them both over for dinner last night. Makes me wonder what those three kids in the middle might be doing 15+ years from now!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

my travel companion

Up until I got married, all of my international traveling was with my cousin, Melanie. Heck, most of my traveling in general was with Melanie. Her and I went to Poland together for the first time in 1998, and we visited Prague together in 2002, which was my second summer as a JV intern. A few weeks ago, she came to visit me, and we got to go back to Prague together, just the two of us. What a sweet time it was!

   Here we are in Prague in 2002:

Here we are in Prague a week ago:
Our first two summers in Poland were spent serving with Greg and Heidi Carlson in Torun, Poland. They now live just over the CZ boarder, so Melanie and I were able to go to their house for lunch.

I loved having my travel companion back. Where to next, Mel?

full circle

Here's a picture from the English camp in Poland that Brian and I met at in 2002:
Here's Brian doing at training at this year's Fala (JV's partner organization in Poland) English Camp leader's training:

Turns out one of the campers who was at that English camp in 2002 was at Fala's training in Brian's session. He's now helping his church lead camps:

Things have come full circle.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

not your average Sunday

Brian just got home from a trip to the states for the winter JV board meeting and a training for our newly formed and growing communications team. I was home with the kids for nine days (I keep saying ten, but Brian keeps correcting me). The kids were sick while he was gone, and I myself have been sick for more than nine days.

At our church us parents, who send our kids to nursery, rotate Sundays taking turns caring for the kids. Brian and I have done this together several times, and I would say a high average for us is about six or seven kids including our own. So, this Sunday, Brian very kindly offered to do nursery and to let me stay home and rest. I happily agreed, thinking at most, without our boys, he'd have six kids. I kept the boys home with me, and Cece went with Brian to help him.

While he was at church, I got a message from him with this picture. All the message said was 14 kids.

Whooops. Well, we won't be doing that again.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

who's at your table

My cousin, Melanie, gave me Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table for Christmas this year. Author, Shauna Niequist, writes about her life in short essays, most chapters ending with a recipe that coincides with that moment from her life. Even though, I'm not like her, "someone who wakes up in the morning thinking about what I will eat". I am captivated by her writing style, drawn to her honesty about life, and appreciating some new ideas in the kitchen.

One of her points is that one shouldn't worry about achieving perfection before entertaining. Instead, you should just have people over. Regardless of the size of your house, your ability to make tarts, or the chaos of life. Just have people around the table, she implores, because something sacred happens when people are gathered together and nourished together.

To be honest, I have found myself jealous as she's describing the gatherings she has at her table. I get mostly jealous of the times that she has family or long-time friends gathered together. Throughout my high school and college years, my family would gather almost every Sunday after church for dinner (we called it dinner, not lunch) at my aunt and uncle's house. When it was just our two families, the ten of us would crowd around the table. When we invited others, which happened often, we'd set up two tables, if needed. It was a time of joking, sharing, laughing, and eating. Ever since I left Minnesota, I have missed those Sunday gatherings around the table.

Then, when I married into Brian's family, we'd gather together too, but never around one table because 35+ people do not fit at one table. But, often, we'd go to Florida and gather in the living room with Brian's sister's family, kids everywhere (mostly hers), and my glass was never empty. Lots of chaos, but a lot of laughing and a lot of nourishing.

Reading Bread & Wine inspired me. We do have people over for dinner all the time, so this isn't a new thing for me. However, I decided that I wanted this most recent time to be more special. I invited several girls (they are really women, but I still can't call my good friends women--seems weird to me) over for a wine party. I brought out my best dishes and even put on a table cloth. I prepared two things that I know how to make, but that don't really go together--hummus and guacamole. Four of my friends came, two Americans and two Czechs. We sat around my table telling stories of giving birth in Czech hospitals. Tales of trying to speak another language and figure out another culture. Some shared about how they met their husbands. We talked about the local schools and our kids. Two of them shared what they remembered about living here in Czech as small girls during communism.

As I was cleaning up the dishes at midnight (yes, they stayed until midnight!), I realized that "my table" looks different than it did 15 years ago. I still want my brothers and cousins at my table way more than they are able to make it out here to sit at it. However, I'm thankful for this opportunity to have these friends at my table now. I'm not sure what my table will look like 15 years from now, but this is what it looked like last night (before everyone arrived).