Throughout the day today I was getting little photos of our kids messaged to me from Bethany. Above is a photo of Titus dancing on our ottoman to a song that he can’t seem to get enough of lately. We love music in our house and we often have “dance parties” when we just want to get some energy out. Titus especially loves music and always ask for “rock songs.” I guess he’s enjoying his week off from school because of the “Spring holiday.” It’s always fun to have a holiday at home.
Below is another photo Bethany sent me of Avery painting. Apparently she was painting a picture of me and said, “Daddy has glasses.” I think I look great.
Here’s another one of Avery folding here little wash clothes and baby clothes just like mommy does. It’s really fun to see Avery copy Bethany and want to help around the house. The other day I found all of Avery’s babies lined up perfectly, each one with their own tiny blankets.
It rained a little today and the weather has been warmer, but definitely not warm. Bethany commented that we needed a little rain. It feels like with all the snow melt and and dirt that the roads and sidewalks just needed a rinse. Other than that, it’s just been a normal day. We didn’t do language lessons today, but we’ll pick things up tomorrow. We’re also working on a plan to take a mini vacation to Prague this weekend to see our friends Zach and Kara. We’re hoping to take the train and rent a little apartment because it’s the most affordable and comfortable way to go. We’ll see how it goes!
“Parenting requires a lot of discernment…and wisdom.” That was what Bethany said over breakfast this morning. No doubt, she’s absolutely right.
We were discussing whether or not to take Titus to school today. He’s not sick or anything, it’s just today in Czech they are celebrating Saint Nicholas Day (Mikuláš). The best description I have found of the holiday is on a Czech tourism site that describes it this way,
The charming tradition of St. Nicholas falls on the eve of St. Nicholas Day, December 5th. If you find yourself walking the streets on that evening, you may run into a group of strange characters: St. Nicholas (Mikuláš), the Angel (anděl) who represents the Good, and the Devil (čert) representing the Evil. All wear costumes. Mikuláš looks a bit like Santa Claus whose origin was supposedly inspired by St. Nicholas. All three characters walk the streets, stopping children and asking them if they were good in the past year. Most kids say yes and sing a song or recite a short poem. They are then rewarded with sweets, candy or other treats, which are handed out by the Angel. Bad kids would be put in the Devil’s sack and taken to hell, or would only get a sack of potatoes or coal instead of candy – of course it does not really happen!
Bethany tried speaking with other missionary families and just get their insight to the holiday, especially in regards to letting Titus go to school where they were going to have Mikuláš, the angel, and devil in class today. It’s not easy, to be quite honest. We’re trying to think about your Christian witness. We’re trying to think through Titus’ emotions and age. We’re trying to think through the cultural aspect and things we need to adjust to versus things we need to refrain from. I don’t know if there’s a specific right or wrong answer, but mostly it’s just discernment and what’s best for our family, for Titus, and what we believe honors Christ the most.
In the end we decided not to send Titus to school today. We both felt like Titus’ age was a big factor and he’s already scared of other things. This would be like through him into the fire of fear and that didn’t seem best for him right now. However, we did make it out to a festival this evening in our town which was a helpful intro to our first St. Mikuláš holiday in Czech. I took some photos of the goings-on, so here’s a little taste of what we saw (captions below each).
We walked to the town square where the festival is and we have to cross the road that goes into Poland. They have new lights up across the street and on the lamp posts. It looks great. Basically, as you look down that street you can see Poland.
They had a huge stage and an even bigger Christmas tree setup in the town square. On stage you can see Mikuláš, the devil, and the angel giving out treats to kids. They were calling kids up on the stage, but I don’t know how you get your kid on the list?
There were a lot of people out tonight. It was just above freezing outside and they had coal fires burning around the square. The smell was not pleasant and the air quality was worse.
Above is a photo of what I’ll translate as the “Jesus Post Office.” Traditionally, in Czech culture, Jesus brings the presents on Christmas even and St. Mikuláš brings presents December 5. At the place above you could write letters to the baby Jesus in the same way you would write letters to Santa Clause in the States. I wonder where they mail them?
I got closer to the stage to get photos of Mikuláš and what was going on. Here you see him and the angel talking to some kids. The devil was off to the side taunting kids (not pictured).
Almost like Main St. at Disneyland kids had glowing hats, swords, and even light up devil horns. They were being sold in the town square. I got this photo of one such kid on their parents shoulders as they watched the stage.
Another little kid with light up devil horns. Funny, I don’t remember seeing any kids with light up angel halos?
We actually got in on the light up toy fun, but only because I thought they looked like light sabers. Here’s Avery and Titus checking out their little light saber things I got for them. They were literally $2 and our kids thought they were great.
Interestingly enough, they did have a pretty large nativity scene to the right of the stage. Our Czech friend Jenny (who is actually a full fledge American citizen now) pointed out that no one is offended her by the origins of Christmas. Even though it’s so atheistic here, they still know the origin but many just believe it to be a fairytale.
Around the outside of the square were vendors selling all kinds of things. Many had trinkets and decorations, especially Christmas decorations. We didn’t buy anything, but it’s always fun to see handmade stuff in another country.
Other shops included the two you see above which were selling various meats. Both vendors had their own vans which open up to sell from and it’s not uncommon to see these guys parked outside of the grocery store.
Afterwards we had a pizza dinner near the town square with our friend Rachael who had accompanied us during the evening. It was a very interesting thing to see and experience. I’m not sure what I think just yet, but it’s good to continue to be a student of the culture here and get more inside the minds of how Czechs think and what they value. As I prayed for our meal tonight, I prayed for the country of Czech. I was reminded by the things we saw tonight that this place needs Jesus. Pray with us that we would continue to learn the language, the culture, and the people and be a witness for Christ!
Today is St. Martin’s Day in the Czech Republic. Mostly it’s a European holiday, and in Czech it’s celebrated with a goose or duck meal. I was with some teammates today at a restaurant and everything was duck. I even had what I’ll call duck noodle soup. This particular restaurant even offered a family size goose meal if you ordered in advance. You could say today’s specials were duck, duck, or goose (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Today is also the Czech name day for “Martin.” Every day of the year has a name associated with it in Czech and today is Martin. I can only assume that’s on purpose. Below is a photo of the chalk board sign they had at up at the restaurant today.
As I did a little online research on St. Martin’s Day, I found a few interesting things. One thing actually helped explain something from the other night that I didn’t understand. Remember when we were at Titus’ preschool and we walked around town with lanterns? Well, in most Western European countries, they have been doing this for many years in the days leading up to St. Martin’s Day. According to Wikipedia, in Germany “children walk in processions carrying lanterns, which they made in school, and sing Martin songs. Usually, the walk starts at a church and goes to a public square.” This is almost exactly what Titus did the other night which really helps explain at least the origin of the tradition for me.
The second interesting thing I read was that in Czech, St. Martin’s Day signifies the first half of November when it usually starts to snow. Today that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even as I type at 9:00pm, it’s only 55 degrees out and just a few hours ago I was playing tennis outside in the driveway with the kids at it was 60. There was a lady working in our entry way (she works for our landlord who lives upstairs) and she said to me, “teplo noc” which means “warm night.” I said, “Ano! Moc templo” which means “Yes! Very warm.” Now, you might think 60 degrees isn’t that warm for some parts of the world but for here it’s very nice. When you only have to wear a sweatshirt and not a snow jacket outside, you know it’s nice. I’ll take a teplo noc any day in November.
I was really encouraged today by some Czech language CDs that a teammate gave to my team. I started listening to them in the car today and in an hour’s worth of time (round trip to the JV office and back) I learned a bunch of new phrases. It helps that we’ve been engaged in language already, but I was able to talk a little tonight with our landlord. It’s amazing how even just being to say, “I understand” or “I don’t understand” can keep a conversation going. My landlord and I talked about a light being broken in the garage and what I got out of the conversation is that she wants me to email her. As always, I’ll take the win with that one!
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.
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!
Check out this taco seasoning! They got us two pouches and we are STOKED!
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.
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.
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!
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.”