Thursday, October 1, 2015

Two Homes, One Morning

I woke up in two different houses on Wednesday morning.

After taking Tyler and Lara's maternity photos on Tuesday (!!!), I stayed the night at their place, which is about half an hour outside the city. Since I had class the next morning at 8AM, I rode with Tyler to work bright and early...or I guess, "dark" and early?

The photos were so fun, but I'll save those for another day!

Tyler works in the city, so riding in with him was easy, but it meant leaving their house at 4:45AM! I didn't mind though, since it turned into a morning chat in the car with Tyler. P.S. I'm impressed at his ability to interact before the sun even rises!

The Intelligentsia Tyler works at is actually about five minutes from Caleb and Haley's apartment. At 5:15AM, he dropped me off at their place, I let myself in with the key Caleb and Haley had given me on Monday, crashed on their couch, and woke up an hour later to enjoy breakfast and coffee with Caleb and Haley. I got to have another brother chat then with Caleb as we drove to Moody to catch our morning classes.

Yes, I woke up first in Tyler's and Lara's home, and then woke up the second time at Caleb and Haley's home! What a special and incredible thing to even be able to do on a regular weekday. I don't take these days for granted with my siblings and cherish our time together in Chicago. Patty siblings - thank you for opening your homes and for being loving even before your day really begins. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Goodbye Ferris Wheel

I can't quote Brynna's description exactly, but the word she chose to use for the past 24 hours was this: a celebration.

Brynna leaves Chicago to move to South Africa tomorrow, which is both incredible and sad too. It's mostly the former though, since we all know this is exactly where she should be going and the Lord has her going for this time and purpose to care for three precious foster children. It's beautiful to see His hand in every aspect of her moving overseas, and a privilege to walk through these last days in Chicago with her. 

I'm reminded this week of all of the missionaries that we've welcomed on the "other side" throughout my growing up years in Czech. We were always on the receiving end of faithful servants who had left their own countries to move overseas. I loved when new families or singles would arrive in Czech! I loved new teammates and hearing the stories of all of their journeys. It was a thrill and gave me perspective too, since all I knew was life in Czech (other than visits to the States).

This is the first time I am stateside, watching a friend leave her home to go overseas to serve the Lord and His people. It definitely is different on this end! Yet, I love being a part of the process on both sides. It's painful and it's joyful both at the beginning, and at the destination. It's exciting and amazing to watch God bring His provision of peace to these transitions. I am realizing how much I love to see Him precisely in those places of what is "unknown". 

So instead of this being only a parting, it was a celebration. We celebrated friendship, Chicago, fall foods (which Brynna won't have in South Africa!), delicious warm donuts (even gluten-free!) and early mornings. We celebrated what the Lord has done in the past few years, and what He has in store for each of us - some knowns and many unknowns. 

We picnicked in the city on a patch of grass yesterday. We stared up at the sky, trying to find stars...I think we ended up counting three. (We saw a few airplanes too, so I think that kind of counts in the city?) We got up early to take a free ride on the ferris wheel at 6:30am on Navy Pier, since today is the last day it will ever run (Chicago will be getting a bigger one and replacing the old one). Simple things, but ones that mark this time, this season and an end of a time, but the start of a new one. 

Growing up as a Missionary Kid, my parents really modeled and taught us the importance of saying "goodbye" well. It's a lot more painful to do that in the moment, but so much more rich and deep in the long run. I never liked admitting that I had to say goodbye to those who would leave to go back to the States, but it helped to acknowledge that truth and then act like it really was happening, instead of covering it up with casual see-you-soon's.

This was not just a goodbye to the ferris wheel, but a ride to mark a goodbye to Brynna. Though I do hope to see you soon, Brynna! A reunion will happen somewhere, one day! There was some bitterness in realizing this was a "last" of sorts, but joy in dreaming of gathering again, wherever that may be. Chicago, maybe? Or Czech? Or somewhere completely different? 

I understand just a little tiny sliver now of what it was like for the families and friends saying goodbye to those that we would then see on the other side in Czech. It's unsettling because you don't know exactly when or where you will next see those dear people. It's hard; and yet, you wouldn't have it any other way and you love seeing God's faithfulness. 

So after all, yes, Brynna, we celebrate today. Day by day, the Lord shows His goodness. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Good news! The oven I get to use now doesn't burn things!

The oven we had on our dorm floor tended to burn the bottom of anything baked. Some girls were brave and clever and figured out its quirks so that their cookies were still deliciously golden-brown, but just the uncertainty of it deterred me from baking much in the dorms. Now though, I have an oven that works normally, which definitely makes baking more possible.

Here's a recipe that I highly recommend, particularly if you're someone who has to be a bit more creative with your food choices. These are almond flour snickerdoodles, which just melt in your mouth. Click HERE for the recipe.

I substituted the coconut oil for a dairy-free non-gmo margarine, but I did try out the coconut sugar. Since it's not directly from the coconut (it's from sap), I wanted to see if it would settle well. As far as I can tell, the coconut sugar was fine! It does give these cookies their distinct flavor, so I recommend using it if you're able to!

Let me know what you think of them if you try them out! I kept a few out on the first day, and then froze the rest. They make a great to-go snack - just pop them out of the freezer and in no time they're perfectly soft enough to enjoy. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

AWANA: I'm New Here!

Remember when I switched my major to Children's Ministry, and had no idea what I was doing or why the Lord was leading this way? I had had really no experience with kids at that time, and was baffled at why God had laid this clearly on my heart all of a sudden. The Lord is creative and kind and merciful and knows his children way better than we know ourselves. 

It wasn't until the summer after I changed my major that I worked at Gull Lake for the first time. My PCM was at an afterschool program with kids too. These experiences and more helped affirm that my decision to switch majors was right. Slowly, the Lord has given me such a love and passion for the youngest generation, in ways that I could not have mustered up on my own. I can't wait to see how He continues to lead in what He has prepared for the future. 

For the next semester, and hopefully in the spring too, I'll be helping out with an AWANA program, which serves military kids about an hour outside of Chicago. Military kids are TCK's (which I love!), and I can't wait to get to know them more as we learn about the Word and memorize it. 

We had training today for the PCM, so drove up to the chapel and gathered together. What a dear group of people! We have bonded quickly and the full-time staffers that serve with CRU Military are dedicated, welcoming and have made us feel right at home. I look forward to what's ahead in this next year!

My first time at AWANA two weeks ago was a whirlwind, since I had never participated in those programs as a kid. The closest one was too far for us to go to! I have much to learn about the program, but it's great to just jump in too. I've loved it so far.

Some more backstory on Military Ministry...

It's actually a really sweet thing to get to work with military kids this year. My grandparents helped start Cadence, a missions organization which seeks to reach the military communities in the States and internationally with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Grandpa and Nana (Patty) lived in the Philippines for years doing precisely that, and then spent some years in Germany as well. My mom and dad also worked with military youth, starting up what was then called Malachi Youth Ministries, now Cadence Student Ministries. Even today my uncle and aunt and cousins serve stateside with Cadence. In general, my family has a long history of working alongside, serving and supporting military families. What a privilege it is now to get a small window into that as well "in my backyard" of (the greater lands of) Chicago. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

I Found Chestnuts!

It's become somewhat of a routine now to go grocery shopping either on Sunday afternoons or Monday afternoon. I prefer Monday afternoon, so today I set out on the train to head to my favorite store: Aldi. 

I didn't get any photos of Aldi because, well, it's not very photogenic and isn't the most glamorous store. If you're from Europe, think Lidl (they're actually owned by the same company, I'm told). Aldi's shopping experience may not be at the top, but their prices are the best and so it's kind of a thrill every time I go there!

I took the "L" on this beautiful Chicago day.

Imagine that everything is silent when you look at this photo. Quaint, peaceful and idyllic. Now insert city noise into that with sirens and cars, and you have an accurate portrayal of the scene. 

I settled into a little tiny seating are outside of a coffee shop to work on some homework before heading to the store. There was no way I could pass up sitting outside today! Oh, how I wish I could've sat out in the grass, or perched on a mountainside. But today, this sufficed. Even though cars whizzed by me, I also got to stare at trees and cute coffee shops and watch people go about their daily lives. This neighborhood of Chicago is one of the more peaceful ones in terms of culture and style, so even though it's still not quiet, it was refreshing. 

One of the best surprises about the day: a kaštan!! I grew up collecting chestnuts in Czech every fall. Our school held "chestnut drives" and classes received points for the number of kilograms of chestnuts they could collect. Those points then counted towards a school-wide competition, with the incentive of money towards a trip at the end of the year if your class won. The chestnuts were collected and then sent to foresters to help feed deer during the winter. Such was the life of living in a small town nestled in the Beskydy mountains!

The competition was fierce when it came to collecting kaštany, so of course I tried to play my part in elementary and middle school. Finding a chestnut today reminded me of those days. Chestnut trees abound in Frydlant, but until today, I hadn't stumbled upon any in Chicago. What a treat to find one at my feet on the sidewalk as I carried my groceries back to the train. Obviously, I then went searching for more, but contented myself with only pocketing two of those shiny gems. 

The rest of my day was filled with writing a paper, reading for Systematic Theology, and for my Hebrews class as well. It also included simple things like cooking dinner (butternut squash and kale salad!) and tidying my apartment. Speaking of tidying, we should really get a vacuum soon. The realities of daily life are made up of such details. Thanks for going along for the ride!

(Gotta love the iPhone photos, by the way! I don't get to carry around my camera on my daily outings, so most of my photos these days come from my phone!)