Thursday, December 31, 2015

Two Thousand and Fifteen

I've done it for three years now 2012, 2013 and 2014, so it's that time of year again...

Here are the highlights of 2015! Honestly, looking back at this year, it seems that there aren't as many individual events that were significant. I can say that 2015 was a year of great growth though personally, both through experiences and my classes at Gull Lake. Those kinds of memories can't quite be captured in a couple of photographs, but I will forever be changed because of this year.

I returned to Chicago from Czech and Croatia, and made a huge shift in my photography business. Clairelyseen Photography gained a new friend - the "Clamera", as I like to call it. This camera has opened up so many possibilities for moving forward in abilities and opportunities. Here is a photo from the first shoot I used the Clamera for.

I took one of the most influential and difficult classes I've had before: Human Development. Spring semester was challenging, and Human Development was just the first of many classes to come with Mrs. Smith (head of the Children's Ministry department).

I spent part of Spring break with Grandma and Bapa...which included a trip downtown Eugene for donuts and gluten-free cupcakes, of course.

In the second part of break...I photographed my first wedding on my own! Jeremy and Svatia's wedding in Pennsylvania was a delight!

The Fantastic 4 went to Wisconsin for Easter. I don't remember ever being in WI before, and I also got to go maple sapping for the first time. Here's Hannah gathering sap.

I spent an unexpectedly wonderful week in Chicago with two of my buddies. I learned that adult life can be really sweet with friends.

I was back at Gull Lake Ministries again for my second summer (and I got to be called Czecholate Chip again!)

I went home again for the summer. I learned that it's right to simply be (sit at the feet of Jesus), instead of doing all the time.

I moved into an apartment with two roommates. What a huge difference it has made to have that space to call home and to be able to cook my own meals again. It took a while to get furniture, so we ate off of storage tubs when my first guest came for dinner.

A roommate of mine got married and I had the privilege of being in her wedding (also my first time in Kentucky!)

JUDAH WAS BORN!!!! Tyler and Lara now have a beautiful son, and I have a pretty special nephew. 11.11.2015.

Caleb and Haley moved to Colorado. I sure am going to miss them in the city. I'll be visiting you both, Caleb and Haley!

I went home for Christmas.

That brings me to today when we gathered together with our family-away-from family, the Ellenwoods. It's been three years since we spent New Years with them, but it felt so right.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Sights of Christmas Morn

 Christmas morning dawned bright and crisp.

The day continued wonderfully. We lingered in the morning with our regular traditions, which was comforting in that "home" way. I missed my siblings this year, but am still thankful I get to be back in Czech.

Christmas has come and gone, so now I will wish you...Happy New Year from the three Patty's in Czech!

Monday, December 28, 2015

They've Become Tradition

It has become tradition now. Christmas time rolls around, and the only cookie I truly crave is this one: Vanilkove rohlicky (Vanilla crescents). The ingredients are simple, but these remind me of home, no matter if I'm in Colorado, Chicago, or my sleepy hometown. 

I've made these three years in a row now, and without realizing it, have at this point established my traditional Christmas cookie. Funny how that happens, right? Christmas couldn't go by without them. 

Recipe here (I substitute gluten-free flour!). 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

On the Way Home: Vienna

It's been three years since I was last in Vienna, as far as I can remember. What a treat it was to stop by here for a few hours on our way back from Croatia. It's quite the bustling, yet majestic city with wide streets and grand buildings. It was all the more lively just a few days before Christmas when everyone is out visiting the Christmas markets. 

We were all already exhausted from waking up at 4AM and traveling all day from Croatia, but we still soaked up the holiday cheer and welcomed the sizzling bratwurst and the opportunity to stretch our legs after a good long car drive. Our visit to this lovely city was short, but absolutely worth it, since it was on our way home!

Back in the car we went and Dad drove us the rest of the way home. Our sleepy hometown nestled in the Beskydy mountains welcomed us back at 1AM. A clear, crisp night made me sigh with joy as I stepped out of the car onto our driveway. It's always good for the heart to go back to your roots. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

When It's Time for Goodbye

Hugging tightly. Their car packed. Words fail. No amount of time suffices. Life changes at goodbye (even a see-you-soon), as it should.

Caleb and Haley move to Colorado tomorrow. The day is soon to arrive, and this goodbye has been long anticipated. I knew when I first came to Moody that I would have a short time with these two at school, but the time has been sweeter than I could have imagined.

We've gone through the joys of learning at school, the struggles of city dwelling and life transitions, the highs and lows together. They have taken me in, and never treated me as a "third wheel". They both love so selflessly, as I'm sure you have experienced if you have been in their home or shared a meal or coffee with these two. Getting to live Chicago life with them (and Tyler and Lara and Judah too) has been the greatest privilege.

(Caleb's last shift at Joe's - our excellent campus coffee shop, where he has been one of the managers this past year)

I know life has to move forward. My mind knows they will thrive in Colorado as they plant roots there in a church and community; they're not Chicagoans at heart, though they have made their home here for a time. I also celebrate what they have just finished - college life! Caleb turned in his last paper this week and has been incredibly diligent this whole semester, as has Haley in encouraging him and giving herself to her job in the city as well. My heart will definitely miss them though.

It's a life stage change. I'll see them soon enough, and we will always be family, but it still is a loss as well of this college season together.

Earlier today I went out to run some errands with a friend who's from the Philippines, but has been in the States now for over four years. She was picking up her new Filipino passport, and I had to pick up a repaired lens. We talked about things we both experience as those who are rooted in more than one place - we are bound for goodbyes. I told her that I expected myself to be good at goodbyes by now, but that I'm learning that it's actually good to never come to that point.

As I was telling her that I'd be saying goodbye to Caleb and Haley today, we were reminded of Genesis - the beginning.

When God created man and woman, he created them to never have to separate from each other or from Him. They lived in perfect communion with God - the only ones who could, for only they bore His image, unlike any other creatures. Yet what happened at the fall?

Adam and Eve sinned, and they hid themselves from the Lord in fear and shame. Do you know what happened next? God spoke with them. He did not curse them (he cursed the serpent and the ground). But what did he do? He had to drive them out of the garden. He did this not because he did not love them any less; no, his holiness demanded it. In his righteousness and complete glory, no sin could dwell with him. This was the first separation. From there, it was death - and Adam and Eve were separated from each other too. Since then, our lives have been full of goodbyes and being torn from one another.

This isn't what we were created for.

We were created for perfect fellowship that never ends. That is why we so deeply long for it. That longing is a holy one, for it reflects the character of our triune God who is ever faithful, eternally existing, eternally loving. The best part? He invites us into this fellowship by the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ. Through him, by repentance and faith, we are no longer separated from God. Nor are we eternally separated from other believers who are in Him either.

So we say goodbyes. And it hurts. It always hurts, and it actually should. It's foreign to our nature, alien to the way of life we were created for in the very beginning. The only one through whom we are offered hope: Jesus Christ.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:3-4

One day there will no longer be goodbyes or separation in any sense from those who are in Christ. What joy that will bring. 

Caleb and Haley - I can't wait to see you in May. I know I'm the little sister, but I think I can say I'm so proud of you guys for all you have accomplished at Moody, and in these past couple of weeks in getting ready to move 1000 miles away. I will still miss you in the city.

(All pictures taken yesterday. Nope, didn't take any today!)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Finals Are Coming

Tomorrow is my first exam, then the next two are on Tuesday. It's finals week. 

I got to study at a coffee shop (River City Roasters) in the suburbs today after church while Caleb and Haley met up with a friend they interned with in Bulgaria this summer. The change of environment was just what I needed to focus. An almond milk cappuccino helped too.

Driving back to the city took much longer than expected because of traffic. As Caleb and Haley get ready to move to Colorado on Thursday, I am beyond grateful for these last times I'm getting with them in Chicago. Today was our last day at church together, and the rainy drive back just seemed fitting, despite slow-moving traffic.

(That's the Willis Tower, by the way!)

Someone at church asked me today (paraphrased) if I was just super anxious to be home. I wasn't sure how to reply. A time for everything, I suppose. Life is here too now, so no matter what, transitions are going to be a bit rocky. I'm not one to typically thrive on change, but that is the life the Lord has laid before me. I am thankful He has, for He has provided strength and comfort every single time.

The friend who asked me that question then followed up with, "It's a reminder that God is ever faithful though, right? When life is constantly changing and you are in new places, you depend on that faithfulness all the more." She couldn't have said it better. She was able to articulate something I had been thinking about just yesterday. I needed to hear it told to me though.

So yes, I am excited to be back in Czech over Christmas break. But it comes with heartache too of transition. The joy soon follows, but not without the sting of goodbyes and loss of what "was". I know that when it's time to leave Czech again after break, that will have both elements as well. Somehow the sweetness of what the Lord provides is all the more evident though when it comes through sorrow as well.

Yet in it all, school still presses, and exams are on their way. Two more days and I'll be done with them all.