Friday, April 23, 2010

Hard Goodbyes

We are saying some hard goodbyes this week. Friends have prepared special meals for us. We feel so loved! God has richly blessed us to have these friendships here in Macedonia and we will miss them all.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Matka Canyon & The Vrelo Cave

We spent most of today at Matka. Matka (the Macedonian word for "womb") is a canyon and lake just outside of Skopje, Macedonia. We have been to Matka several times, but today was extra special because we went for a boat ride to the cave, and also ate lunch inside a cave! What a fun, adventurous day! Sawyer had a blast!

This shows the inside of the cave restaurant.

Our family inside the cave restaurant at Matka.

This shows the fish holding/growing area. These fish are caught and used for the outdoor Matka restaurant.

Here is someone's summer home on Matka lake.

There are many stalactites in Vrelo Cave at Matka.

According to Wikipedia, Vrelo Cave has many stalactites including a large one in the middle of the cave is known as the "Pine Cone" due to its shape. I think this picture I took must be the large one they are describing on Wikipedia. Do you see the pine cone one on the lower left side?

Look close and you might can see the bats. Besides hearing the awful sound the bats make, it wasn't too creepy. Before we went inside the cave, I asked Sawyer what he thought would be inside. He replied, "Giants!" Also, when we were entering the cave he said, "Mommy be very careful so you don't fall in the water." Isn't he sweet?

This picture shows the light inside the cave that is ran by a generator.

We traveled to the cave in this boat. Eric had already taken this boat ride to the cave before, so he stayed on shore with Olivia while Sawyer and I went.

This huge climber's spike was put at Matka as a memorial for a mountain climber that died while climbing at Matka. Many climbers go to Matka, and we met two today.

We were thankful to get to visit Matka again before leaving Macedonia.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Question 2

What were my greatest challenges of living overseas?

Picture of homemade waffles & syrup-- both of which I learned how to make overseas.

In this blog post, I want to share some of the struggles I have had living overseas. Let me first say that the joys and delights of living overseas have highly out-weighed the struggles! I am only documenting these challenges for you to read, and for me to remember what my life was like here in Macedonia.

Laundry has been a big challenge for me here. Being without a clothes dryer makes laundry much more time consuming. On hot summer days the clothes dry outside easily; and on very cold days the clothes dry inside our home lying on the heaters. It’s the in-between days (mainly in fall and spring), and those rainy days when the laundry pile seems to grow higher and higher. I wonder if I will ever get caught up. We are accustomed to stiff towels and blue jeans now, even though I use a large amount of fabric softener. I am very thankful that I have had a washing machine because many, many people around the world must wash their clothes by hand (including many of our Roma friends) and hang them out to dry.

Prior to coming to Macedonia, I was starting to feel very confident in my kitchen preparing foods for my family. Once we arrived here, all of that changed! First of all, my kitchen appliances are really small. My mom commented, on one of her visits, that she felt like she was cooking in a play house. Seriously, everything is really small – a small fridge, a small stove and oven, and a small sink. Cooking with Celsius readings and trying to find the ingredients I need for recipes has also been challenging. Many times I have been able to find substitutions to make a meal close to what it would taste like in America. But other times, I just give up and say we’ll wait until we get back to America to eat that particular thing again. These cooking trials have been very good for me, because I’ve learned to cook many things from scratch that I would have never attempted before. For example, I started making my own pancake and waffle syrup because the only kind that is here in the stores is very expensive. Also, since cookies, cakes, and brownie mixes cannot be found here, I started making those from scratch. I learned how to make a delicious cream cheese frosting when I would have normally just bought a can of Pillsbury in the states and been done with it. With all this said, I am not proclaiming at all to be a gourmet chef . . . I am only saying that I am thankful that I was taken out of my cooking comfort zone.

Another challenge aspect to life here in the Balkans is hot water. For our bathroom and kitchen, I must always remember to turn the switch on to pre-heat the water, but to not leave it on too long and run up the power bill. There have been many times that we have forgotten to pre-heat the hot water, and have had to wait a while to get that hot shower we were so badly wanting.

Driving here is quite different than in America. I haven’t been able to psyche myself to try it here. Eric has done well, so I just let him drive us everywhere:) First of all, I’m not confident at driving a stick shift. Second, with the crazy traffic here and how most people drive, I just decided my life would be much less stressful if I just let Eric drive us, or take a taxi or bus.

A spiritual challenge for me has been not having an English speaking church. The music and sermons at Bozje Glas (translation – God’s Voice), where we attend, is all in Macedonian. Therefore, I can only understand some of what is being taught. Thankfully, many of the songs are translations from English songs that I already know, so I can understand many songs. I have missed having a Sunday school class for myself and also for Sawyer.

Family Picture at Kale

Here's our family in August 2007 on our vision trip to Macedonia.

Now here's our family in 2010! Both of these pictures were taken at Kale, A Turkish Fortress here in Skopje.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Question 1

What Scripture passages have meant the most to me during my time in Macedonia?

1 Timothy 1:15-17 (New International Version)
15Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 17Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

I’m so thankful that God displays his “unlimited patience” in me! He shows me a lot of patience every single day! I have not been worthy to be his ambassador in a foreign land but he graciously allowed it, for which I am thankful to Him.

Philippians 4:4-9 (New International Version)
4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

I think Phil. 4:6 is my life verse! In my sinfulness, I am often anxious about things, but God has used my time in Macedonia to remind me over and over again to trust Him. I had to choose to trust Him when we had transportation issues, electricity problems, language and cultural barriers, and more. He is SO trustworthy and I know that I am sinning every time that I doubt Him. I thank Him so much for being my stronghold!

Also this passage has meant a great deal to me because it helps me to put my thoughts into check. Every time I question whether or not I am thinking rightly, I can go through this check list and ask myself, “Is it true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy?”. If it is not, then I simply don’t need to focus my thoughts, time, and energy on them.

Jonah 2:8-9 (New International Version)
8 "Those who cling to worthless idols
forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
9 But I, with a song of thanksgiving,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
Salvation comes from the LORD."

The Lord spoke to me this morning through these verses. There are a lot of things that I want once we return to the states. God reminded me through this scripture that there is nothing wrong with having these desires as long as they do not become idols in my life. I must be able to live contently without them. Contentment…contentment…contentment…what a valuable trait and what a God-honoring trait we should all strive for in life! Am I willing to be like Paul in Philippians 4:11-13?

Philippians 4:11-13 (New International Version)
11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

New Center

In this picture: John (left), Eric (middle), and Andy (right)

We had a great group of Lifeway volunteers here last week. Our team has rented a new building to be used for sewing classes, English classes, and Bible study. Here Eric is scrapping old wallpaper off the wall. They also bleached the walls to get the mold off. The new center should be ready by the end of this month.

If you want to read more about what the Lifeway volunteers did and experienced here, check out this awesome blog

Monday, April 5, 2010

Our last holiday in Macedonia

Here Olivia is wearing her beautiful Easter dress from Grams. I can't get her to smile when I'm taking pictures because she is looking very intently at the camera. :)

Pepi gave Sawyer this chocolate Easter egg. There was a toy car inside!

Neighbors brought by red Easter eggs for the children. The red coloring stands for the blood of Jesus.

With only a little more than three weeks left for us in Macedonia, Easter was the last holiday that we will celebrate here. It was a very non-traditional Easter for us but it was still nice. We had a great Easter service with the Lifeway team that is here. The worship and teaching were led by our dear friend B. Afterwards, we ate sandwiches and chips with the team and then headed home for a picnic in the back yard with our landlords Evka and Blaze.

The custom of the Orthodox Macedonians is to go to the church the night before Easter. They walk around the church three times and then crack and eat eggs. That is what my neighbors were doing Saturday night.

This year, once again, our family continued our tradition of using the Resurrection Eggs with Sawyer. He absolutely loves them and we are just hoping that the truth of the gospel is sinking into his little heart.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


This song has touched my heart so deeply that I want to share it with all of you. Let's worship our Risen Savior and never forget His sacrifice.
Easter Blessings to you, Jill