Friday, December 30, 2016

Unexpected Hvar Treasures

Mom and Dad have eagle eyes for adventures and places we've never been to. Despite all of the exploring they've done on this island, they had one place in mind that they wanted to check out - the cross on top of the hill that overlooks the town of Stari Grad.

Dad found the road that leads up in the direction of our destination, but when we got to the top of the hill, there was no way to get to the cross...except by hiking in the direction of the sign! It was close to sunset, so we trekked quickly across the rocky path, hoping to get there in time to still see the sun. It felt like entering a movie set, with its winding trails, rock walls, diversity of trees and bushes, and...well, I'll just let the photos tell the rest of the story.

Thanks for always finding the hidden, tucked away treasures, Mom and Dad! Even when you know a place really well, you have a knack for keeping the adventures fresh!

See Mom's blog for a completely different perspective of the trek! 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Five Years Ago in Hvar

The difference between these two photos: almost five years.

It was almost five years ago that I hiked up to the fortress in Hvar with Caleb. He was in his final year of high-school, and I was a junior. We stayed here during Spring Break in 2012 and loved it, even though it was windy and cold that year. Now I stand here in December, and it's just as chilly and blustery, but delightfully beautiful too.

Let's go back in time again... hard to believe how much has changed since then! This photo feels like ages ago already.

Mom and I wrapped our scarves tight and were sad to see the sun say goodnight for the day. I'm grateful for the memories made in this town.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Childhood Dreams and Oranges

Look at this little guy, glowing underneath the leaves like the sun peeking out from beneath the clouds. 

This is going to sound a bit lame, but the only time I've picked an orange was on one of the retro popular Facebook farm games, probably sometime in middle school. But in reality, I've actually always had a dream of picking on orange off a tree.

Ok, more specifically, I have always dreamed of having fruit trees to pick fruit from. When I was a little kid, we lived in a city called Havirov, and had big cherry trees there. I was always too short to climb up in them, and 5-year-old Claire couldn't quite keep up with her big brothers in reaching the highest branches. 

When we moved closer to the mountains, my request for our future yard was to plant fruit trees and bushes. Dad happily obliged, and we attempted apple trees, raspberry bushes, cherry trees, and even tried reviving the sad pear tree that was already near our driveway. Alas, the deer and birds always got to our trees before us, and we never quite had enough sunshine or who-knows-what to allow the trees to thrive. My dreams were dashed, so I had to be content with the stray Czech apple trees alongside roads in the fall. 

Today, that reality was changed here in Croatia! There is actually a thriving orange tree here that I got to pick from, since we happen to be here right during orange season.

There were only six oranges on the tree, but we have enjoyed every little bit. There are now only three left (or maybe 2?), but each one is like a glowing treasure to me. My childhood dreams came true for a week.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tyler: More Than Just Graduation

Tyler, of course it's incredible that you have now received your hood and Master's Degree in Old Testament Theology and Semitic Languages (phew, even writing that out looks complex!). Even more than completing your degree, here's what I love about who you are:

You take everything that you have learned and let it influence the way you speak and interact with others. I love how you are even applying your Master's Thesis work to your family life and your engagement with the church. 

You are selfless in your love for your family. You have served your wife and son beautifully these past years as you have also studied diligently. You haven't let your priority of your relationship with the Lord slip throughout this either. You have delighted in him in your study, and that delight spills over into your family!

You are an incredible teacher. I love that you engage with the questions I've asked, no matter what my starting point is. You have a way of taking something really complicated and making it accessible to those who want to learn. I took Genesis this past semester with Dr. Schmutzer, and you were eager and willing to talk through every detail of that class with me as if you were right there with me in the class! Your perspective is thoughtful and relational too.

Like I said before, I love how your studies have shaped the way you know God. Then, the way that you know God changes the way you relate to people. It makes me smile so much. 

Congrats, Tyler, on your diligence and care these past years. You've learned intently and loved generously. Thank you for that.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Goodbye Little Byt and Yellow Door

Is it really true? This view no longer awaits me in The Little Byt. Our cozy little apartment has only 2/3's of its belongings, since everything of mine is all packed up in tubs. Mom and Dad helped me load up all the tubs into their rental car last week. We took them out to the suburbs, where my mentor is so kindly keeping them in her basement. 

This will forever be my first "residence". Although the apartment was still kind of campus-housing, it was still a place we were able to make our own, invite others into, and experience life in. I will miss it, and my dear roommates, Michelle and Michelle!

A friend of mine made these ornaments!

One last thing had to happen before I said goodbye to the Little Byt. Maybe you recall about a year and a half ago when I painted a "pseudo-front-door" for the apartment?

Part of the way that I wanted to say goodbye was to send a thank you to the people who actually live in the real apartment with that door. The real door is kitty-corner to my apartment building, but it's my favorite door in the whole city. I printed out a short note and a laminated copy of the painting. "Maine" Michelle and I then braved the frigid Chicago weather (it was 0°F that day!!) to walk over and tape the note to the front door. 

The end of the story is that the resident of the apartment did actually receive the note. And yellow-door-friend, if you read this post, "thank you again for the privilege of 'borrowing' your door for a year and a half! It was always so inviting to imagine it as our door and pretend that we lived in a place as beautiful as your's!"

So long, Little Byt. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Intelligentsia and All Packed Up

Intelligentsia Millennium Park. This was one of my "places" during my time at Moody. It became a haven of sorts, even though it was right in the middle of the touristy/business area of the city. The place is decorated for Christmas now, and it's just as charming as ever as people from all different cultures, languages, and walks of life come in and out of the revolving doors. 

I'm going to miss places like these. At the same time, you know that moment when you feel like a stranger in a place that's completely familiar? I'm not sure how it happens, but it usually comes in a time of transition. It's a sign that it's time to move forward, but it doesn't make the loss any less bittersweet.

I packed up my apartment today (couldn't have done it without the help of my roommate!). All of my things are now in a corner of the room in tubs and suitcases. Michelle (the Maine one!) and I are listening to early 2000's music and trying to make this time feel as normal as possible.

We've come to terms with the fact that transition is just weird, and there is no "right" way to say goodbyes. We can only walk through it. As the children's camp song goes, "You can't go under it, you can't go over it, you gotta go through it." The Lord is near to us in times such as these. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The City as Home

This city has become home over the past three and a half years, and now in just two days, I will be leaving it. I will move out of the Little Byt, leave all my belongings in a friend's basement in the suburbs, and get on an airplane to Europe for the holidays and the month of January. 

To remember this unique season of living in Chicago, Hayley and I strolled around Wacker drive and the Riverwalk and soaked in the downtown sights. Hayley will stay here in the city at Moody, after finishing out her first semester here. For me though, this is the end of a chapter. 

Thank you, Lord, for using Chicago to teach me to love your people more, for showing me the beauty of creation found in the faces of strangers, for instructing me in building friendships, stepping out of my comfort zones, exploring with curiosity, asking questions, and appreciating the unexpected beauty of city moments.

Chicago, you will always hold a piece of my heart. I will return to visit many a time in the years to come and always remember when I called your streets my first American "home".