Wednesday, October 30, 2013

One of those mornings

You know those mornings?

Not those, as in, the kind that frazzle you, and send you into a crazy day. (Though there are plenty of those, it seems)

I'm talking about the ones when you savor the dawn, listening to the rain drizzling outside, as the sun pulls its cloudy covers back over its head.

Those mornings when you actually have a moment to sit, to think, to prepare for the day.

Those mornings when you read the Word, and actually soak in its meaning for you. These days, for some reason, my heart has been drawn to my Czech Bible, and reading those words is soothing, and feels like home.

Those mornings are sweet, unique, and precious.

I had one of those mornings today.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Hopped on a train

This weekend, I got to visit Emily, a friend I met in Czech this Spring. She came out with her church to visit BMA, so she knows Frydlant and that whole world! Her family lives in the suburbs of Chicago, and she invited me over for baking, photo-adventuring, dog-cuddling, couch-relaxing, tea-drinking, movie watching, and fall-appreciating. We did all of those things!



Emily is a budding photographer!

Thanks for having me, Emily, and Mr. and Mrs. Bergmann! (And thank you for all the yummy treats you sent back too. Chocolate chip cookies, homemade salsa, brownies, apples, and stir-fry taste even more amazing when I'm used to having to eat cafeteria food!) 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Europe in my backyard

It all started with a sunny day, a light breeze, and a free hour between classes and PCM.

I was sitting on the lawn outside of Moody, soaking in the colorful leaves and rays of sunshine, reading my Bible. I felt so happy just to be in the fresh air.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw an older lady walking veeeeery slowly up the sidewalk towards me. I could tell she was staring at me, so of course, I was very aware of her presence. (I am in the city, after all... anything could happen)

This lady kept slowly drawing nearer, and finally stopped right next to me. I looked up from where I was sitting on the ground, and she started talking to me in very broken English.

"You should never sit on the ground. You will get sick," she said.

For the next couple of minutes she calmly and sweetly scolded me for sitting outside in the Fall, telling me all the reasons why it was so bad. She kept reminding me that it was very dangerous. According to her, I should never ever sit on the ground (unless it's July or August), because I may get sick, or not be able to have children. Yep, she said that.

As soon as she started talking, I got the biggest smile on my face. It only took that one statement about sitting on the ground to realize that she was probably European. That, and her accent sounded familiar. After a little while, I interrupted her (politely), and asked her where she was from.

"Moskva," she answered. Moscow, Russia.

I've never been to Russia, but I still instantly felt a bond between us, as from two Slavic countries. When I told her that I was from the Czech Republic, she didn't understand me at first. It wasn't until I said "Česká republika", that she got it. She repeated "Czech" to me, but in Russian:

"Ahh.... Čechy??"

"Yes!" I replied.

From that point on, there was a connection between us. We introduced ourselves (though I can't remember her name now), and I learned that she is/was a holistic doctor, and lives in Jenkins (one of the dorms on the outskirts of campus, which is also a home for seniors). She also told me that she attends the Orthodox church down the road from Moody, and knows some Czech people there. All the time, she was speaking with many pauses, trying to find the right words to express herself in her second language.

She guessed that I was a Moody student, and asked me if my parents were Baptist.

"Well, no, not exactly... ummm...."

"Oh, Protestant?" she asked.


"But we have the same.... we have the same...uh...uhh..." She searched for the correct word. I told her she could try saying it in Russian. I understood her. I translated what she said into English, and she repeated after me.

"But we have the same Lord Jesus Christ," she said with conviction.

Yes, yes we do.

She radiated. I felt giddy inside.

I stood up off the ground, figuring there was no way I was going to get out of that. I've heard this lecture before in Czech about sitting on the ground, and a European grandma will not give up when it comes to health. She told me one more time not to sit outside, on the grass, or on the concrete. I thanked her, and said, "God bless you." She took my hand and then hugged me, and kissed me on the cheek.

We said goodbye.

Never, ever, would I have expected to have that kind of encounter while sitting on the lawn outside of Moody on a Friday afternoon. Who knows where she really was spiritually, but what she did say blew me away. We have the same Lord Jesus Christ.

Even though we come from different church backgrounds, and we probably have very different doctrines, and understandings of what it means to be a Christian, she still grasped what was most important: Jesus is our Lord.

When I moved to Chicago, I didn't anticipate that I would encounter Eastern Europe so powerfully here.

I'm thankful I did.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sharing and reminiscing

I am loving my American friends. Truly, they have been such a blessing, and I am thankful for the community here at Moody.

Sometimes, though, connecting with someone who understands where you're coming from is so needed.

I met Hannah the very first week I was at Moody. She was here for the International and Missionary Kid orientation, before all the other freshman arrived. She's also on my floor, a few doors down from my room.

(We also have PCM together - this was our first week there, when we painted shelves for the after-school program we now help out at... wow, that seems like a long time ago now)

Hannah's family currently lives in Tunisia, and Hannah herself spent more than 3 years of her growing up years overseas. That may not seem like a lot, since she lived in the States the rest of the time, but living in a foreign country impacted her life in a way that's hard to explain. Hannah and I get each other.

Tonight we were going to go to an event together, but when we got to the room where it was held, we found out that it had been moved. We considered going to the event in its new location, but ended up spending the next hour talking about classes, professors, but then also about experiences overseas, and culture differences between countries.

I loved hearing stories about Tunisia, and Malta, where she lived. We smiled at similarities and learned things from the differences between Europe and North Africa. We understood each other's longing for travel, and change, and airports, and cultures, and other languages.

My friends at Moody have been so good about asking questions about Czech, and being interested, but usually, we all just start "fresh" with relationships. We talk about what is important to us now, where we are here. We just live life together.

I think this aspect of starting "from scratch" with relationships in college, is one of the best growing experiences, and so much bonding happens because of it.

But it's also good (and healthy) to reminisce at times, to praise the cultures we came from, and to be able to value each other's pasts. Hannah and I know what it's like to be torn between two places, and yet to belong to both at the same time.

What joy I feel from expressing those thoughts out loud, and having someone to share those with. I'm thankful for Hannah.

Speaking of reminiscing... here's a "Throwback Thursday" photo... of home!

I can't dwell on the past, but I can acknowledge it, and value it just as much as the present. I'm in the process of learning that.

Monday, October 21, 2013


I have been in the United States of America for exactly 67 days. That's more than two months. That's the longest I've ever been in the States!

How am I handling it, you might ask?

Well, here are the things that I am loving about my passport country...

- Classes in my "mother tongue" - it definitely makes reading smoother, and writing go faster!
- It's easy to make "friends" with people - in the generalized meaning, friends = people to talk with, and greet happily when you see them.
- Gluten-free cupcakes - enough said.
- Trader Joe's - a place I go weekly.
- Not being afraid to talk on the phone (as much) - it's a lot less intimidating in English than in Czech, when talking to strangers!
- Being able to have a job.
- Free samples - these seem to be a normal thing... at least in Chicago! Ghiradelli's, Wholefoods, Plum Market, and Trader Joe's have samples every time you walk into the store.
- Exploring Chicago - there are so many places to go in the city - it's crazy!
- Coffee shops - again, lots of choices - from eclectic, to busy, to fancy, to cozy.
- Events - there are always opportunities to attend something fun (in the city).

On the flip side, there are things that I miss about Czech...

- Friends - of course!
- Speaking two languages in a day - I really miss speaking Czech regularly.
- Dark chocolate - it's just not the same here (thankfully, Mom brought me some from home! Thank you Mom!)
- Grocery stores - I love that you can buy ANYthing in Chicago stores, but it's also overwhelming every time I shop. How am I supposed to know what kind of toothbrush, apples, or sugar I want?? There are so many choices!! I usually walk out of a store with only one or two things, just because I can't decide what I actually need, versus what I think I want. 
- Quiet - everything seems quieter in Czech - even the restaurants and stores are quieter there.
- The mountains - there simply are none here in Illinois.
- Greeting people with "Dobry Den" ("Good day") - I honestly miss this! It's just not the same saying "hello"; it seems impolite sometimes!
- Birds singing - I realized not long ago that I hardly ever hear birds in the city. *sigh*

I'll enjoy what is here for this season of life. There will always be things I love about both places, and that's a good thing, I think.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sunday Cafe

It all started here:

My to-do list for today included these four things; the most important being the fourth point: Go somewhere new (preferably with friends). *Side note: CM is a class (Christian Missions).

I searched online for "best coffee shops for studying in Chicago", and found a nice-looking one not far from here called the Bourgeois Pig. A couple girls from my floor joined me, and we had a little Sunday outing!

While we were sitting in the coffee shop (which is extremely relaxing, quaint, and eclectic), I was hearing some great contemporary folk music. Of course, I figured it must be a CD playing in the cafe. When I went back downstairs to get some water, however, to my surprise, here's what I saw!

Live music! They are a group called Ask Your Folks (check them out on Facebook), from a nearby college. They made my day. They were all so talented. 

Like I've said before, it's hard to find quiet, restful places in Chicago. Though this wasn't necessarily quiet, it was extremely restful and fun. I'd definitely recommend the Bourgeois Pig!

Thank you Lord for this day!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Missions Conference

This past week was Moody's Missions Conference. I have never been at anything like it!

Every year, Moody hosts a conference that focuses on God's work all around the world. They bring in missionaries, speakers, musicians, artists and others who are following Christ (literally) to the ends of the earth.

"Jesus said: 'Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'” - Matthew 28:19-20

It was an inspiring week - one that I don't think I'll forget any time soon. There were so many parts to it that reminded me of how small I am, and how big God is. He is able to do more than we could ever imagine!

(Thanks to the Moody Facebook page for this photo of Christine Caine, one of the guest speakers this year.) 

The theme of this year's conference was "Into the Darkness"... may God's light continue to shine brightly! 

"You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light." Psalm 18:28

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The stories behind the gifts

Among the new additions to my dorm room since my birthday:

This little lamp:

Both of these things were gifts from my brothers.

I first saw succulents on Instagram. Apparently, they are the "in-thing" among that crowd these days. Not sure how that happened! Just search the hashtag "#succulent", or "#succulentlove" and you will find so many photos! I remember having a conversation with Tyler one day about succulents, and we agreed that they are pretty cute, but mostly funny, because they're so random.

Tyler remembered that conversation and get me a succulent for my birthday - simply awesome. That made me laugh. I do kind of love it now.

In our home in Czech, we have a couple of lamps that make me happy. Mom has collected them through the years, and now we have about three of these "stained-glass" lamps. Caleb thought I needed a piece of home in my dorm room, so he got me this lamp to brighten my room. It's one that's supposed to have a candle in it, instead of lightbulbs. We're not allowed to have candles in our dorms though, so he got fake LED ones to suffice! Perfect. 

It's these little things that have made my room feel home-y. These little things tell me that my brothers know me and care. Mom and Dad, and Lara and Haley do too. I'm thankful for family and even for the reminders of their love that now sit on my desk.

Monday, October 14, 2013


Surrounded by buildings. People everywhere I go. Busy streets. Never silent. 

This is downtown Chicago.

Now, of course, there is also the good side: never a dull moment, always new places to discover, walking everywhere, meeting new people, delicious coffee, lots of exploring. Both of these aspects are true though - the good and the hard. This is city living.

It becomes tiring sometimes - the not-so-normal lifestyle of living on a college campus, in the middle of the city. My mom always says though: It's all about contrast. Your view on things changes so much when you can see things in perspective, and experience something completely different from "normal". 

This weekend was a good change of pace, and place. 

This weekend I was reminded of what it is to be grounded. Being with family, friends, at a home, cooking - doing what I love with the ones I love.

The Russells, family friends from church, graciously hosted us in their home in Wheaton. They were inviting, generous, and provided a "safe place" for the weekend. I can't thank them enough for that!

It was incredibly refreshing to sit in the living room and hear crickets outside, to go to sleep in the quiet, to wander down to a home-cooked breakfast, to take my time and just sit, without needing to do anything else. I loved grocery shopping with Mom and Haley, baking cookies, and making soup. Those little things that used to be normal at home are now so valuable to me.

It really is all about contrast. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Caleb and Haley: Snapshots

One of the huge blessings of being here at Moody is living so close to my brothers, and sister(/future)-in-laws.

Caleb and Haley have let me tag along so many times, and never have I felt like a "third wheel". They are welcoming and fun! It's been cool getting to know them as a couple, and realizing more and more how perfect they are for each other.

I love you both!

By the way - only 228 days until Caleb and Haley's wedding!!

P.S. These two are so photogenic- their wedding photos are going to be stunning! :) 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Birthday: 19.

I got to celebrate my birthday with my parents yesterday. It was an absolutely beautiful day, full of lovely leaves, doors, cupcakes, and sunshine. I couldn't have asked for a more lovely way to start my 19th year. 

What fun to wander through streets... 

These cupcakes, at Swirlz, are THE BEST. They have gluten-free, vegan ones that I can eat!! They are absolutely right...

I was completely happy, enjoying looking up at trees and buildings, and soaking in the blessings of the day. As always, it's the little things.

19 - here I come!! 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

They're here!

It all started here this afternoon:

I met these two on the plaza to head out... 

...Took the CTA (Chicago Transit) to O'Hare. We walked up to terminal 1.

All for this:

Today Mom and Dad flew in to Chicago! What a joy to see them again, though I have to say, slightly strange too! After moving across an ocean, it's crazy to see familiar faces from home here! I am so happy that they'll get to be here for a week, and then that they'll be at least on the same continent, in a more similar time zone to me. They'll be on their "second leg" of furlough, and it all starts here, in Chicago.

I didn't even get any more pictures after that last one, because, as you can see, Mom had her camera at the ready too! Us girls - had to capture the memory from both sides. It's not every day that we get to pick up our parents at the airport, and it's not every day that Mom and Dad are picked up by their kids!

We have a lot of catching up to do even after just these 50 days. Glad they'll be more here for a bit!