Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Stress and Relief

In times where lots of details need to be juggled and tasks are fast-approaching, I tend to slip into a sense of burden, which absolutely displays itself physically as well. These burdens today were not due to any one thing, just the compilation of all the little pressures and come afternoon, I felt uptight and tense all over again. So as midterms are approaching, projects are due, and reading continues steadily, I found myself wanting to use the word I dislike so much, but had to admit: stressed.

Yet amidst this, something the Lord has been teaching me (and convicting me about) is to take everything to Him first of all - with prayer and petition (Philippians 4:6-7 - seems to be a theme verse for Claire's life). So I prayed and asked the Lord to take these burdens from me. This is not a once-and-done prayer, but He did answer even today, though not without my own involvement.

I have started running once or twice a week with my roommate in the mornings, since it's been so nice in Chicago and we both wanted motivation to get outside. Don't get me wrong - running has never been my thing. I am shocked that I have actually enjoyed these short runs on crisp Chicago days before the city awakes. Yet somehow, I have (surprising, huh, Uncle Mike?). But it wasn't until today that I felt the need to run (and then end up walking) to relieve stress.

Because this is not usually an idea or desire of my own, I truly see it as the Lord answering my prayer in an unexpected way. Thank you Father, for this sweet gift of seeing your handiwork, even in Chicago, and being completely refreshed by that on this stressful/normal day.

In other news - the Chicago Marathon is next weekend! Now that's for the real runners!!

And also, in learning about Stress in one of my classes this week (timely, huh?), I think I can classify my own lately as Eustress, not Distress. It is the kind of stress that is pushing me and teaching me, though definitely challenging and sometimes burdensome when I try to handle it on my own! Praise Him for His constant presence and for guiding us as believers each step of the way! 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Tyler and Lara - Maternity Photos!

I was thrilled to finally get to take these photos for Tyler and Lara - the first of many featuring my nephew! Ah! We're all incredibly excited to see his face soon. In just a few weeks we will get to meet the little guy, but until then, these parents are already wonderful. 

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.