Monday, August 31, 2015

Movie Soundtracks to Help You Think

Noise constantly fills the air in Chicago, and so I have had to find ways to escape and focus. With a cheap pair of in-ear headphones from Amazon (they're awesome!) and a student subscription to Spotify, I've been able to find my own little bubble of focus just about anywhere. I actually love it now.

Here are three suggestions for you of movie soundtracks that I listen to these days while I'm studying or doing homework. They are often instrumental, or if there are words, they're in another language so they're not distracting! So here you go - hope this brightens your day!

1. We Bought a Zoo - this soundtrack by Jonsi, an Icelandic artist, is inspiring and ethereal, with bright notes throughout the music.
2. Song of the Sea - this hand-drawn movie is one of the most beautiful ones I've seen, and the music reflects the mysterious and magical world of the movie. It's more on the celtic side, and some of the songs sound a bit more ominous because they are the background to the dark rainy days in the movie, but otherwise the soundtrack is enchanting.
3. The Hundred-Foot Journey - with a bit of Indian flair, this music is uplifting and a reminder of the sweet movie that it accompanies.

Happy focusing!

Meanwhile, I will continue to fight this cold that I'm coming down with (seems like I always get one at the beginning of the semester?), drink lots of lemon and honey, and work through writing a paper on my theology of Children's Ministry. I think some of that focusing music will be of need! That, and prayer. Where would I be without Him? 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Search: Floriole

Michelle and I are in search for "her place" in the city. I have a spot here in Chicago that I love, and it's my safe haven that I go to do homework at and just to breathe. 

Strangely enough, "my place" is right in the heart of the city, where most tourists and business people go, but that's what I love about it. Intelligentsia is a hub of all sorts of people coming in and out, but it's always interesting and I love feeling a part of the city community right there in the middle of everything. I put my earphones in and have my own little world there. 

Today, we began our journey to find Michelle's "place". It rained today, but Floriole charmed us and we enjoyed this getaway. 

Here is our breakdown of the highs and lows of Floriole:

- It's spacious - the high ceilings provided plenty of "air space" and there is upstairs seating available as well with a huge wooden table, which is great for spreading out homework. 
- It's bright - There are windows on almost every side of the coffee shop, which lets plenty of light stream in, even on a rainy day. There are skylights on the ceiling too, so it's perfectly lit. 
- It is one of the best bakeries in Chicago - it's a well-known place! They have a few gluten-free options too, like their chocolate hazelnut cookies, or their buckwheat scones.
- You can get a coffee refill for a $1
- The crowd is classy - and I even got to meet a professor from DePaul today who was super sweet and originally from Colombia.
- They have pitchers of water, so you can just get some whenever you need it (not a given in Europe, which is why I mention it!)
- Lunch options - usually from local and in-season ingredients

- It's pricey - you pay for quality, so it makes sense, but it's not ideal if you want to make this a regular place. 
- It's a bit of a walk - from Moody, we have to take the train (which wasn't running today due to construction, so we had to take a bus) and then walk a bit to get to Floriole. It's great on a nice day, but in the winter it might be a bit more of a trek, and it's not ideal for a quick stop-by. 
- Michelle didn't love the skylights because they seemed out-of-place to her. I liked them though! 

On the way back to my apartment, Michelle so kindly shared her bright umbrella with me. You'll see a little glimpse of my new home in the reflection of the puddle. 

The search for Michelle's place will continue. This car smiled at me before I got home, and I think it was a successful Saturday outing. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

First Week

I have finished my first week of classes already. It's hard to believe. I know it's just going to continue going by quickly here, which is bittersweet.

With only three semesters left (including this one), I'm recognizing the significance of every class I take and the weight of the knowledge that I hope to gain. The classes that I will take in these next semesters could be some of the best of my "Moody career". I look forward to them, but of course I recognize the responsibility connected with not only the classes, but with what I will have learned. Once you learn something, you are able to use it in real life.

It becomes even more serious when I start seeing the specific applications of what I'm learning - I will need this knowledge for whatever work the Lord has for me in the future! I'm taking Systematic Theology, Issues in Counseling for Youth, Foundations for Children's Ministry (Theology and Philosophy of children's ministry) and Hebrews. Yes, I have a lot in store for this next semester, including plenty of work too! It's so worth it though.

In the midst of everything going on this week with moving into a new apartment and getting used to classes, I took advantage of a free afternoon and a free visit to my favorite museum. The Art Institute is free for Illinois residents every Thursday from 5-8pm. Usually I will have my PCM (Practical Christian Ministry) on Thursday afternoons, but that doesn't start up until next week, so I giddily planned my afternoon visit. I only had an hour at The Art Institute, but it was wonderful as always.

Here are two Pissarro works that were eye-catching on this visit.

I adore the Art Institute. I could spend hours and hours there. It was such a refreshing short visit this week and a much needed reminder of a place I absolutely love in Chicago. Yes, there are things to love here, just as there are in all of the places where pieces of my heart reside.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Because I Can Today

Happy National Dog Day. Today is a day that's simply an excuse for posting pictures of my favorite pup, Kaylee. She came to find me in my room one evening in Croatia, and it made me the happiest.

Enjoy the cuteness and have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Now in Chicago

I could never have imagined way back when we vacationed together with our families in Croatia that I'd get to live a sliver of life in the States with this incredible friend.

We grew up together in Czech, and as life continues to move forward and we find ourselves in college, in jobs, living "adult lives" in the States, I am beyond thankful to still have Hayley not too far away.

Hayley moved up to Wisconsin this May, and she didn't have hardly any access to internet this summer, so getting to see her in person today in Chicago meant the world. Of course we reminisced as old friends do, but I also got to hear about her new job and community and we shared hopes and dreams, as well as all the random things in between. Hayley - what a gift your friendship is to me! Thank you for coming downtown today.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Detoured to Stockholm

Transitions are hard. No matter what, they carry a certain weight that cannot be fully shaken. Yet our lives are full of transitions and they often bring about new places and people that we come to love. Chicago has become a place like that in these past two years, but entering into life here doesn't get easier. It's always somewhat hectic and overwhelming at first, although I know from the past that it does settle down.

My trip from Croatia back to Chicago was a reminder that the Lord is always near and provides - a reminder I needed in this transition.

Mom and I took the seaplane for the first time from Jelsa (on the island of Hvar) to Split, where it dropped us off right near the airport. This 16 passenger plane delighted all of us who were on board and en route to our various destinations.

The views were stunning, even with such a small cabin...we could even see the pilot in the cockpit! It did get pretty bumpy at times though, but since the flight was only 13 minutes, Mom and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Usually a ferry takes 2 hours, so this new service they offer makes a huge difference, especially when you have a morning flight to catch in Split!

I got through security with plenty of time before my departure, only to find out (a few minutes before we were supposed to board) that our flight was delayed by TWO hours. That meant that I would miss my connecting flight in Copenhagen to Chicago. What I thought would be a smooth trip back to Chicago started to become much more complicated. I couldn't rebook my flight until I got to Copenhagen, so I waited, slightly nervously, and tried to find a spot to sit down on the floor of the small terminal that was completely packed.

(The last view of our beloved Croaita!)

I love Copenhagen and the memories at that airport from earlier this summer, but my afternoon spent there this time was not entirely one of those fun experiences. I stood in line for two hours at arrival services, only to find out that there were no available hotel rooms in Copenhagen that night due to a marathon happening over the weekend. They recommended I find a hotel in another country. Huh??!

At that point, I just left the line, and went off by myself to let my emotions come freely. Alone, scared, without a place to stay for the night, I had to be given a support-pep-talk by my Mom via texting before going back out there to make something happen. Right then I really didn't want to do any of it on my own.

A song came to mind that gave me the greatest comfort, as it reminded me of Scripture (based on 2 Corinthians 4)...

"We are pressed on every side, struck down but not destroyed

We are carrying the death of Christ revealing His life. ...

Majestic Glory with all my being exalt the name of Jesus

Majestic Glory your dawn is beaming come and make the darkness hide"
- Majestic Glory, As Isaac

I prayed that the Lord would intervene and provide (I know my Mom was praying too!), and walked back to the arrival services line. Just then the man who had rebooked my flight a few hours before (at another desk in a separate part of the airport) walked by, saw me, and stopped to ask if I needed any help. He said that he remembered rebooking my flight from before, and would personally talk with the people in Arrival Services to make sure I had a place to stay.

Oh, what an answered prayer, right at that moment! I have no idea what that man was doing near baggage claim, or how he remembered me when he has so many other people coming through. The only way to explain it is that my Father took care of me. 

About 20 minutes later, I stepped up to the desk window again, was handed a new plane ticket, and promised a hotel room in Stockholm. Stockholm? Yes. An hour later, I was on a plane from Copenhagen to Stockholm, with no idea of where exactly I'd be staying, but with confidence that the Lord had it covered. Surely enough, when I arrived, I checked in at a desk and found out that Stockholm actually has a hotel directly in their airport. I wheeled my carry-on through the bright terminals, showed my passport at the hotel, and was handed a key to a room for the night. Sweet, sweet relief! 

As has happened before, when I felt alone and on my own, I saw my lack of strength, but the Lord showed his immeasurable power and his tender care for his children. 

A good night's sleep, and some delicious Swedish coffee in the morning at an airport coffee shop, and knowing the goodness of the Lord left me sitting happy and thankful at my gate on Sunday morning. 

I may have arrived in Chicago a day later than expected (thank you, Tyler, for picking me up from the airport!), but I'm thankful for this weekend's travel saga. It was hard. I didn't like all the uncertainty at the time; yet I can see God and his love in it now. I wouldn't have had it any other way. I even got to stay in a fancy hotel and get a good night's sleep before jumping into life again at school. 

I know the Lord is near! 

"The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth."
-Psalm 145:17-18

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Adventure or Tea First?

"Would you like an adventure now, or would you like your tea first?" - Peter Pan

When I found this quote on Pinterest last year, I thought it was just a cute representation of how I feel about tea. I took my inspiration from the picture, and did a quick sketch of it on a paper bag, which I then hung up above my tea corner in my dorm room.

I thought it might be good to know the context of the quote from Peter Pan, so I found it in the book one day. I should not have been surprised to find out that the meaning of it was quite different from what I had first thought.

Peter Pan, being a clever, slightly rambunctious but brave little kid, said this quote to coax John to go with him down from their perch in Neverland towards a sleeping pirate - Hook. Wendy responded quickly with, "tea first", and she would have held them back from the adventure if it hadn't been for John and Peter. She would have loved to stay comfortable with her routine of tea, which reminded her of home, but John caught on to Peter's invitation.

I sat outside and painted this quote today, remembering the story behind it.

Now I love this quote even more. It's a reminder to set aside the comforts and the fear of unknowns and just go for it. Similarly to Wendy, I tend to like sticking to what I'm familiar with. But in the end, I love adventures so much more.

So how about this? I'll have an adventure, and then have some tea along the way. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Changes Are Being Made

Construction ahead!

As you can see, there are a few changes that have been made to my blog today. After an afternoon spent painting outside, I've settled on a new header for my blog...for now! I actually ended up creating about 15 and couldn't figure out which one was just right, so my family pitched in with their advice.

Here's one of the ideas, but I'm still working on the final design.

Just like with any changes, I have more tinkering to do and need to try things out until I get everything just right. Let me know what your thoughts are or if you have any other ideas for what would make a blog lovely looking!

Hope you enjoy the new look! 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Stories in Storms

Today was a very strange, unusual, but magnificent day on Hvar. 

It rained. 

Hvar is known for it's sunny weather. It's the sunniest island in Croatia and there are 300 sunny days and 2718 sunny hours total every year. In all our years of camping, we only had one day where it lightly sprinkled, but it soon passed.

However, this day was different. It was one of the "other" 65 days in the year. With thick clouds enveloping the islands across the way, the sky was ominous. White caps dotted the sea and all boats had left the stormy waters. Only one or two brave souls stuck it out on their sailboats (and we did not envy them).

Meanwhile, unlike all other summers, we were tucked away under a roof this year. How thankful we were to huddle beneath an awning with blankets and watch the storm as it rolled in and out throughout the day. Caleb and Haley arrived in Croatia last night after spending their summer interning in Bulgaria, so we heard countless stories today with the wind and the rain as our soundtrack.

I had only ever seen a storm here in the spring, but being here in the summer with a storm was somewhat magical. We soaked it in, as did the trees, which I'm sure were thirsty for that water.

The lighting still continues to light up the skies even into the night. I feel for all those in tents today - we've been through stormy years like that in our earlier days of vacation in another region of Croatia! It's definitely a bit of a thrill to weather the rain when you don't have much shelter. I love the adventure of camping, but for today, I'm very glad to have had a dry haven.

We told so many stories today. Really, it's like I watched five different movies, since every story was vibrant and colorfully told. After not being all together for so long, we needed a day like today to catch up on anything and everything. I would relive today in a heartbeat...rain included. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Dads, Teach Your daughters How to Drill

Dad taught me how to put this knob on yesterday, but that's just the beginning. 

Some things come more naturally to me. I love to cook, and I love anything artsy. I enjoy decorating and organizing and hospitality. I have learned some things on my own, but I tend to learn best from someone showing me how to do something right. Apart from the skills that just come along the way, most things I would never be able to learn on my own.

Let me rephrase that – typically, I would never have the courage to learn some things on my own.

Enter Dad.

While working on some projects these past couple of days, Dad has not "let me off the hook" for pitching in, even when I don’t know what I’m doing. He patiently and eagerly teaches me and as soon as I learn it, I tend to think it’s actually pretty fun.

Yesterday I helped him install railings, hang pictures on the walls and replace knobs on drawers. He taught me how to use a drill, among other things. 

Dads, teaching your daughters to be able to handle home projects is more than just a good skill for them to have in their back pockets. It’s not just about helping a girl be more independent or capable or handy. It’s about showing your daughter that you believe she can try new things and succeed. By trusting her, she’ll understand that she can handle a saw or a drill or anything else life throws at her (just please not scary power tools - Dad, you can still protect me from those!).

So dads, next time you’re building a shelf or hanging a picture on the wall, invite your daughter to try it out. She might be hesitant, and she might think it’s unnecessary for her to learn, but it’s worth it when you're the one teaching her.

It’s not about the task; it’s about the relationship. It’s not about the drill or the hammer or the shiny knobs and it’s not about building stuff. It’s about building into your daughter in unconventional ways by showing her you want to share in the most regular tasks together, and you trust her to do a great job.

I’m still clueless about most tools and how Dad manages to fix anything (he's amazing at that), but at least I’ve added a few more skills to my repertoire. Plus, there’s the added perk that now if I need to hang a picture in my new apartment correctly or replace the handles on furniture, I’ll know how. Thanks, Dad.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Listening and Being

"Come and listen. Come and listen to what He's done. Praise our God for He is good." 

I never can decide what my most favorite place in the world is, but Hvar definitely counts as one of them.

The sound of the cicadas lets my mind wander. It is here that I can watch boats go by and not "do", but just "be". Rosemary wafts through the air and the sun warms the pine trees into a blissful scent. The horizon stretches on.

I love that the edges are untucked here on this island. The roads are tiny and they wind around and up and down. The shrubs aren't trimmed, and the flowers grow wild. Some of the houses are hundreds of years old. I see the Lord in the beauty of His creation and sometimes just sit in awe. It allows me to process, to think and to praise Him for His great works.

Come and listen
Come to the water's edge
All you who know and fear the Lord
Come and listen
Come to the water's edge
All you who are thirsty, come

Let me tell you what He has done for me
Let me tell you what He had done for me
He has done for you
He has done for us

Come and listen
Come and listen to what He's done
Praise our God for He is good
He has done for me
He has done for you
He has done for us

Friday, August 7, 2015

Fair Trade

When Magda came over last Saturday, she told me about her dad's newest accomplishment - keeping bees and harvesting honey. She also said that she had planned to bring some honey, but forgot it on the table. Ah, she knows me well though! I adore honey. I was excited about local honey from her dad, but sometimes it doesn't work out and that was ok. It was really sweet of Magda to think of me though and to remember that honey is something that would make me happy. 

The next day, I received a text from Magda: 

"But my dad offers you a deal :) he will deliver you the honey himself next week if you would like to draw him the label for his honey jars. With mom they love the wedding invitations [Note: I illustrated Magda's wedding invitations last year]. Would you be interested?"

I got the biggest grin on my face when I read that. Of course, that sounds perfect!! I loved that it was a this-for-that type of trade, like how things used to be done. I'm just honored to have a service that can be traded for liquid gold (that would be honey). 

Mom needed to run some errands in Ostrava, so I sat in Laura Coffee and worked on the labels for "The Ligotka Bee Farm". It was stifling hot inside the cafe with no air conditioning, but somehow it made it all the more fun. By the time Mom picked me up, I had three options for honey labels ready to go for her parents to choose from!

Here were the finished products! 

And today, the treasure finally arrived!! I met up with Magda's parents near my house (the GPS never can find our house - sorry visitors!), and we made the trade. 

Fair trade? I think so! Honey labels for a jar of honey. Illustration and honey are two of my favorite things, so this whole "trade" was a dream.

Oh, and the honey is absolutely delicious!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Dear Martha

I only have three more days left at home here in Czech. The internal, contemplative introvert-thoughts are running wild as I try to process everything that it means to straddle life on two sides of the ocean, yet to be here in Czech right now. I've spent much time pondering to myself, and when I voice my thoughts, they tend to come out jumbled and incoherent sometimes (thanks, Mom, for being patient with that!).

Life has been really good here these past few weeks. It has been especially sweet this summer. Czech is beautiful. I have had days to rest. Mom and I have ventured out many times for various occasions, or even just for grocery shopping. I have watched beautiful sunsets and eaten as many vegetables as I can possibly eat (veggies are awesome). I've even had time for art, which doesn't happen very often (though I wish it did in normal life!). I got to spend time with old friends. Each Sunday service at our church has been touching and encouraging as I have seen our church change and grow just even in these past two years since I left for college.

Yes, it has seemed almost too good to be true, which I can't quite process.

I know that the Lord appoints different seasons to our lives and that each one is a gift from Him. I just came off of a season of hard work and running at my highest relational capacity, only by his strength - Gull Lake. I then came home to a much slower pace of life, which was wonderful and yet a learning process too. I have this feeling that the Lord is trying to get my attention to show me what rest looks like - as a good gift from Him alone.

I think I'm not alone in saying it's nice to feel useful. When I was at Gull Lake, there were always jobs to be filled and things to be done and people to be loved on. Sometimes it's easier then to "connect" with the Lord when you are experiencing this rush of giving. When life slows down, and it is a time of simply sitting still at Jesus' feet, my flesh somehow wants to fight that. "Aren't I doing something wrong? Aren't there things to be done?"

There's this story in Luke that a lot of us know well - the one about Mary and Martha. Mary sits at the feet of Jesus to cling to his every word. Then there's that little verse in the middle of the story: "But Martha was distracted with much serving." (Luke 10:40) The story ends by Jesus telling Martha that, actually, Mary has chosen what is right and that which lasts forever.

Serving is an amazing privilege. But sitting at the feet of Jesus in silence and stillness amidst everything else is an important decision to that I'm being reminded of in this last week. Oh, the goodness I have missed in the moments in between that I have been "troubled and anxious about many things", instead of soaking in precisely the moment the Lord has me in.

I will celebrate in the amazing three weeks I have had here! There is no shame necessary in saying that many mornings I just sat on the porch, not doing a whole lot. I spent quite a bit of time just enjoying beautiful places - while driving, or on short walks here and there with Mom and Kaylee. I absolutely loved taking extra time to enjoy meals with my parents. Those are the moments of stillness - ones that have meaning too. I did often feel the need to "do" though, which I'm realizing now was not the place the Lord wanted me to be.

The Lord is not just pleased with our works and our service to him. He does love that. But, He wants our hearts most of all. May I not feel the pressure to run around and accomplish anything, but may I learn to sit at His feet and simply be still and listen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Over the River and Through the Woods


Continue searching.

Enjoy along the way.

Until we found the place we were searching for: these waterfalls. Apparently, there are even bigger ones up the stream, but we didn't know that, and we were perfectly content with what we found. This little corner of Czech continues to surprise me with its beauty. 

 I hadn't seen Magda since last summer. A few weeks after I started school again, she got MARRIED, and it seems like so much has changed in both of our lives in these past two years since we graduated from high-school together. Yet, through all of those changes, there is still a sweetness and richness to the friendship we have and I cherish any time I get to spend with Magda.

This summer, that meant skipping through the forest on a sunny day, in search of some waterfalls that I had always heard about. These waterfalls are just up in the village that's a few minutes from my house, but I had never seen them before. Both Magda and I go to school in cities, so breathing in fresh mountain air, hopping across streams in the woods, and catching up on life in between was so good for our souls.

I say this every time I am home, but connections with people have been so dear. Thank you, friends, for being so generous and welcoming, even though we are far apart when I'm in Chicago.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Lost in the Hills

We finished dinner and were just noticing the glow outside as the sun began to set. Two minutes later, we were out the door, cameras in hand, off to explore the countryside in the surrounding hills. Mom and I love drives, but especially when we get to go somewhere new or where we haven't been in years, and when the timing is just right. 

Starting off in the direction of a small village, we soon found ourselves making spontaneous decisions to go left or right. 

Claire:"Oh, let's go this way. I think I see I pretty hill over there!"
Mom: "I think I'll turn here. I don't want to have to be behind this truck the whole time."
Claire: "Can we go this way? I can't remember the last time I saw Hukvaldy." 
Mom: "I want to go just a little bit further to get a good view of the sunset."

And so we drove. Twisting roads and tiny towns met us along the way and the sun continued to fade. All along, we were just looking for a pretty view of the hills and the sunset, but we just weren't finding anything that really struck us. Finally, we decided to take a little detour and head to some castle ruins that I have wanted to go to. 

On the way, we glimpsed the sun gleaming ahead of us, and detoured onto a country road that opened up at the top to the most beautiful view of the sun and a town in the valley. We frolicked through the fields, abandoning our castle plans, and fully soaking in the rolling green fields and the soft light of sunset. 

Needless to say, we were both delighted by the adventure. 

We even got to see the Blue Moon rise before heading home with happy hearts.