Thursday, April 30, 2015

Group Projects

Group presentations are always daunting at the beginning. It seems impossible to come together and form concepts and ideas that are cohesive and unified. It's especially hard when you don't know the group members yet, so you don't know each person's strengths.

Yet it's such good practice to do these group projects, especially when the expectations given by our professor was set very clearly with high standards. This pushed us, but allowed us to lean into the presentation and do our best.

It's these kinds of little parts of college that I do want to remember. Group projects and practicing in a classroom tonight while the sun set and made the skyline glow.

Our group ended up getting along really well and we had fun creatively putting together our presentation for Human Development. I think we all learned a lot through the process because of the expectations of excellence. Our professor knows that she can push us and challenge us! It helps us learn.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tulips and Skyscrapers

Getting off campus this week to do homework was rewarding, and needed. And no, not just because of the lovely cup of coffee from Intelligentsia (which makes me kind of giddy because caffeine still affects me, since I don't drink coffee regularly). It was the sunshine, the tulips, the bustle of spring, and the blossoms on all the trees that brought me joy today, and the knowledge of the Lord through that.

I purposefully got off of the "L" a stop early so that I could walk through Millennium Park, get some fresh air, and enjoy the city's version of spring. I have a lot to do this week, but I just felt like that's how I needed to spend 20 minutes of my day. And the Lord refreshed me with His glory through his creation. Even the contrast of the city and nature just had me in awe.

(iPhone photos)

I didn't think I was stressed about these final two weeks of school or exhausted until I started paying attention to my dreams at night (I wake up and remember my dreams almost every day). Ah, you mean if I'm stressed in my dreams and wake up feeling anxious, then it probably means I actually am?! Novelty to me.

I understand now that I need to take walks in the park, smell flowers, sit down in a coffee shop, talk with friends. All of those things will not take away from my "productivity", but actually help in the learning process in the long and short run.

I also can admit that I feel the pressure of school right now. If stress is appearing in my dreams, it probably means I'm not processing it fully in "real life", and that needs to change.

I've always thought God had a sense of humor. He is our Heavenly Father. He is sovereign and faithful and loving and merciful, but He also knows His children and knows how to reveal Himself to them in a personal way. And what I often find funny is this: He put me in the city. Me?! the city?? Yet He wants to teach me through this.

Today I'm reminded of His character and His loving-kindness. He speaks until we listen, and sometimes that's even through stressful dreams, or city walks with tulips on every corner. I praise Him for these reminders and also will work on trusting Him and not worrying about what tomorrow will bring. He knows.

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Walk in the Neighborhood

This weekend has been full. Very much so. But here's a little glimpse into something that was really sweet on this sunny Sunday...

Floor photos!

Not everyone was able to make it to photos, but those who did come dressed in their spring-iest clothes and we strolled around one of the Chicago neighborhoods, enjoying the tulips, budding trees and unique houses.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Truths and Isolation

I can't begin to express how much the community of my floor and other Moody students has encouraged me and given me the words I needed to hear this week - not only to persevere in these last weeks of the semester, but also to draw nearer to the Lord and His Truth.

I have much to learn. So much. But that is why we have the body of Christ, right? The gifts we have been given by the Spirit are ones that are meant to be used for the building up of the church. My RA, Brynna, has told me multiple times this week, for different reasons, "We are not meant to do things in isolation."

It's true and such a good reminder. We were created by God and for his glory. We were created to be in a relationship with Him. And yet sin separated us from Him. By His grace, he offers us a renewal of relationship with Him by giving us the free gift of salvation that could only happen because of Jesus Christ's death on the cross, and His resurrection. We are restored to relationship with him by faith and repentance. Not only can we live in this relationship with Him now, but we live in the community of believers as well...not in isolation! What a beautiful new reality, only by and through Christ.

As I've been illustrating the 10 truths of the Gospel this week for a group presentation for Human Development, I've thought a lot about the Gospel itself: the Good News that brings life to those who were bound to death.

I have visually seen these truths not only in my illustrations this week, but also in the way that this community has lived out the Gospel. This Gospel is relational, and not experienced or confessed in isolation. Praise Him. Individuality is lonely, but community is so rich when it's grounded in the Lord, in all of who He is. We are still sinful and we have our issues and struggles and problems, but we are covered in His mercy. What a gift. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

City Sunrise

It's a Smith 4 tradition to go to the beach for sunrise in the spring. It's my absolute favorite. I couldn't picture any better way to start the day than with these lovely, sleepy-eyed and beautiful women. 

We sat on the beach with our shoes off and drank coffee and tea as we soaked in the stunning sunrise. Once the sun was clear and bright, a few girls shared what God has been teaching them this past semester, and it was just so sweet and honoring to Him. 

The rest of the day consisted of work (I demoed Q Drinks on Saturday), homework and a Lip Sync event.

Last year's sunrise service: HERE.

Monday, April 20, 2015


I got back from PCM this evening and am actually cooking some millet right now for dinner (one of my favorites). Although Chicago culture still occasionally feels foreign to me, I have loved getting to know the kids I work with on Mondays. I treasure hearing about their lives and seeing them each week. I have definitely grown to love all of them.

I have had a lot on my plate these past couple of days, but it has all been good. I have also been able to interact with a lot of people on a regular basis this past week, almost unusually so. These relationships here are growing and it's sweet seeing how community is rich, and hard at the same time because of our broken world. I have loved getting to taste the beauty of the Body of Christ, but have also seen all the more how much we need our Savior.

There's not much else I can quite put into words when life keeps moving forward. Yet, I trust that this is where the Lord wants me to be at this time too - present. It's something I'm not always good at, and I'm learning.

And here's a picture from Saturday's sunrise service with our floor. Yes, those are ducks. They were awesome.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Julia // Senior Photos

I met Julia through a mutual friend, and the first time I got to actually spend time with her was for her senior photos last weekend. Ah, and what a joy! Julia has so much life and faith and commitment to the Lord. I loved getting to see a bit into her world, her passions, stories and hear about her desires for after college. She'll be graduating this May, and I'm thankful for the privilege of having a morning with her in these last months!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Rhinos, Kites and Exotic Flowers

I came back from church on Sunday encouraged, but slightly dreading the homework that had to get done that afternoon. God knew better than I did though, and a few minutes after I got back, Michelle came into my room asking if I wanted to go outside to do homework. Sure enough, an hour later, we were on a bus headed north.

Homework did get done, but what was more important was the renewal and refreshment we both experienced on our little outing to Lincoln Park. The sky was overcast, but the breeze was warm and all of Chicago was outside, it seemed. We found a spot on the grass in front of the Conservatory and sat on Michelle's polka-dotted little blanket, while eating dried mango. Michelle did word studies for Hermeneutics and I researched poverty and child development.

I didn't notice how wonderful this moment was until Michelle looked up from her homework and said:

"Claire, not only do we have exotic flowers behind us, we are also sitting right next to rhinos!!"

The laughter came bursting out.

Why yes, this "ordinary" moment in Chicago was actually not so ordinary. We were sitting in front of the Conservatory, which has more flowers than I can count, but we could also spot the rhinos in the zoo on our left. The Lincoln Park zoo is free, but we didn't even walk in on this day. Instead, we sat on the grass and watched kids fly their kites in the light spring wind. I wouldn't have noticed the beauty of this moment if Michelle had not commented on it.

This is the bright side of Chicago.

We got a bit chilly as little tiny raindrops started falling, so we left our perch and found a cute little place called Cafe Vienna, where I drank hot chocolate that reminded me (in a good way) of European vending machine hot chocolate, but better. It was a day of not rushing, not worrying, still getting some things done, and exploring. After it was all said and done, I did have to marvel at this city and all the treasures in it.

I may not have mountains and quiet, but instead, I have rhinos, kites, and exotic flowers - the oddest combination you could imagine. Yet somehow, in this city, it works.

The Lord had planned this afternoon for me and it was just what I needed. Thank you, Father. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Chicago Spring

 You have to search a bit more for signs of spring in Chicago. But when you find them, they are precious. Actually, I am quite enjoying this gradual unfolding of spring this year. The weather this weekend has been stunning and I'm thankful to be in the city to watch it come alive - the flowers and the people are coming out of hiding and soaking in the sunshine.

This Saturday could not have been a better pick for Julia's senior photos. I met Julia right before the shoot, but we had fun all morning and by the end our memories were sweet. More photos of her to come! But first, flowers:

Welcome back, sunshine. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Rays of Sunshine

Just a quick shoutout to Brynna: my amazing, insightful, joyful, genuine and truly beautiful RA. Brynna is graduating this semester, and oh, how I will miss her! Until then, we will continue to soak up these days, including ones like these that were full of sun and blooming flowers. 

Love you, Brynna.