Sunday, November 30, 2014

Homes and Dorms

I've always been more of a homebody, in the way that the Urban Dictionary puts it: "A person who enjoys the warmth and simple pleasures of being at home." This can be both good and hard. 

Thankfully, home doesn't just apply to being in one particular house. Homes of people I love count too.

Any time I get to be in a home, I soak it in completely. It's comforting and refreshing to the soul.

I came back to Moody today from being at Tyler and Lara's for Thanksgiving break. To be honest, it's still hard to come back to the city every time. It's not that I don't like Chicago, or that I don't like Moody - that's not at all the case! It just takes readjustment every single time. My natural tendency would be to live somewhere close to nature, with lots of windows and natural daylight filling the rooms.

However, I've noticed that bounce-back time has gotten a lot quicker. I took the afternoon to clean my room, do laundry, and catch up with a few things, and in a couple hours, I felt back to "normal" (= college living). Once I get into my routine again, I love it here. But every time I go back to a home, I'm reminded of what used to be and my "homebody" tendencies. So as long as I have time to process and readjust, I'm happy to be back in the Chicago environment.

While I'm at it, let me remind myself of what is good about this season, because this is a unique time of life, and I do realize that. Every time I come back to the city, I need to tell myself these things over again...

- I have my pick of coffee shops - there are amazing ones in every direction. 
- My friends live down the hall - and I get to see them every day.
- Cleaning a dorm room is quick and easy - with such little space, it doesn't take much to tidy up.
- It takes me 2 minutes to get to class and work - I wake up early anyways, but it's still nice!
- There are free events in the city all the time - like Zoo Lights in Lincoln Park!
- I get to study, talk about, and learn about the Word every day with others

I have two weeks left of classes, and then a week of finals, before heading home to Czech. A lot has to get done between then and now, but the Lord is good and I won't be alone in it!

Tyler and Lara - thank you again for having me this past week!! It was absolutely restful. Thank you for being a home-away-from-home...and for your delicious cooking too!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Lessons in Coffee

I learned about a special skill yesterday: coffee cupping. 

It's no secret that both of my brothers are experienced baristas and excellent at what they do. When they get together, coffee is bound to come up (as is theology). One of the things I had heard them talk about before was something called "cupping". Curious, I asked if Tyler could show me how it worked one day.

Yesterday, even after a full day of work and coffee-making at Intelligentsia, Tyler put on the hot water kettle once more for a coffee cupping

It's a more complex system than I realized, and it makes me appreciate all that Caleb and Tyler know about coffee. We brewed 5 different types of coffee and went through each step of the cupping process.  I am by no means an expert at this, so it was funny trying to smell different flavor notes and rate acidity and sweetness of the coffee. Tyler is the one who really knows what he's doing! But I loved trying and realizing that it's actually more objective than I thought was possible. Tyler and I ended up with similar results (though his were much more refined). 

This is a handy flavor wheel to determine what notes are present in each coffee.

Each coffee is scored according to specific criteria. It's quite the art, actually! Thanks for teaching me, Tyler! Maybe I'm on my way towards a more refined coffee palate. Until then, I'll just keep enjoying what you make and trust your judgment!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Real Simple

You know, sometimes simple is just perfect. Yesterday was one of those days that was wonderfully simple and absolutely enjoyable.

Three places were set at the table and three dishes were served. It was enough. Each dish was prepared beautifully and tasted delicious and Thanksgiving-y. 

During the preparations of our meal, we even got to FaceTime in to the Josiah Venture Kid Thanksgiving Talent Show. The talent show has been a tradition for years now (see here!), so it was special getting to see these kids sing in other languages, rap, show off their sudoku skills, fight with lightsabers, and be completely themselves. I wish I could've been there to give them high-fives and hugs when it was all over not only because I miss those kids, but because I just think they're all amazing.

We finished off our meal with Sencha green tea (which really is that bright green...and no, it's not poisonous! It's really splendidly good for you and tasty too) and a pumpkin cake.

A couple hours after our food had settled, Lara was ready to decorate for Christmas. Tyler agreed and the boxes came out from the basement. What a perfect ending to a simple, yet lovely day.

I loved how un-stressful this day was. We ate well, had a calm day, got to enjoy being together and the day lingered. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks

There is usually too much to prepare on Thanksgiving morning for there to be time for fun photos. But since we only cooked for the three of us today, there was plenty of time to go roam out in the cold. I'm thankful for these two and their hospitality this week.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Italy in Chicago

Back in October, Tyler gave me a very special (and perfect) birthday gift - a Groupon for a cooking class in Chicago at Affresco.

This Italian restaurant out near O'Hare has been hosting cooking classes for 6 years now. They've fine-tuned it to perfection. It was one of those experiences I won't forget.

The class was not a hands-on experience, but it was just as helpful and so fun. They seated us in a separate room in their restaurant where tables lined one wall in an "L" shape. The chef stood at the front at a table with all of his ingredients, a gas stove and pans ready. Only about 12 of us were there on this evening, so it was very personal and we could ask whatever questions throughout the night.

One of the things I loved about this particular class was that it was an all-senses experience. Not only did we watch the chef cook, but he let us smell the dishes, taste them and Tyler got to try some knife-skills as well (he volunteered!). As the chef demonstrated, courses of an Italian meal were served to us - salad, pasta (Tyler enjoyed this part, not me...gluten-free), chicken and dessert. From 6-9pm we got to slowly eat each course, while learning tips and tricks about cooking well and buying the right ingredients.

The featured cooking item on this particular Monday was chicken. How helpful to learn about this staple! Sergio, the owner of the restaurant and the one teaching us, had lots of handy tips about other things too that I would have never thought of before (like putting a little bit of white wine in your basic red pasta sauce!).

The best end to the evening? A surprise! Affresco hires one of the best up-close illusionists in Chicago on Monday nights. And even better? His name was Leopold. I mean, really, Leopold did magic tricks at our table. I pretty much gaped the whole time; it was mind-boggling and hilarious! All of us were fully entertained. Tyler and I left with full tummies and smiles on our faces thanks to Leopold and Sergio.

Thank you Tyler for this memory! There's no one else I'd rather go with to a cooking class than you!

Monday, November 24, 2014

One Box

Cared for.

When I received a green slip in my mailbox with an "X" marked on the checkbox with the word "package" next to it, I was definitely curious. I was completely shocked to find a little box waiting for me behind the counter of our campus post-office. It was from M.P., a friend I've only met once at a JV Conference, but am thankful to know. 

The package was filled with little things - like a toothbrush, Christmas candy, lip balm and fuzzy socks. I texted my mom to see if she knew the story behind the package, and yes, she did! M.P. is an author, but also someone who has dedicated her life to serving Third Culture Kids. She found out the names of some TCK's who wouldn't be home for Thanksgiving, and sent them care packages. Yes, this means so much!

Growing up as a TCK did make me flexible and able to adapt (...not always, and sometimes slowly!). But it's still hard at times being so far away from the world that was home. Chicago has also become home, mostly because of the people here, along with the new experiences and memories I have in this place. But I'm thankful for this reminder today that it's ok to feel sad about not being present for the usual "JV Family" Thanksgiving. It's ok to be excited about change and newness too. Feel. Remember. Connect. It's all one story, and continues to be. 

Thank you, M. for thinking of me; for thinking of and caring for us TCK's. Thank you.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mint in a Bucket

It all started in Goshen, Indiana.

Just to the left of that red barn in Goshen was a patch of mint. When we stayed with the Millers for our bro-sis retreat, they made us a delicious iced tea from fresh mint and it made me giddy. I was so excited about it that Mr. Miller offered to give me some mint to take back to Moody.

Umm, YES!!

Minutes before we left to go back to Chicago I remembered the mint, and Mr. Miller grabbed a bucket and dug up a little patch from where it grew wildly. I sat with this bucket at my feet all the way back to school (the car smelled great!).

I wasn't sure if it would survive in my room, in this bucket. It was wild mint, after all, and what do I know about "caring" for this kind of plant?

I picked leaves from it until only the "branches" were left. It mad me sad that it looked so bare.

But a few days later, hope came in the form of a bud. That bud grew until there was a full sprig of mint.

I've watched this bucket of Indiana dirt change over the past month. And look where it's at today.

It keeps coming! I've heard that mint sometimes takes over, and I'm fully happy about that! I continue to find new buds popping up every day. I'm not sure how it can be thriving so well in my room with just sunlight from my window and regular watering. Yet it is.

This is my venture. This is my piece of nature in the dorms. This is joy every day.

This makes the best tea.

Thank you, Mr. Miller for the mint! I love it (especially because it's still alive!)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Beginning To Look A Lot Like...

I have worked in Events and Guest Services at Moody for over a year now, and it has been such a good learning experience. I actually love my job. I'm the Student Event Coordinator, so most of the time I work with students and forms and coordinate with other departments on campus to make sure that student events have everything they need in order to make the event happen (like catering requests, room reservations, etc.). So that's more on the organizational side of things, with lots of e-mailing and submitting requests. 

But there are also unique things we get to do when working with Events and Guest Services - like decorating for Christmas on campus.

A couple of the full-time employees in our department are in charge of making our campus look festive for the Christmas season, and the part-timers get to help out too. What a joy! I won't get to decorate at home, so this is a privilege. 

Kaitlyn (top left corner) is also a part-timer, and she's sweet friend of mine too! 

Although I'm usually one to wait until after Thanksgiving to start anything Christmas-y, it's different here at Moody. After Thanksgiving break, we only have two weeks left of classes, and then by the time I'm done with studying for finals, working on last projects, and once I fly home, there will hardly be any time to enjoy all the traditions and happy feelings of Christmas preparation. And so, I'm ok with starting a little early. Because in my mind, the weeks before Christmas (and particularly Christmas Eve) are the best part!

What I love about decorations is how they bring people together. Since we decorated our floor lounge, people have been sitting out there more throughout the day. Students gather more in our campus coffee shop area when there are lights and trees. It's just fun to see what a little warmth and charm can do for community.

And I'm glad to participate in setting that up here at Moody!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Freezing, Already?

Today, it was cold.

Really, really cold.

Way too cold for November.

It's been this cold for a few days now, and I finally pulled out my big winter coat last week. Somehow it just seemed to early, but as soon as I stepped outside once without it, I never left it again. I heard a rumor back in September that this was going to be a colder and snowier winter than last year... is that possible??

Chicago - we're going to get through it!

Monday, November 17, 2014

25 Years of Change

Happy 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, to the Czech Republic! So thankful for the peaceful revolution that happened in 1989 and for its implications. From it, the Czech Republic was born. I would not have been able to live in that beautiful country if it had not been for 1989. 

I continue to pray for restoration for this country - both politically and spiritually. Czech has deep roots of prosperity in both aspects. It has come a long ways in 25 years, and I hope that it continues to grow towards seeking what Vaclav Havel, the first president of the Czech Republic, called people to: truth that prevails. 

Pravda vítězí.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Those Days

You know it's getting late and it's time to go to bed when it becomes increasingly difficult to stay on one thought and you can't even stay on one song on Spotify because nothing fits. Let's just say I'm not a night person. Sometimes I wish I were for the sake of homework, but it's probably ok in the long run.

Most Sundays are great, but today was just a bit different than the others - a bit more exhausting. The good things today though? There were little reminders of the Lord scattered throughout the day.

- Snow - I sat in Starbucks for a bit doing homework today (thankful for a gift card!) and I watched through the big windows as snow slowly drifted down outside. It didn't stick, but it was beautiful for that little bit.

- Messiah - I ushered for Moody's performance of Handel's Messiah and got to hear the classic music too. I never realized that all of the text was Scripture! That was powerful. A recording of it'll be playing on Moody Radio soon, so stay tuned! Most of the performers were students here at Moody, and I am so proud of them for their talents and hard work.

- My phone (both having it and not having it) - I forgot my phone at the campus library last night, and realized the fact this morning, when the library was closed. The Lord gave me peace about it and I was able to retrace my steps and realize it was at the library. It was kind of refreshing to not have it on hand all day. I didn't mind that forced break! But I thank the Lord that it was behind the desk this evening when I asked about it at the library.

- FaceTime - I don't take it for granted that the Lord gave such creativity and knowledge to people so that they could create something like this! I love days when I get to catch up with my mom "almost" face-to-face.

- Finding this photo on my computer - Because it reminds me of wonder and hope. This little guy is moving to Croatia with his family soon (who are going as JV missionaries!), and his joy is contagious.

Alright, going to finish up some last studying I need to do for an exam tomorrow, and then call it a day!

The Lord is present always. He is not an aloof God who stands far off. He is here each moment, whether that's in a peaceful moment of sitting in Starbucks looking at snow, or an evening of plowing away at homework. He is there. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Friendly Yogurt

I'm lactose intolerant. Or whey-intolerant. I don't actually know. I just know that I can't have milk in almost every form because it makes my stomach hurt. So I try to stay away from it as much as I can (I sometimes fudge on cheese because it doesn't cause as many problems, but fresh milk products - never).

(Isn't this sheep cute? Keep reading to find out the reason behind this photo)

I had to say goodbye to yogurt a few years ago, which was actually quite sad. Czechs eat yogurt all the time. Breakfast, snack, dinner - you name it. It was hard to give up something that was such a staple both at home and in that culture. It made my stomach hurt though, so it was worth it to give it up if it made me feel better!

A couple weeks ago, I finally admitted to myself that I was experiencing some bad health issues again with my stomach. It's been an off-and-on battle for a long time, and it was flaring up again. I know that the food in our cafeteria doesn't help this cause, even though I do still eat gluten and dairy-free. I just don't handle any type of processed food well and there might even be other factors that I don't understand yet about it. But on a day when I was feeling particularly under-nourished and faint (because I felt like I was getting any nutrients from the food I was eating), I made a trip to Plum Market.

As I browsed the isles, I was just looking for anything that could help in the moment. What could actually give me energy and strength and possibly make my stomach feel better?

You know how sometimes you can actually "listen to your body"? Or maybe I've just learned this since I'm more sensitive; I don't know. I kept testing things out in my head: Kombucha? No. Fruit? Nope. Crackers? Hmph. Nothing seemed like it would satisfy.

I passed by the dairy section because my friends whom I was with were looking at the yogurts, and I saw a little section that had alternative yogurts. Most of them were almond or soy based (I dislike those kinds of yogurts - just not the same), but I saw one green label stand out among the rest: Black Sheep.

Sheep's milk yogurt.

Sound strange? Maybe. But in that moment, I knew that's what my body needed. I didn't even care if it would potentially make my stomach hurt because it didn't seem like it would make much of a difference since I was already feeling not the greatest. Lo and behold! I ate it, and not only was it delicious, but it also made me feel great!

FRIENDLY YOGURT (to Claire at least)!! Happiness.

The cup actually says: Intolerant to cow's milk? Try our sheep's milk products (or something similar).

It tasted like homemade yogurt - tangy and thick. I added honey and flax seeds to it and it was so satisfying. Yes, one cup of it is not the cheapest, but every once in a while, it's worth it, because it satisfies and nourishes.

It's the little things in life.

(Also a big shoutout to Grandma and Bapa and the company they work with - Univera. They sent me some natural products to help as soon as I told them I wasn't feeling good. Though I'm not fully better, the products have definitely made a difference! I take MetaGreens and Aloe Vera and am very thankful for both. Thank you Grandma and Bapa!)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Miscellaneous, Perhaps

A few unrelated points of life today...

My favorite joke I recently heard:

What do you call an alligator in a suit?

An in-vest-i-gator.

*chuckling to myself*

I just thought that might make your day a bit brighter.

Second. In other news, I finally learned the Greek and Hebrew alphabet (for one of my classes). Baby steps, indeed! It's strange to learn the alphabet all over again since each character looks so foreign. But I love the art of the different alphabets - such beauty and creativity!

Third. Mom sent me this picture from across the ocean, and I thought it might make you smile on this November day. Mom said that Kaylee moved the blanket on her own to lay down like this. Ah, dogs. I miss them. I'll get to see this doggy in 36 days! Yep, I'll be home for christmas.

Monday, November 10, 2014


PCM. It's one of the things that sets Moody apart from a lot of other schools. It's one of those things that actually factors into people's decisions to come here. It's quite a unique part of our education and has been going strong since the foundations of Moody so many years ago.

PCM - Practical Christian Ministry.

We are actually required to participate in some form of PCM. We are partnered with an urban ministry in our Freshman year, and can either stay in that place, or switch to a different PCM if we get involved with a different ministry or want to focus in more on what we're headed towards. Tyler's first PCM was serving in a retirement home; Caleb's was tutoring and having fun with two little boys through a program Moody is involved with. My first PCM? It's still my PCM.

To quote our PCM guidebook:
"Why such an emphasis on ministry during one’s course of study at Moody?
Exposure: PCM provides each student the opportunity for exposure to a 
variety of ministry settings and practices.
Experience: PCM provides each student the opportunity for gaining valuable 
ministry experience.
Exercise: PCM provides each student the opportunity for spiritual exercise
rather than risk stagnation in the midst of highly-concentrated 
biblical teaching"

It makes sense, and I am so glad it's a requirement here. Sometimes people doubt the legitimacy of "service", if it's required, but it's one of those things that we all agreed to when we decided to come to Moody. So it is was our choice to be a part of some type of ministry in the city.

I have been going to help out at an afterschool program once a week for a year and a half now. I started out completely oblivious to any Chicago neighborhoods, not really even knowing how to take the bus to the church that the program is held in. It's in a neighborhood West of here that takes us about 45 minutes to get to, and is held in an old Lutheran church, which has classrooms in it too.

I get to help two groups of the same 3-5 kids every week with their homework. I have my little table that the kids come to every time and it's been my privilege getting to know them. Homework is homework, but getting to hear and engage with their lives is just great. First it's the 3rd-4th graders who come in, and then they swap with K-2nd graders (the group not in tutoring has other activities).

I'll be honest. This environment was a bit intimidating at first. What do I know about American schooling or even about the lives of these kids who have grown up in urban environments? But they have taught me so much and I love seeing their smiling faces on a Monday. I wish you could come with me one day and experience the program, because it's quite amazing to see how it impacts these kids' lives. I pray that these little ones will grow up to know Christ and to set new patterns for their lives and to continue to work hard too. They are precious!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Last of Fall

Two days spent with Hayley? The perfect way to relax on the weekend.

Hayley came downtown on Friday and then we both went out to the suburbs on Saturday. Best of both worlds.

She is just awesome.