Friday 26 December 2014

Photo Friday - 26th December

Saturday back in Northern Ireland! It was so fun to be at the Elevate Christmas bash.

It was so good to be back in First Saintfield. It was a joy to share about what God is doing in the morning service. In the evening it was a Christmas carol service - the lights were so pretty!

Walking round Belfast looking at the Christmas lights and drinking hot chocolate in the rain with a close friend was pretty amazing!

So, my friend Rach managed to get some tickets to an amazing little gig in Bangor Abbey. It was Gary Lightbody, the lead singer for Snow Patrol, and some of his friends playing solo acoustic sets in this centuries-old abbey.

It was stunning to hear Snow Patrol songs reimagined for this context, but the most incredible ones were five songs Lightbody had written inspired by Seamus Heaney. It felt like a family concert, with many in the audience related to one of the performers. I loved hearing songs about or inspired by our little country and history. A wonderful night!

There is a great Christmas Eve tradition of some of us dropping in on the Bowmans. Paul even made me a cup of tea declaring it would be "the best cup of tea you'll have all year". I am so grateful for this family.

My family, including my granny's husband and his sister on Christmas Day. So thankful for these people!

This was my entire Boxing Day. I read 500-page and 700-page books over Christmas. Loved squeezing in so much time to read.

Friday 19 December 2014

Photo Friday - 19th December

I try to make a lot of Christmas presents - so some of my free evenings in December looked like this: crafting and a movie or music.

Or like this, knitting in front of the Christmas tree!


I made some cookies and delivered them to my next door neighbour. Super fun. 

December also included printing a year-end update on what God is doing in central and eastern Europe and my life. It was incredible to sit and write it and reflect on the goodness of God.

Our international team all got together to celebrate Christmas the night before I left Czech. It was a lot of fun and I'm so thankful for the people I serve alongside.

In 2013 I had something like nineteen flights. Crazy. In 2014? I had one. From Prague to Dublin on December 18th. I love travelling and people watching, good books and coffee.

Last year I flew back for Christmas on December 23rd. This year I got back a little earlier to squeeze a lot in - on my first day back I went to the dentist, met my home and sending church's new pastor, spent time with various people, and was very, very confused as to what side of the road I should be driving on.

Friday 12 December 2014

Photo Friday - 12th December

It was a joy to be in Poland on Saturday combining some of my favourite things - research and camps - and training youth leaders in how to do research so we can learn how to do camps more effectively and fruitfully. Excited about what God is going to do and what we're going to learn through this project! 

On Sundays I try to take some time to plan the week - and with this one I was trying to plan my time in Czech before NI! It was exciting and good to get on paper much of what I need to do.

Some days this is how I work...

You can't really tell but in this picture there are eight little birds chirping in the bush.

It honestly hasn't been that cold here recently, but my bed got another layer anyway. 

From Wednesday until Sunday we were under a smog warning. The air where  I live is usually pretty bad but for those five days it was five times the legal limit. This is a photo taken outside my Czech teacher's home, she lives eleven kilometres away in a town with many of the factories that make my town's air so bad.

Other days this is how I work! Sitting on my kitchen floor surrounded by notes, tea, and little oranges. 

Monday 8 December 2014


The group picture - borrow from Connie.

Moving to another country and culture inevitably means you start to celebrate a couple of new holidays. One of the fun, new ones for me is Thanksgiving. Not that Thanksgiving is a Czech holiday, of course, but I serve with a wonderful American missions organisation who celebrate it.

So this year on Thursday 27th was my second time celebrating Thanksgiving! Missionaries from Czech, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, and Hungary gathered at our hotel and conference centre in Czech to celebrate.

We start with dinner on Wednesday and go until lunch on Friday and it’s just relational time. On Thursday it starts with a “Turkey Trot” (a 5 kilometre run around a nearby reservoir) and then some flag American football (I kind of ran, I did not play flag football).

The dessert table.. but not even all the desserts!

After that we have Thanksgiving dinner! We get the turkey from a man from our church who raises them. And then everyone brings a few dishes – sides, desserts, stuffing.

After dinner there is a talent show with the kids performing. Being so far from family means they don’t get to have their extended family, aunts, uncles, grandparents at school plays, so for one night we, their extended family, get to watch them perform.

This year I didn’t get to watch the talent show because I was taking the wonderful Yormans to the airport to head off on home assignment. Thankfully driving their seven seater on what I still consider to be the wrong side of the road was very uneventful.

Dave, in the grey shirt, our president, leading us in grace and singing.

I’m so thankful for my Josiah Venture family - for this group of people who understand what it is to leave home and call a new place home. I’m thankful for the relational time we got to spend together.

Just before we said grace before the meal we sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness” – it was a beautiful reminder of God’s incredible faithfulness. Even in new countries, new cultures, and new traditions there is one thing I know, deep deep down know, He is faithful.

And I am thankful.

Sunday 7 December 2014

Christmas, Advent and Hope

There is something so beautiful about seasons. About rhythms. In a new country and culture these look a little different - I don't hear Christmas songs every time I turn on the radio and I don't watch local TV so I don't see the ads. Instead we have special Christmas cookies and things like Saint Mikuláš

But some things don't change. There are still Christmas trees and decorations. I love pulling out my decorations each year because they remind me of different places and people. The star on my tree and one of my nativity sets come from Cardiff. Another nativity group is from Northern Ireland, a beautiful handmade gift from one of my favourite people.

And regardless of the decorations, songs and traditions there is still this period of advent. This season of waiting and re-entering the story. The greatest story. 

For the last number of years I've used the same book in this season. It has daily readings from 1st December right up to Epiphany on 6th January. The book now feels like an old friend with different parts highlights in different years.

I bought this nativity set during my very first trip to the Czech Republic and now it is on my fridge in this country.

This week the readings were mostly about Zechariah. And the words that I can't get out of my head this week? The words Gabriel spoke to Zechariah as he brought the news of a baby to be born to an old, barren couple.

"Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard"

Can you imagine being an old man and hearing those words? Zechariah and Elizabeth had probably prayed those prayers many times - over and over, whispering, crying, longing. They had maybe even stopped saying them over the many years because no answer seemed to come.

Your prayer has been heard. 

As the first candle of advent is lit we remember it signifies hope. We remember the hope of the people of Israel, waiting on their long prophesied Messiah. 

And as I re-enter this story again I am grateful for the hope we have in the baby born at Christmas, and the hope that comes from knowing God hears my prayers.

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned." Isaiah 9:2

Friday 5 December 2014

Photo Friday - 5th December

What my coffee table looks like after small group. We talked about Jesus calming the storm and what we can learn from that story as we encounter fears and worries. I am so thankful for this group!

Advent started on Sunday. I adore advent.

On Tuesday the ice remained. It felt like skating rather than walking. I only left my house to go to the post office.

Czech homework. The hardest part about learning a new language is sometimes the language you speak - the rules of English have been in my head for twenty-six years so it's hard to adjust when Czech rules make no sense in my English-speaking head.

On Thursday I finally went to "rescue" my car from the office. Weirdly the train wasn't running from my town so it started with a replacement bus service, followed by two trains. I'm glad my little car is back nearby again.

On Friday the Christmas lights were switched on! Alongside the traditional Czech festivities

Good old Saint Nicholas

Tonight my little town switched on its Christmas tree lights! Today is the 5th December which means it's Saint Nicholas' day, or Saint Mikuláš here in Czech.

In the run up to today there are angel, demon and Saint Nicholas figures around - including special sweets and breads baked into their shapes. As I drove back from my Czech teacher's home this morning I saw the trio walking outside a primary school. The bad photo above has the trio and a little kid singing.

Why an angel, devil and Saint Nicholas? Why singing?

Well, you should watch this short video to find out! It was shared by the wonderful Petra and it will tell you about these traditions. Tip: it involves threatening little children that they might be dragged off to hell. 

Josef's Terror: St. Nicholas Day in the Czech Republic from Amy Hadley on Vimeo.

Funnily enough there was a nativity set up on the main square today too. It's just accepted as part of the fairy tales surrounding Christmas. 

One of the stalls on the main square had a "Jesus postbox" - a postbox for you to post your letter to Jesus in, because it's baby Jesus who brings the presents on 24th December.

I'm glad the Christmas lights have been switched on, and it was a lot of fun to spend time with the Thomason family tonight, and I'm praying that this Christmas many in this country would come to know the true joy of Immanuel, God with us. 

Monday 1 December 2014

Frozen for six hours with half a kinder egg.

This morning I woke up a little late and was in a rush to leave the house. As I walked to my car I realised that I’d probably need to clear some ice off it. Just before I did I snapped the above picture and planned to post it online with a caption of “Well, at least -4 degrees is pretty.”

I’m sitting at 10.09pm in a car, 10 kilometres from home, and I have changed my mind about it being pretty.

Shortly after 4pm my colleague, whom I brought to work this morning, came into my office and said that her dad had called saying the roads were really bad, like glass, and she decided to sleep in the office building (there’s a little flat in the attic).

I decided to head home but didn’t even leave the town the office is in before I was turned around by an accident (I wasn't involved - it had just closed the bridge) and experienced my car’s ABS.

Oh and getting into my car was an adventure in and of itself – it was literally an ice sheet. Freezing rain and a high of -2 today led to just one big ice sheet over the car.

I headed back to the office and got a lift with Shay, who lives in the same town as me. I'm so grateful I could jump in his car - for the first ten minutes or so me leaving my car at the office didn't seem really justified. It normally takes 30-40 minutes to do the 35km route and we were making good time.

We’ve now been in the car five hours… We have moved less than 0.5km in the last three hours. We’re 10km from home and have heard the road will be closed for another two hours.

We’ve had six police cars, two salting/gritting trucks, two tow trucks, an ambulance, and two fire engines pass us! And by pass us I mean navigate through the two lanes of traffic. It has been crazy.

We also spent time texting Daniel, who was stuck for around five hours on another nearby road. He had two labradoodles in the car! 

We've also all started planning the snacks we're going to keep in our cars... In Shay's car we had a kinder egg that had been smashed already. My car has a few emergency cereal bars but I'm definitely going to throw in another warm jumper.

I think this part is my favourite of the journey - for a long time we were beside a guy with a trailer filled with live fish. After we'd been stopped around an hour he got out and on top of the trailer, opening it and pushing a brush in there to break the ice. 

And, yes, we're writing blog posts in the car.

Our friend Martina is also keeping us updated - the photo above shows a Czech news website and we are the story along the top!

Always an adventure! And welcome December!


At 11.20pm, over six hours after Shay and I left the office, I walked in through my door! They opened up the road and we got home. Many prayers were answered and we are safe! I'm so very glad I decided to turn back and drive with Shay. 

It doesn't look like it'll get above freezing tomorrow, and our usual Tuesday morning meeting had been cancelled when we'd only been stuck in the car two hours. So it'll be a day of working from home (and my boss has already approved a late start!) and hopefully I'll be able to pick up my car later this week!