Tuesday, June 10, 2014

It's June 10th. When I glanced at my phone this morning and saw June 10, it hit me how crazy it is that we are sitting in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, today. On June 10th of last year Patrick and Samuel and I were on a plane headed to Bratislava, Slovakia. We were calling our move "long-term." We wanted to raise our family there.

So much has changed since last June 10th. It's been a hard year. A really hard year. But with some really great moments that we are very thankful for- like the birth of sweet Silas, just to mention one. We are thankful for him! But we never expected to be here in America today. In fact, by December we were back on a plane to America.

It's a long story that brought us back here- one that I'm happy to share with anyone who is interested in hearing it. Patrick and I have both learned a lot and grown a lot through the unfolding of this story. Despite all the hard moments (actually probably because of them), I can say that we trust the Lord more today than we did one year ago.

So this June 10th we are on the Smoky Mountain Summer Project. We're in a city that welcomes 1,000 international students every summer to come and work, many from East Asia and Slovakia and the Czech Republic. I get to disciple a sweet Slovak girl who we spent the summer with one year ago at Slovakia's SpeakOut English Camps. And we get to be here along with my parents, brother, sister-in-law, and nephews.

On Friday, we're driving back to Spartanburg for the day to close on a cute little house, and in August we'll start welcoming freshmen to the schools around the Upstate again. We're excited to be there again with our Cru team and a church that we love.

This morning Patrick reminded me of the story of the demon-possessed man who was healed by Jesus. After his healing, he begged to travel with Jesus. But Jesus said to him, "Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." Of course, some details of our story are a bit different, but we feel like God is calling us back "home" to tell all that Jesus has done for us.

A few pictures of the things we're so grateful for from the past year:

 My parents came to visit

 L'ubica and our little boys

Thanksgiving with Erik and Leah

 Oh, where would we be without the Palmers' friendship?!
And Paul too!

Christmas with family

Family of Four

Sunday, July 14, 2013

About an hour ago, I was sitting under a tree, watching a group of teenagers passing around a ukulele, strumming and singing, and talking about the differences between Croatia and Macedonia, and Greece and Italy. Which country has better bread, what the coffee is like, which has the best coast. It was a totally normal conversation for them. These kids have grown up in these countries, with parents serving as missionaries. Their lives are so different from the average American teenager. But so normal to them. They are Third Culture Kids.

Samuel visited his first European castle yesterday. And I’m just beginning to feel the weight of the decision we’ve made to live here. It really affects his life too. In some ways, I feel like we’ve taken away some significant things. Number one on that list would be living near his grandparents.

But I know that we’re giving him incredibly significant things too. In just the past week, at least 4 of Samuel’s new Slovak high school friends came to know Jesus personally. In a country that used to be “unreachable,” behind the Iron Curtain. Now we get to live here freely and share Jesus openly. And Samuel will get to learn their heart language, and someday after he believes, he will get to share too.

This life is different. Every day people talk to my little Samko in baby talk that sounds really sweet, but I can’t understand a word of it. In some ways, this life will get easier. But I think it will get harder in some ways too.

I was reading in James earlier today- ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from… the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.’ I am thankful that He won’t change.

Oh, by the way, you might have noticed Samuel's first big boy wound. He fell off a riding toy and caught the sidewalk with his sweet little nose. I get sad every time I look at him, although he forgot about it days ago.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Here We Are

From some of our first conversations when we started dating, Patrick and I shared how we both felt like we were made to live overseas. We love learning about cultures, being a part of how God is working around the world, seeing things first-hand.

Fast-forward 3 years, and here we are, in Slovakia with our little boy. We didn't make a decision about where we would live until after we were married. All along, I thought (we both thought) that it would be East Asia. Then the Lord began leading towards Slovakia. Patrick felt confident about it before I did. Coming from the capital of a very large country, Slovakia would be too small for him, I thought. But he liked the idea of re-launching the Cru ministry in another capital, even though it was a significantly smaller one. And around that same time, we found out I was pregnant and were further convinced that Slovakia would be a good fit for our family. I would be spending more time in our home, and I was already comfortable in Slovakia and had a head-start on the language.

So we had a baby, spent some time in the States adjusting, then moved to Bratislava. We spent our first 2 weeks settling in to our new little apartment, and now we're in a tiny "resort" town on the other side of the country, preparing for 2 weeks of SpeakOut English camps. We're making new Slovak friends, helping the newly-arrived Americans learn about this place, listening to incredibly loud techno music blasting through the streets at night, and figuring out how to feed an almost 1-year old with the things we can find.

Last meal in America at the Dwarf House

 No air conditioning, so we bought a pool!

Samko is helping put some furniture together.

Speaking of Samuel, he is loving life! He has about 50 new best friends, and he just about jumps of out my arms with excitement every time he sees any one of them. This little extrovert baby is living the dream.

Friday, December 28, 2012

It is the night of our Dear Savior's birth (well, it was)

The annual first-night-of-Encounter chicken fingers.
Someone got their little mouth on this before I took it away.
So close!
I'm pushing 30 Christmas Conferences/Winter Conferences/Encounters over the years, and I'm experiencing a part of the conference I've never experienced before- nap time. It's an interesting feeling knowing that there's so much work/fun going on out there in this hotel, and I'm sitting in a quiet, dark room. But I love Samuel and he loves his naps, so I can live with it. I guess it means I have time to write some thank-you's and an update for all my many blog fans.

 Patrick and I started talking months ago about how we wanted to talk about Christmas with Samuel over the next few years. I think so many kids know that Christmas is about Jesus, but the real excitement is over everything else (actually, I'm pretty guilty of that myself, if I admit it). We really want Christmas to be about Jesus in our home. I know that starts with us and where our hearts really are, but I wanted some fun ideas from people more creative than me. I talked with the children’s coordinator at our church (I am sooo thankful for Zina for many reasons!), and she gave me some great ideas/resources.

 One was this interview with Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales. He recently made a movie called “Buck Denver Asks, ‘Why Do We Call It Christmas?’” I still haven’t seen the movie, but he talked in the interview about how Christmas has gotten to where it is today and how he talks with his own kids about Christmas and Santa Claus. I love his ideas! Definitely worth listening to.

 Zina also gave me an article about a special way to do gifts with children.  3 gifts for each child in light of the gifts given to Jesus, the gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Side benefit- I can now spell frankincense and myrrh.) Because gold was so valuable in the days Jesus was born (well, still is I suppose), the first is a gift that will be very valuable to your child- maybe something they’ve really been wanting or something a little more expensive. And wrap it all in beautiful gold paper and bows. Frankincense was burned in the Old Testament days in the temple, where God’s people went to meet with Him. So the second gift is something your child uses to meet with God- a Bible, a journal, music. And it’s wrapped all in white (I think that’s what color frankincense is? Oh, I’m learning so much. I believe it’s resin from a tree.) And myrrh was used to anoint bodies for burial. Have to get a little more creative there. The article suggested something your child could use on their body- lotions or perfume or something. And this one is wrapped in earth tones. We went a different direction on that one though. We’ve decided on a mercy gift instead- either some kind of donation or gift to someone in need.

 So here are Samuel’s 3 Christmas gifts


Diapers- now, those are very valuable to Samuel right now!
Fisher Price Little People nativity set
A Caregiver Kit for someone caring for the needs of people affected
by the AIDS crisis in Africa through World Vision.
(Caleb was teaching Sam all about the nativity)
 Last year we had just found out I was pregnant and we chose a New Mother/Baby Kit through World Vision in honor of our little baby. I’m excited to see over the years the things God will put on Samuel’s heart and to begin choosing mercy gifts based on what he loves and cares about.

 This really may have been my favorite Christmas ever. Patrick and I talked so much about each gift we gave that each one felt really meaningful, not like we were just buying something to cross off the list. And the Advent readings that we enjoyed together all month brought the anticipation of Christmas in my heart closer to where I want it to be- waiting for the day we would read about the little baby finally entering the world in Bethlehem!


Monday, December 3, 2012

He's not talking yet

I didn't think much of it at the time, but earlier this afternoon Samuel really surprised me. I've been enjoying watching him interact more with people and toys and the world around him.

(Sidenote: today at the grocery store, Samuel said "hi" to a woman walking by. She was so amazed and said, "Wow, he's talking at such a young age! What else can he say?" Umm... nothing. Sorry to disappoint you, but he's just making noise.)

But anyway, Patrick came home today while I was feeding Samuel, and as soon as he heard his daddy's voice, he turned to look for him. He continued trying to turn, and I could not get him to eat until Patrick left the house again.

At the time, I just wanted him to focus on eating, but as I was thinking about it later, I felt so thankful that Samuel knows and loves his daddy's voice. I love watching them together and seeing Patrick as a father to Samuel.

It made me think too about our hopes for Samuel. When we were naming him, we thought about the story of Samuel and Eli in the temple and how we wanted our Samuel to respond just like that Samuel when he said to the LORD, "Speak, for your servant is listening." My greatest hope for him is that, at a really early age, he'll hear and respond to the Father's voice inviting him to be His son.

I sure do love these two-

Sunday, November 25, 2012

4 months

We spent Thanksgiving week in Gatlinburg with both of our families- so wonderful!
And someone hit the big 4-months!

Patrick and Terry went fishing Friday morning.
I couldn't believe there were fish in downtown Gatlinburg
worth eating, but they fried up 4 big ones for lunch.
They also painted two small masterpieces
on the Dogwood Pointe sign

We are thankful!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Meeting the GG's!

A few weeks ago Samuel finally got to meet his Missouri great-grandparents, Roe and King. They made the long drive on a week when no one else would be visiting so they would not have to share this little boy with anyone.

 I think he stole her heart pretty fast.
GG Roe brought lots of presents

Samuel loves kicking GG King in the chest
and GG Roe loves the disposable camera.
The other big event in the Martin house is starting solid foods. I never
imagined we would do this so soon, but this champion sleeper started
waking up at night, and he decided he was ready for more.
And he is loving it.
 We started with just a little oatmeal in a bottle.
 And then moved on to the spoon.
And a week later we are starting squash.
I say no more veggies for mommy,
now that Samuel is eating them on his own!
we got to see Dara, Jeremy, Olivia, Boone,
and little baby Eli, visiting from Slovakia!
And, to wrap things up,
Samuel's first Cru staff conference.
Trying to get a little shut-eye,
resting his little rear on the table.