Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Response That Changed Everything

A messy desk. A mostly made bed. A morning dawning bright and strangely warm for January. 

With four Children's Ministry classes this semester (as well as two other classes), I am being pressed, but also shaped. This past week I wrote one of my more important papers for my major. It's the one that we then rework again and later in the semester have to present before a theology professor or a senior pastor and let them ask us whatever questions they would like to ask. I sat in the Art Institute cafe writing this paper, reminding myself to breathe and drink lots of water, but at the same time recognizing the privilege it is to get to write such assignments. 

In Caleb's last year at Moody (before he and Haley moved to Colorado), he taught me something I'll never forget. 

I used to ask him, "Caleb, how's such-and-such paper coming along?" or "How was it for you when you wrote this paper that I'm writing now?" His response got me every time. 

His words were usually something along the lines of, "You know what? It was really worshipful." 

That phrase has not left my mind. Any time I think that a paper is hard, or an assignment is too much for me to process at the time, I think of Caleb's words. Isn't everything we do worship? The question is who we are worshiping. When Caleb responded by reminding me of the one whom I worship through these papers, I remembered why I am here. 

Ultimately, the question is not, "what am I getting done right now?" or "what will I gain?" but rather "who is God shaping me to be through this assignment?" and "how is he praised through this?"

All that I write, read, say, do should be turned back to him in praise. And you know what has taken me by surprise in doing so? The joy. There is so much more joy and peace and rest in knowing that what I do does not have the goal of perfection, or people-pleasing, or gain of approval, or a sense of accomplishment, or even the acquisition of knowledge. It is all for God's glory. There is freedom in that. 

Deuteronomy 6 tells us to worship God, and God alone. May we do so in the smallest and biggest tasks we are given. So as I read books, write papers, and struggle along, I remember that it can be worshipful, in the most delightful and fulfilling way. After all, we were created to worship our God, so there is no better place to be. Joy is usually a result too, which is a sweet (and undeserved, as always) gift. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Little Byt (Apartment)

On a very regular cloudy day in Chicago, I want to give you a glimpse of a very regular college apartment. Me and my two roommates share a bedroom and we have a little kitchen and a living room with two big windows. It isn't anything fancy, but it's home to us. Couches, our own dishes, and a fridge full of food somehow do make a difference between the dorms and having a tiny place of our own. 

Here's what real life looks like today. 

Side note: I have nicknamed our apartment "The Little Byt". Byt = The Czech word for "apartment". 

(We have closets now! It really is the littlest of things that bring joy)

Find something beautiful, even if messy, in the ordinary life you're living today on a plain January day. I see stories all the time in the city and they grab my attention, whether wrenching my heart or making me giggle. Sometimes you have to look for those moments when days stretch on. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Czech in Chicago

I can hardly even express how much this Saturday meant to me.

I find it common these days that my written words feel insufficient, as if I don't have the strength to write all that goes on day after day, thought by thought. Yet time with people has filled that gap. It's in conversation, in silence, in a gaze and knowing one another that the days have been filled with words, mostly spoken.

But now, I still can't neglect to capture even just a small glimpse of Saturday. For the first time, a Czech friend from Frydlant came to visit me in Chicago. WHAT. Seriously, it blows my mind. When Terka (who also goes by Tess) told me she would be in the suburbs of Chicago, and that she could come visit me downtown for a day, I just about jumped up and down with excitement. This day has been one I have long awaited. Terka, I'm so glad you were able to come...and be my first Frydlant Czech guest!

I picked up Terka at the train station earlier in the morning before I had to go to work (oh well, real life keeps going). We stopped at Intelligentsia for coffee on our way over to Plum Market. This friend. At Intelligentsia. In Chicago. Again, my mind was just hardly comprehending this reality.

After work, we stopped at the Art Institute, walked around Millennium Park and admired the skyline at sunset. Terka's reactions to everything in the city gave me a new perspective on familiar Chicago. She marveled at the "L", which she had remembered from Divergent. She appreciated the buildings, the architecture, every view and new experience. Terka took in all of these differences and has taken the U.S. in stride. Her courage and trust in the Lord through these past three weeks astonish me.

We also talked about culture, friendships, futures and dreams. Oh, my heart! How filled up I was not only by delicious food at Noodles, but all the more by the honest and genuine conversations we had. Czechs are loyal, observant, and thoughtful friends, and how comforting it was to have Terka here. She's pretty incredible.

If you're reading this from Czech or any part of my European world, just know you are welcome in Chicago any time. It is the greatest privilege to host someone and brings me such joy. And Terka - I'm sad you live on the other side of the ocean, but I also know we are both right where we need to be in this season of life. I hope and pray that one day the Lord would bring us many miles closer. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Connecting Worlds

I'm still soaking in the fact that this is now reality. It's a gift to get to spend an afternoon with my nephew (and Tyler and Lara, of course)!

Judah, your aunt loves you a lot!

I had been planning on coming out to see Tyler and Lara on Monday, and found out on Sunday that they would have another guest too - Lisa and her kids, all the way from Frydlant, my hometown! I didn't think that I would get to see Lisa when she was in the States, so what a fantastic surprise to spend an afternoon with them all at Tyler and Lara's. It made my heart happy to see the two worlds collide and know that I still belong to both.

It's these times that I'm also reminded that the Lord knows our hearts and surprises us because he loves us as his children. It hasn't been an easy transition back to life here (is it ever?), but he hasn't left me to my own efforts. He has brought me again and again to a place of need and desperation for his presence, and then provided not only himself, but others to come alongside in encouragement. We are not alone in the trials we walk through.

Thank you, dear friends and family, for being those people these past weeks.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Art Institute

Today was a big day for this city-dwelling college student! I now have student membership to the Art Institute! It was a gift from my parents for Christmas/Senior year, and there couldn't be anything more perfect. Student membership is actually an incredible deal, and it includes perks like access to special exhibits and free coffee and tea in the cafe.  

The Art Institute feels like a safe haven in a bustling city, and I can't wait to spend more time there in the next year. If you're ever in the city, come visit me and I'll take you there! I get to bring someone along for free entrance to the museum, and I would love to share the joy with you. 

Here's to many more refreshing, good-for-the-soul days filled with beauty, bright light, history, and creativity. Although the semester started off roughly (as it always does, right?), today gave me hope as I was reminded that homework can be a joy when the Lord provides and sustains you...even with the gift of a safe place like the Art Institute.

Needless to say, it was a breath of fresh air today.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Two Airplanes, and I'm Back

It never ceases to surprise me how words fail after two airplanes and thousands of miles. I know now that it just takes time - time to readjust, time to process, time with people, time before the Lord. I'm not numb to the sting of leaving something behind. Trouble is, as a TCK, I'm inevitably always losing something when I get on a plane, no matter which side I'm on. Yes, time will be good. 

Well, goodbye for now, dear Beskydy. I will be back again, hopefully, in one year. 

And Hello Chicago. I am thanking the Lord for a smooth trip this time around, and that I am now in a warm apartment (albeit still with pretty bare walls!) with the necessities in my fridge after a rainy walk to Trader Joe's.

What will this semester consist of? Systematic Theology II, and then four classes in my Children's Ministry Department, as well as Romans online. I am expecting it to be a challenging one, but so rich and beautiful as well. I am praying that the Lord makes me teachable and lets my memory absorb as much as He intends in this next, last year at Moody. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Woods of My Childhood

My schedule for the next two days: Drive to Krakow. Fly to Frankfurt. Stay the night in Frankfurt. Fly from Frankfurt to Chicago. 

On my last full day in Czech, I wanted to experience some of the places that were so familiar to me. I woke up in the morning to a completely foggy day and immediately knew where I wanted to go - the woods. 

These are the woods that are directly behind our training and conference center. When I was extremely allergic to the mold in our house in Havirov, we lived here in this hotel/conference center for three years before we could move to our new house. Me and my brothers and friends would play in these woods often. And on this foggy day, I knew the trees would disappear into the distance on the mountainside and my old playground would become magical once again. 

(Thank you for your help, Mom!)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Cold, Smoggy, but Magical

In two days I'll be getting on a plane to head back to the land of skyscrapers - Chicago. I have grown to appreciate the good things there too, the beauty that the Lord has provided in the city. 

Side note, but did you ever realize that the city was actually God's idea first? Christ will return and New Jerusalem will be the fulfillment of the Lord's promises. Jerusalem - a city. Hebrews 11:6 actually says that when we long for our heavenly home, we actually take comfort in knowing that God is preparing for us a city. The day when I realized this, my whole concept of the city was flipped upside down. Yes, there is corruption and darkness in the city, but it's also a dim shadow of what's to come! How beautiful is that? 

So even though the city is unique too, I still love the mountains, hills and cottages of my small town/village. It's pretty cold and smoggy here currently, but although it often smells bad outside, the haze actually adds a glow to sunset. I went out for a walk the other day, despite the cold, to encapsulate a few memories from my home before heading back to school. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Selfishness (Artwork)

Selfishness: "concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others." (Merriam-Webster Dictionary) 

Selfishness - a word that I detest and try to avoid. 

I was preparing to create a submission for Moody's new art journal, Thin Space. The theme this time is "Darkroom", where what is hidden in the darkness is brought to light and life. The desire of the Thin Space team for this issue is the following: 

"Through this theme we’re hoping to probe the depths of the nitty-gritty, the dark corners of life, and not shy away from ordinary struggles of life."

I needed words. I knew that I had to name what was in the dark for it to begin to come to light. So I chose two words to begin with: perfectionism and selfishness. It stung because I knew they were true at different times of my life. The repercussions of those words ebb and flow in and out of reality, sometimes coming to a head in turmoil. It was time to enter the darkroom to let the Lord bring something good out of what had been hidden. 

Here's where selfishness comes in. In my own daily life it has meant that I lose sight of Christ, grace, and fellowship with other believers. As one of my professors calls it, I begin to "navel gaze", looking to my own desires and safety, or even allowing my thoughts to be consumed with fears and "what if's". This leads to isolation and separation both from intimacy with the Lord and community with his people. 

Praise to the One who redeems us from our sin so we are no longer captives to it! Now that I'm all the more aware and convicted, the steps forward are already laid out: repent and believe the good news ( Mark 1:15). It's a constant choice. But I wish I could tell you in person how much freedom is found right in that place of brokenness healed by Christ. 

My hope is that these images will give you a glimpse of what it looks like to go from isolation and selfishness to fellowship and freedom. And if you have been in the same place, know you're not alone. Take courage. 



Maybe you're familiar with the story of the woman caught in adultery who was brought before Jesus by those who wanted her stoned for her sin. Jesus then told the people, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” They all left. 

"Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
- John 8:10-11

Forgiveness is found in Him. 

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," - Romans 8:1

(Thank you Hayley and Magda for helping me with this project and for walking it through with me too!)