Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Two Thousand and Fourteen

Every year, I wrap up December with highlights from the last 12 months. Here's the continuation of that tradition!

These are the highlights. This doesn't include all of the busy days, the ups and downs and the struggles we all face. This is a celebration of life and all that the Lord brings into it in just one year.

I began my own photography business, starting small: Clairelyseen Photography.

I got to room with Beth, the sweetest person, both semesters of 2014.  She is student-teaching this next semester, and graduates in the Spring. I will have a new roommate, but Beth, you will be greatly missed in room 416. I loved getting to room with was an honor and privilege!

Dad, Mom and I road-tripped through the Northwest and West to visit friends and supporters during my Spring Break. This photo was taken in Arches National Park.

I switched my major. Children's Ministry and Bible - here I come!

I finished my first year of college at Moody Bible Institute.

Caleb and Haley got marrrriiieeedd!!!

I got to work at Gull Lake, which was stretching, but so rich. I learned more than I ever thought I could in six weeks! I also got a new name (nickname) in the process, as every staff member does. I was "Czecholate" for six weeks!

I went home for the first time since leaving college. Ah, what a sweet reunion, and a time of putting my roots down again in a culture that I still call home!

I turned 15 and 20!

The semester was filled with new things to learn, ponder, and understand. My Faith and Learning and Hermeneutics classes were my favorite. I spent a lot of time in this room this year - reading, writing, processing, learn.

I spent the most wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving with Tyler and Lara in the suburbs of Chicago.

I finished up another semester at Moody. And because I am a semester ahead (I had 13 years of school in Czech instead of 12, so I got 18 credits transferred to Moody from that extra year there), technically, I finished my sophomore year, and will now be a junior. Now that's strange! Finals week was tough because I was sick, but God was gracious and He still taught me a lot through the whole process. The longer I'm at Moody, the more time I find myself in the library.

After another semester, I was able to go home for Christmas to Czech...

...and spend New Years in Croatia with our family!

Of course there was so much more to 2014. This is only the tip of the iceberg, to borrow the colloquialism. I'm thankful for all that this year brought, and excited to see what else the Lord has in store. These years at college are so unexpected and surprising, scary and uncertain, defining and unique. I'm so glad the Lord is with me every step of the way.  

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Traditions

With people gone (college, etc.), and new stages of life, we needed a change to our New Years tradition; or some way to transition or it just wouldn't be the same. And so we picked up Caleb and Haley in Slovakia (where they had been for Christmas, with Haley's family) and drove down to our most beloved Hvar. 

Although Hvar is usually quite spectacular in its sunny and warm summers, it is equally refreshing even in the winter. The evergreen trees are still full of color, and the ocean always stays as blue. We are staying in a small apartment in a village of 150 people. Despite the lack of a living room, or windows with views, or even warmth, we are happy. 

Here's a little glimpse into an afternoon the other day.

On the menu for lunch: make-shift lettuce wraps (scrambled eggs, tomatoes, avocado, cucumbers and a little pancetta). 

And outside? The "Bura" (a strong wind) kicked up this week, and completely changed the weather. It's still sunny, but oh boy! It's cold! The people in the village say that it hasn't been this cold in 22 years. Heh. We just happen to be here at this time! We expected a little warmer weather, but this has been an adventure, and it has bonded us as we huddle inside the apartment by the one heating unit together, wrapped up in blankets. 

For entertainment when it's dark and chilly? Personality tests and random quizzes found on the Internet. It's the little things!

Can you see the open oven here? These apartments are set up for warm weather, since most of the time it is warm on Hvar. For that reason, the one heating unit wasn't enough. Oven to the rescue! Just turn it on and open it up and you have another heat source (though it might not be economically the best solution, it works)!

We love this new version of New Years. It's perfect.

Monday, December 29, 2014


One of my favorite days this past week was when we had our first snow-fall at home. A light dusting at first, it snowed much more later on. I did get to take a walk while it was still sunny and snowy, which was like food for the soul. Refreshing in all ways.

And back home. *happy sigh*

Saturday, December 27, 2014

She's The Bride-To-Be

What an absolute privilege to celebrate Emily today - the bride-to-be! I am so glad that I could be there for this particular bridal shower, because Emily is not just a friend I see every once in a while, but my buddy, with whom I have my earliest childhood memories.

Emily's family moved to Czech to serve with Josiah Venture in February 1995... I was four months old. Emily was my first friend and play-mate, even though we are two years apart in age.

This is from my baby book! 

We bonded over being missionary kids together, family get-togethers, exploring around the yard, playing "zoo" or "dogs" together, and scrubbing the floors of our balcony "like Cinderella"...or "Joseph" in the Disney movie adaptation. I can't quite remember.

Emily saw me through eye-patch days, eye-crossing days, sick days and ugly jacket days. Still, we were always friends.

The Millers moved back to the States, to the Chicago area, in 2000. Thankfully, I still got to see Emily now and then as the years went by. We have been able to keep up a friendship through the years, whether that was at a wedding in Chicago, or at their house (eating her dad's famous pies) on a State-side visit, or when their family came to Czech to visit one summer. Although we don't keep in regular contact, it's one of those "pick-up-where-you-left-off" friendships, that is still so dear to me.

Emily came to visit me downtown Chicago a couple of times, and I started hearing about someone special that her heart deeply cared about.

She moved to Bangladesh this year. Yes, Bangladesh.

Six years ago, she went to Bangladesh on a missions trip and fell in love with the country. It was also on this trip that she first met a certain someone. After returning back to Bangladesh multiple times in those six years (like 5 or 6!), she continued to keep up this relationship with a man she had grown to cherish.

This Spring that man asked her to marry him and she is now engaged to a very kind, Godly, and wonderful Bangladeshi man! I couldn't be more excited for them. The road ahead will be an adventure, with a learning curve, but one of committed love and Christ at the center of every step. Emily shines as she talks about him. How wonderful that she will get to live with the one she loves in the place she loves! Emily has already been teaching at a school in Bangladesh this year, so she knows this is where she wants to be and is thrilled for the future.

It's hard to believe that Emily, my childhood buddy, is getting married in Bangladesh soon! Life is beautiful and rich. We loved celebrating this time together.

Don't worry - this is peach bubbly juice! Non-alcoholic, but still celebratory! ;)
How incredible the story is that God has already given her. I can't wait to continue to hear of many more stories to come!

And how special to get to celebrate with this lovely group of women - whom I have known since before I can remember! Thank you for hosting us in Poland, "Aunt" Laura!

For more of the story, hop on over to my mom's blog HERE

Friday, December 26, 2014

Tastes of Christmas

Before Christmas simply becomes a memory, here are my favorite recipes of the season. Gingerbread replaced the traditional Patty Christmas cinnamon rolls, and "vanilkove rohlicky" were a must to bring a little Czech flair to Christmas.

If you're curious about the recipes I used, here are the links!

Gluten-free Gingerbread Cake:

Vanilkove Rohlicky (kind of like "Russian Tea Cookies"): I used gluten-free flour as a substitute for normal flour and it worked out great. Just try to buy a flour that doesn't have garbanzo beans or sorghum, as those flavors will overpower this delicate cookie. Don't worry, the recipe is in English! These are my favorite Christmas cookies ever!

I hope you had some wonderful Christmas goodies too and that you continue to stay in the spirit of celebration, for Christ's birth and life is always worthy of that praise and adoration. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Time

I love a morning that starts like this...

...continues like this...

(Yes, that's honey perfection)

(Lara hand-printed the design on this bag!)

...and includes some doggy cuteness...

This day is Christmas, of course!

This Christmas was different from any other. It was definitely the smallest Christmas we've ever had, seeing as it was just the three of us...and Kaylee. Tyler and Lara are in the States, Caleb and Haley are in Slovakia with Haley's family, so it was just us for Christmas day this year. Though quiet, it was still fun and joyful. I definitely missed my siblings, but I'm so glad we get to live life together the whole rest of the year! And so this time was special with just my parents.

Caleb and Haley will join us again for New Year's. Oh, how I'm soaking in these days at home! Don't speed by too fast!