Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Connections in Chicago

It seems to me that I never know who I might see in Chicago-land. This is a unique place where people somehow magically appear. But really, I've gotten to see some pretty wonderful people, very randomly, in this city. I love that this is a hub that friends visit; and when my worlds collide, it's pretty much my favorite.

Yesterday was one of those days that was a wonderful collision of worlds. Back in December, I met someone on campus who was doing some filming for a Moody project. When she heard I was from Czech, she told me about a friend of hers who lived in Slovakia, and who worked with Josiah Venture. "Hah! Well that's funny. I grew up in JV! What is your friend's name?" ...And then..."No kidding! Yes, I know your friend!"

Come to find out, this friend of hers (and mine) who lived in Slovakia for a little over two years has now lived in Chicago for more years than I have! I just now found out that she lives here, and I got to reconnect with her on Monday evening.

We shared a meal at a local restaurant in the neighborhood of my PCM (go figure, she lives in that same neighborhood that I go to every Monday). Not that what I ate is very important, but I do have to say, my fish tacos were delicious. I actually don't think I'd ever had fish tacos before, except for homemade, so that was a treat!

It was sweet hearing her reminisce about JV, but also learning about what she's doing here with her church in the city. I got to share some of what it's been like transitioning to the States, and it was so comforting to talk to someone who "gets it", in a way, because she knows both worlds. It was simply sweet sharing updates with one another, since I hadn't seen her in about 6 or 7 years!

Who knew when I moved to Chicago that I'd get to see familiar faces? I love how the Lord gives us surprises wherever we go. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

J+S Wedding Photos!

Well, the day has come... may I present to you, Jeremy and Svatia's wedding day, March 15th, 2015. 

On this blustery day in Lancaster, PA, we celebrated the beautiful story of Jeremy and Svatia's love for each other and they became husband and wife. The wedding was intimate and easygoing, but very real and genuine. It was a perfect representation of Jeremy and Svatia for who they are!  

There are lots more photos, but hopefully these gave you a glimpse into the joy of the day.

I also just have to mention how excited I am to have gotten to photograph this wedding. Thank you, Jeremy and Svatia, for this opportunity! This is my first wedding that I've shot on my own, and I had the most fun. I can hardly believe that I actually had the honor of being there for each of these precious moments and witnessing them through the lens of my camera.

If you ever need a wedding (or any other type!) of photographer, don't hesitate to go on over to clairelyseen.com and contact me! 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Encouraged, for He Is Enthroned

Two of my sweet friends who are graduating this spring have been giddy with excitement over the past couple of days. They both are finding out key factors that will completely change their lives after they graduate.

They are dreaming and God is giving them places to go and serve Him with all of the gifts and dreams He's given them. It is scary. Oh yes, it is terrifying. But they are so at peace, so happy, so thrilled and in love with the Lord more and more. It is incredible seeing God open the way before them into the next stage of their lives. Their jobs are exactly the perfect fit for them and they are passionate about what they will be doing.

I love hearing stories like these. They're encouraging because, well, all of us college students have thoughts of the future constantly whirring around in the back of our minds. We think, "what if" more often than ever - both in good and bad ways. We dream. We fear. We plan. We doubt. We pursue what we love. We get confused about reality. It's the truth.

But as I've watched these two friends process through these unexpected changes, I have been overwhelmed by the presence of God in their stories.

Just today, one of my professors was talking about fear and worry in regards to parenting (in my Human Development class). There are uncertainties at every turn and she told us the temptation it is to worry for kids and go down rabbit-trails to the worst things that could happen. But then she said the biggest advice she gives parents is to take a deep breath; and then remember that God is and still will be on the Throne. He IS in control and always will be and nothing can stop Him. No matter what happens, God. God!

This reminded me of how we perceive the future in general, no matter what life stage we are in. It is so easy to worry and fret over what's to come. Will there be anything for me? Will I be prepared for it? What if I end up somewhere I don't want to be? Yet those questions exclude God from the picture. For God is faithful and He is loving towards those who have faith in Him and come to Him with a humble and repentant heart.

Life can seem muddy and foggy and confusing, and it would be without the Lord. But because of Christ, we no longer live in darkness; we live in the Light. Whatever comes our way, we can say, as the hymn goes, "It is well with my soul."

It is well now. It will be well in whatever's to come in the next two years for me, for God is enthroned. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Changes of Spring

Today was my first day back at classes and in normal routine with work and PCM and such. It was a good, normal day, one with few surprises (except for the weather) and sweet times of reconnecting with people on campus.

Still, I don't handle so many quick transitions with absolute grace. But thankfully, grace is given to me by the Lord instead. Change, and this whole life-stage of "emerging adulthood" (as we talked about today in Human Development), may not feel very graceful on my part, but they are grace-filled. They are humbling and a reminder that I need people and I need the Lord. I suppose that's something worth being reminded of.

In Chicago news - it snowed today. Actually, we had a full-on blizzard. I feel like I went back in time when I returned to Chicago. I thought spring had already sprung? In Oregon it had, but it was not quite so in the Midwest. Caleb said it well though, "Hey, at least you get to experience spring twice!"

He's right! And spring is worth being experienced twice.

The snow actually made me laugh today. I found it humorous that at the end of March we got surprised by these few inches. It won't last, since the forecast says it will be 50 degrees on Wednesday. So I just enjoyed the snowflakes as I drank my cup of tea and smiled at the thought that spring will return and the snow is actually still beautiful. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Coffee and Bikes

My eyes started to get heavy around 8:30PM. Way too early for being tired on a Saturday night, right?

Oh yeah, that's right, I've been up since 4:45AM. Ah, the sleepiness is justified!

I returned to the city this morning after riding in with Tyler. He had to be at work at 6AM, so I took the "L" from where he works back to Moody. It was a strange thing to roll my carry-on through the plaza at 6:45AM this morning and be welcomed by the sunrise shortly after.

I spent the morning with Gabes, my dear friend from the Philippines, enjoying a lavender latte and views of bicycles at the Heritage Bicycles shop and cafe. Despite the morning being early, it could not have been a better way to re-enter into life. It's always a bit weird for me returning to the city, but this morning reminded me of what I actually love here.

I had never been to this particular coffee/bike shop, but I was charmed right from the start. It's a bright and cheery place that feels crisp and fresh. On this Saturday, lots of families with kids came in, which made me the happiest (and it made me excited to work with the littlest ones at Gull Lake again this summer!). They have a couple of little tables, and then a long wooden one, which reminds me of a family-style kitchen table. The entire place felt like a little community, a haven in this neighborhood.

So despite it being weird straddling different worlds - college, Oregon, suburbs, Czech, Colorado, or anywhere else... it's so good to find things that make life feel grounded for a few hours. This morning was just like that.

Well, I guess I should get some sleep now. It's been a longer day than normal, but a sweet one nonetheless.

Also, on a completely different note - you may wonder why I drink coffee, if I love tea so much? Why do I even go to coffee shops at all these days? Comfort. There's a culture to coffee, and it's fun to feel included. It makes for great little adventures in the city when there aren't trails to hike or rolling hills and mountains to soak in. It's about the closest thing I've found to a sense of "quaintness" in the city. Plus, I figure if there's any time to enjoy coffee, it's now, since Chicago has some pretty high standards. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

First Day of Spring

It truly was the first day of spring today, not just based off of the calendar.

You see, to me, spring equals snowdrops, those little flowers on the right photo. Or, as we like to call them in Czech, sněženky. As soon as those little doves appear on the ground, I know spring is here. I'd been looking for them for the past couple of days, but only today were we graced with their presence. They mean there is hope. They always have brought hope back after a long winter.

And on this first day of spring I:
1. Walked a mile and a half to a coffee shop and a mile and a half back. Ah, fresh air, and tea, along with paper-writing. I love that it's finally warm (though still crisp) enough to be outside for long walks!
2. Made a babovka (Czech pound cake).
3. Washed dishes. Well, ok, real life still does happen on the first day of spring.
4. Watched this movie: Song of The Sea, which deserves its own entire feature, but I'll have to save that for later. It was one of the most beautiful and enchanting movies I've ever seen. Simply stunning. Tyler, Lara and I all were mesmerized by this hand-drawn movie. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Long-Time Friends

Not only did I get to attend and photograph Jeremy and Svatia's wedding in Lancaster, but I also got to see a whole lot of familiar faces there. No, I've never been to Lancaster, but I actually have known people from there for years and years.

There's a church in Lancaster that has been partnering with our church in Frydlant for more years than I can remember. It's beautiful to see two churches coming together even across the ocean. Their church brings a team of high-schoolers out every summer to help with the Frydlant English Camp. Some people from Frydlant have even visited Lancaster as well to connect with our dear friends there.

Although we only spent about a week and a half with the team each year, camp bonded us together. I loved it too because it brought my two worlds together - I served with the Czech team, but alongside the American team too. It was the perfect mix of the two cultures.

Jeremy (the groom) came to Czech on one of those high-school teams in 2010, and then again in 2011. That's when he first met Svatia, whom I've known since before I had two digits to my age. Jeremy came back as an intern too and not only fell in love with Czech and its people, but with one particular Czech too - Svatia, who also interned with Josiah Venture, though on a different team.

But that's their story. Mine is that I got to see some of those familiar faces again at the wedding, including these ones...

I was probably 9 or so when I last saw Marsha, and a couple years older when I last saw Allison. And they came to the wedding! They were both at Svatia's first English Camp, so she asked them to come celebrate this day with her and Jeremy. Marsha and Allison now have families and don't live in Lancaster anymore, but it was so sweet of them to come, and an added perk that I got to see them too!

What also was hard to believe was that I knew everyone in the wedding party except for one person. They had all been out to Czech at one time or another. One of the bridesmaids, Annie, had actually been my roommate at camp back in 2010. What a full circle!

I can't describe how sweet it was to finally get to visit Lancaster after hearing about it since I was little. And how much sweeter it was to see some of those dear people again! 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Why Lancaster?

Where have I been these past couple of days?

On the road, mostly. But where to?

Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Lots more photos and stories to come, but that'll have to wait. For now, here's a glimpse into why we traveled East...

Yep, for a wedding! And now I have lots of photos to edit, since I had the privilege of being the wedding photographer for this lovely couple. Seriously, I absolutely loved getting to be a part of their day in that way! Though it's a lot of work, it was so fun. The wedding was beautiful!

Now off to editing photos!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Message in a Bottle

I'm realizing that somewhere at the core of who I am is a deep-seated joy and yet a sweet sort of sadness that I experience when life is beautiful; when places and people collide in a stunning moment.

I feel it most when I travel. I get the same sort of fluttery heart when spring finally comes in the form of a sparkly sunrise or when I sit at the top of a mountain and overlook vast valleys, but I can most rely on it coming in full-force while traveling. I don't quite understand how to fully live in that sort of state of joy and sadness, but I'm trying to learn.

As we ran along the beach of the Pacific ocean and the wind whipped our hair in all directions, I couldn't help but think: this is how I'd like life to be. Simple, pure and real, with the sand beneath our feet and the sound of the waves being drowned out by the wind on the shore. Somehow it just felt right. Yet that joy carries just a hint of sadness too, knowing that life is not like this all the time and these moments have to end.

So I photograph.

I photograph to remember, relive, revive. It's like a glass bottle that I fill with the air of the ocean, longing to catch its sweet scent. I send this message to myself, hoping it washes up on shore somewhere and I find it, still intact, filled with the same memory-filled scent.

It sometimes doesn't feel like much, but I do what I can. Because this is the life that I wish to relive, that I wish to taste twice. And so, though I can't touch the salty water from where I sit, nor watch as the sand is blown across the beach, I can peer into life through still photographs.

I can remember.

Thank you Grandma and Bapa, for taking us to the Coast. 

And thank you Lord, for creating such beauty and for allowing us to taste who you are in moments like these. Yours is the sweetest of loves, Lord.