Thursday, July 30, 2015

Like Old Times

There's something about having just a normal day with an old friend that is so dear.

Kristi and I have known each other since our first year in high-school, and we sat next to each other every day in our third and fourth year (note: seating assignments are the same every day and in the same classroom of 25 people during high-school in Czech). We used to make tea and sip it in class on cold days; we both loved our carrots with almond butter, and going for walks in the hills. One of our favorite things has always been doing art together.

Kristi brought over her watercolors and paintbrushes, and I shared my illustration markers and pens. We swapped art mediums and sat at the table on our porch, looking out to the always majestic Lysa hora. It felt just like old times, even though so much has changed since high-school. It's good to have days like these that feel warm and familiar - ones that fill up your heart.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Picnic (Even with Clouds)

This is Lia - a wonderful 9-year-old with a great sense of humor, who is sweet and stylish and creative and so fun. 

I have watched her grow up (I even babysat her way back when at an event at Malenovice - and have the blog post to remember it!), and she has truly become such a delightful young lady. We are both JV Kids and she lives in my hometown, so it's quite the privilege getting to hang out with her for an afternoon.

We picnicked on the porch, and the clouds didn't even stop us from enjoying being outside. We just brought extra blankets out for warmth and feasted on our miniature sandwiches, hummus and veggies.

I handed the camera to Lia, and here's what she captured - lovely!

The airport is only a few minutes from our house, but when I say it's little, I mean tiny. It's a "sport" airport, which includes gliders, hangliders, and flights that take you up above the mountains for a great view. I have yet to fly from our little airport, but one day I hope to! I love walking up there and enjoying the view of the great green fields when airplanes aren't flying. I already loved planes, but living next to this airport makes me feel even more sentimental!

Thanks for coming over Lia! That was such a great summer day!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Perfect Day

Every once in a while, you have one of those days that stands out among the rest. It's the day when the sun shines and every single moment is good. Today was that kind of a day.

Today's church service happened in a more unlikely spot - nestled between the mountainsides near Sance, a beautiful reservoir that feeds the river that goes through our town. Five young women, all high-school students, were baptized, making a commitment to the Lord before others that they trust and follow Him. What a beautiful testimony of the Lord's redemptive work and unfailing love! 

The baptisms and church service were the highlight, but the day continued to be full of normal, everyday activities. But somehow today, even things like taking a walk or hanging out with my dog were restful and refreshing. 

Mom and I drove up to a hillside after picking up a few groceries, and we sat out on the grass and watched the sunset, just because. I couldn't have picked a better ending to this day. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Back Home: Prague

Although this is just a dog outside of a cafe, those aren't just any cobblestones he's laying on.

That's Prague!

I flew into Prague on Monday evening, and then got to spend the day in the city with Mom. What a joy filled day! I may be biased, but I think Prague is the just magical. I have been there countless times, yet it continues to surprise me and I feel as though I walk new streets each time.

This visit included a stop at a lovely cafe that I had never been to, but had only heard of: La Boheme. It definitely did not disappoint!

The rest of the day speaks for itself, but a few notes to add: Czech flags made me really excited this time (after all, my Gull Lake nametag always had a flag on it - Czecholate Chip!), the castle always astounds me, and Mom took me through the castle gardens for the first time - enchanting. 

I love this city in the country I still call home. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Copenhagen Layover

On Monday, after flying across the ocean, I found myself in a country I had never been to before. Do you recognize these flags? 

Back when Mom had booked my tickets to fly home for the summer, I was thrilled that my layover was in a city I had never been to: Copenhagen, Denmark. I quickly realized too that I not only had a layover, but I had 6 1/2 hours before my next flight to Prague! At that time, I felt giddy at the possibility that I might just get to explore outside the airport too. It seemed a little far-fetched, since I didn't know anyone in Denmark and I would be alone, but I was already kind of committed in my heart. A new country? Can't miss it.

I found out a few months later that Haley had a friend, Amy, who used to live in Copenhagen. Although Amy wasn't able to work something out for me to connect with someone there, she did give me a very detailed description of getting from the airport to downtown Copenhagen and where to go from there. Her instructions were so exact that I didn't even have to look at a map, and I could wander around the city for a couple of hours on my own. I couldn't have done it without her! 

I have actually always dreamed about going to a Nordic country, so this was the first taste of that! I was able to take the metro into the city, which only took about 20 minutes, and then the exploring began, even as I dragged my carry-on behind me on the cobblestone roads. 

If I hadn't been pressed for time, I would have loved to see more of the gardens in Copenhagen. They were just stunning. I soaked in each of the sights though, and they were lovely!

I found a wifi hotspot near a shopping centre, and clicked into Yelp on my phone to see if there were any unique coffee shops in my area. Sure enough, there was one that had great reviews that was only a few minutes away from me, so I made my way over there to find a lovely surprise...

The Copenhagen Coffee Lab was fantastic! It's actually in the basement of a building, so you walk down stairs from the sidewalk into a cellar-type room. It's tucked away, and I was glad that I had seen it on Yelp because I would have never found it otherwise! But what delicious coffee awaited me inside.

Probably the most surprising part of being in this city was the number of bikers everywhere. I had heard that biking was the primary mode of transportation for locals, but oh my! It's true! There were bikes locked up on every street and corner. I loved it!

I retraced my steps and found the metro again, taking it back to the airport to catch my flight. Of course, I was nervous about missing my plane, so I gave myself plenty of time...probably too much time, since I ended up sitting in the airport for a while (though some airport exploring was necessary too).

What a treat and a gift to have this little adventure on my way home! Honestly, two years ago, before college, I would have never done something like this on my own. The Lord has taught me a lot about trusting instead of worrying, and what joy and freedom that brings. "High-school Claire" would have missed out on this opportunity. Now it was pure excitement and fun.

God surprises us so many times with how he grows and changes us! How thankful I am to Him that He continues to guide, teach and convict us. As we focus our eyes on Him, and not ourselves, so much joy comes from that. Because of Him, I was able to love exploring Copenhagen on my own. What a memory I have from it now!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Happy Birthday Tyler!

This is a common view at the Patty household, but this day was no ordinary day. Coffee is for all seasons, but it is especially necessary for...

... Tyler's 25th birthday!

Although I flew back to Czech on Sunday evening, we were able to celebrate Tyler's birthday in the morning, complete with a southern breakfast and thoughtful gifts. Biscuits and gravy, and a new book - a great start to his birthday celebrations!

There were surprises thrown in to the morning too, like this gift from Caleb and Haley, who are all the way in Bulgaria this summer, but sent Tyler something unexpected and awesome. Caleb's note inside said something along the lines of, "I hope Lara doesn't kill me for this," as well as happy birthday wishes.

It's a pennyboard! Tyler used to be a skateboarder in high-school, so he was cruising right from the get-go. (And Lara was excited for him too!)

It was such a joy getting to spend 24 hours with two of my siblings. I love them both dearly!

Tyler, přeju ti všechno nejlepší k narozeninám! Happy Birthday. You are wise, resourceful, clever, creative, thoughtful, smart, diligent and so many other great adjectives, but most of all, I love your dedication and love for the Lord. You inspire me all the time.  It's such a joy getting to live nearby in Chicago! And also, in this 25th year, you are going to be an incredible Daddy. I can't wait. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Gull Lake 2015: Week 4

This first photo was taken at the end of week 4 in High Tide (our program for high-schoolers here at Gull Lake) and it represents well what goes on here week to week. This group won what we call "The Golden Tisk" for having the most energy all week and completing all the games with excellence.

I have never been in a place where more cheering happens and where enthusiasm is always present. It's contagious. If I felt like I was lacking energy, I would just look around me and see the other staffers and the way they were choosing joy. Just watching everyone work together and serve together with that joy was enough to get me moving again and ready for whatever was next.

Here is just a snapshot into some of the things that staffers do throughout the week...

Take families out on the sailboat.

Make snow cones. 

Play ridiculous games, like our weekly "Patriot Games" on the Stars and Stripes theme night. 

Serve in the kitchen. Kitchen staff - you rock. Seriously, they work so hard all day, every day and never complained once. Thanks to them, we have more than camp food - everything they make is delicious. 

Greet families at the door... It's tradition to give fist bumps to everyone who walks through these doors into the dining hall at meal times!

Lead Bible studies with kids.

Serve ice-cream in the afternoons. 

A lot of the times we actually do multiple jobs. I worked with Cove Kids (the littlest ones!) in the mornings, at the Sweet-n-Counter (the ice-cream/snack shop) in the afternoons, and as the photographer in between and on check-in days. We all work the meals and help with housekeeping on Fridays. We get off time from about 3pm on Friday until 1pm on Saturday. It's quite the full schedule, but it has been an incredible six weeks here at Gull Lake. I couldn't have done it in my own strength. Nope, not at all. But God surprises us every day.

Yes, today is the last day. I head back to Chicago in a few hours and then I get on a plane tomorrow to fly to Czech. It's a whirlwind and it's hard for me to fully comprehend or even process emotionally. I have grown to love all of these people here, yet I love people in every one of my heart homes too. There's no easy way to say goodbye to any of these places. So I will heed the advice of my parents, and remember to be thankful that it's hard to say goodbye, because that means that the relationships are sweet. The Lord is forever faithful.

I love how the Lord uses places and people to teach us and shape us. He has different plans for each person, and he knows how to meet each person uniquely where they're at. Although when I was a teenager and a camper at Gull Lake, I never thought I would work on staff, the Father knew this is where I needed to be these past two summers. I used to think I would never have enough energy or enthusiasm to be a counselor, but God has provided enough for each day and has taught me so much about the strength of the entire body of Christ. It's been challenging, but so rich and fulfilling at the same time.

Gull Lake Ministries - thank you, for all you do for the families each week, but for how you invest in us as staff as well. I have learned and grown and am so thankful for these 6 weeks I've had here!

For more updates on Gull Lake, and also to see photos I took of each staff member, you can follow Gull Lake Ministries on Twitter. Find them here: @gulllakemin