Sunday, July 27, 2014

Outlets and Door Knobs

One of the questions I got most often in the States while working at Gull Lake was, "what are the biggest differences between here and Czech?"

One of these things is not like the other...

There are plenty of big differences! But that's a longer conversation. There are some little things though that I've especially noticed since being home again.

To give you a glimpse, here are five random differences between the two places I call "home"...

1. Electrical outlets

When I moved to the States, I actually missed European outlets! I find that plugs always fall out in America. I just always seem to be trying to balance a plug in an outlet because the prongs are so skinny and slip out easily! But I talked to another missionary friend here who is from the States who said the exact opposite - he misses American outlets. So it must be a matter of what you're used to.

2. Cars

The Ford F-Series (pickups, in essence) are the most popular cars in the States. We don't even have any form of pickup trucks here in Czech. People opt for smaller cars with good gas mileage.  Big cars are not really a thing here. It's all about efficiency. Trucks are a big deal in the States though, and they're useful too for different purposes!

3. Bathroom stalls

Yep, that's right. They are different! (So is cheap toilet paper, by the way) Czech bathroom stalls typically go from floor to ceiling, and don't have gaps between the door and the stall. Some people might feel claustrophobic because you're basically in a tiny room a lot of the times, but I find that it's way less awkward that way.

When I worked at Gull Lake, some of the five-year-olds thought it was the funniest thing to lock the door and crawl out beneath the door. When I was a kid, I can recall panicking because I would lock myself into a bathroom and there was no way out but through the door. I guess there's advantages to both kinds!

4. Roads

Roads everywhere in Czech are so much smaller than in the States! Even a road through a small town in Michigan is much wider than our road that goes through town here. Again, there are advantages and disadvantages to this too. Small roads = also less cars, hence less stressful sometimes, but not always. Big roads = more space, not as tight, but there are also a lot more cars, so maneuvering can be stressful at times.

Last but not least...

5. Door handles vs. Door knobs

Ooh, which is better, do you think? 

I can't think of a house in Czech that I've seen door knobs in. We have them on some random old doors, but it's definitely not the norm. All outside and inside doors have door handles on them (which I personally find a lot easier to use!). What would your preference be?

Those are just some of the small differences. I wish I could sit with you over coffee and talk about all the other differences too. I find it fascinating and curious to talk about. 

(All images were found on Google)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Krakow: A Gem

I can't remember the last time I went to Krakow just to visit and enjoy the city. It's not too far of a drive from home, but I don't remember even seeing some of the most famous sights in Krakow. 

Some friends from the States came to stay with us for a couple of days before heading to their English Camp on the other side of Czech. When they mentioned they would love to see Krakow, I was thrilled when Mom got excited about the idea and we made plans to take a trip there the next day. I finally got to see the city on a beautiful summer day and enjoy it without any other agenda (like an airport run, or passport renewal, etc). 

It could not have been a more perfect day to stroll across plazas, into gardens and down cobblestone roads. 

It's good to be in Europe again. I'm thankful for new friends (on my part), old friends (Yvonne knew my parents 29 years ago!), and the majesty of the Lord, which He displays through His creation and by how he gifted people to make such beautiful things like castles and palaces.

P.S. Thankfully, the flu was only a 24-hour one, so I felt fine again in Krakow. Thank you Lord!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Red Currants and an Angel

I got the stomach flu yesterday. I was up most of the night, reliving many years of my childhood. Growing up I had an extremely weak immune system (because of a mold allergy and a mold-infested home...but that's another story) and I often caught even the smallest bug. As a kid, my system collapsed easily and it took days, sometimes weeks, to recover.

Thank you to all those who prayed for me as a kid. I can't remember the last time I was really sick, which is a miracle. I caught a cold once this past year and now have this 24 hour bug, but compared to my childhood, those things are completely normal. God has strengthened my body in ways that I could never imagine and I thank Him every time I do get sick, because it reminds me of all that He has already brought me through.

Although being sick is never fun, there is no other couch I'd rather spend the day on than the one inside the yellow house with its red roof: home. Mom brought me Sprite and toast when I needed it, I didn't have any other responsibilities I needed to report back to, and I knew where the medicine cabinet was at 3AM.

The best surprise of today? Even our dear neighbor wanted to help. "Pani Andelova" (Mrs. Andelova) lives next-door and comes to visit us many days a week. She rings our doorbell until we come and then gives us the biggest smile and we chat at the front door. She may lead a simple life, but her faith is childlike and genuine. She came to say hello today and when she found out I was sick, her first response was to go home and pray for me.

An hour later, I heard the doorbell ring again and again and easily recognized it was pani Andelova. What I didn't expect was this:

She told my mom at the front door that as she was praying for me, she remembered that when she was little, her mom used to give her red currants when she had a fever. So she picked some from her yard and brought them over. Mom put them in a bowl for me and thanked pani Andelova. Our neighbor doesn't even know that red currants are such a comforting food to me because I only ever eat them in Czech during the Summer.

What a precious reminder of how the Lord cares for us even in the midst of a small flu.

Oh, and one more tidbit about pani Andelova. Her last name translated means "angel". So Mrs. Angel lives right next-door. If that's not comforting, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

First Time Home

353: The number of days since I was last at home. 

2 airplanes and I'm back. It's pretty surreal. 

And I can't even begin to say how good it feels.

I've seen my parents quite a few times this past year because they were on sabbatical/home assignment for 8 months. But I haven't been home in a year. It was wonderful having my siblings in the States, and I loved seeing my parents often, but I will say, it was hard in a unique way feeling disconnected from home.

When I left for college, I was uprooted. I knew it would happen. I didn't expect that it would be so difficult to not have any family in Czech when I left home. I felt like life stopped at home. It seemed that life in Czech had just been a dream. I knew my memories and could recall stories and friendships, but why did it feel so distant? My anchor of home ceased to be constant.

These are things that all TCKs have to face - a constant struggle between homes. Where does true life happen? Where do we actually belong? Both places. And neither. When I'm in one place, I'm all there, but it's hard to be a part of both at once. That's why it gets complicated when you leave part of yourself in each place. I'm still working on being able to be everything at once. All experiences and places form who I am today.

My hope for these next 4 weeks that I'm here is to get re-rooted in Czech so that when I go back to the States, my heart is firmly planted in both of my homes - the States and Czech. My other prayer is that being here will remind me of my true roots in Christ.

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." - Colossians 2:6-7

Monday, July 21, 2014

Patty Party of 5

Look who I got to see on Saturday again!

Yep! My siblings came to pick me up from Gull Lake!

After turning in my keys and saying a few last goodbyes, it was time to wave goodbye to Gull Lake and head to Grand Rapids together to celebrate Tyler's 24th birthday before returning to Chicago.

Lara had scoped out some fun places to go in Grand Rapids, which was only about an hour's drive from Gull Lake.

Marie Catrib's was one of those places that she found and we enjoyed some delicious and unique gluten-free sandwiches there. What a treat to sit around a table with my family again!

Next up was the real reason we came to Grand Rapids: Madcap Coffee. Tyler and Lara had been in Grand Rapids this spring when Tyler presented a theological paper at ETS (Evangelical Theological Society). Since Tyler works at Intelligentsia in Chicago, he and Lara are pretty picky particular about their coffee - they know their stuff! When they had coffee at Madcap in the Spring, they both agreed that it was some of the best they'd ever had. So of course, we had to make a stop by here.

We took our coffee to go and headed down the street to the boardwalk on the river. A picnic blanket was all it took to make a quaint spot to sit down and enjoy some of Lara's homemade pecan and pear pie and open a few gifts.

It doesn't take much to make a day happy when we're with those we love!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY Tyler!! I am beyond thankful for you. You have taught me so much and have always been an example to me. Your creativity inspires me and your dedication to the Lord and His plans is so strong! I love getting to live life with you and Lara in Chicago these years.