Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Long-Awaited Recital

"How long have you been practicing these pieces?"

"Two years," she says.

Julia, my oh so lovely roommate, performed her senior recital yesterday. She has been dedicated, diligent, excellent and fully engaged in preparing for this one day, and all of her work was so clearly seen in her playing. She brought all of who she is to the performance, and it could not have been more incredible to just sit there and witness true talent, artistry and skill. She was both the narrator and the princess in this beautiful story that was woven together in music.

I'm hoping that there will be a recording of her recital posted at some point. If there is, you can count on me posting a link to it! She is one of the most incredible pianists I know, and you will be blessed by hearing her play. I definitely was last night.

Here are a few photos from the evening, taken after the performance. Congratulations did it!!!

Julia was highly praised by her piano professor. If I was proud of Julia, as her roommate, I can't imagine how proud her professor must have been!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Children's Ministry's Senior Class

Here is my question this semester: Since when did I become a senior in college??! 

But really. Senior year came way quicker than I had expected. 

I graduate in December, not May, but still, I am now counted among the senior class and will be graduating this year, 2016. This is the senior class for the Children's Ministry department here at Moody. (Side note: I promise there are guys in this major; they just happen to not be seniors this semester!)

Our class is planning the NEXT Children's Ministry Conference this year that will happen right here on Moody's campus. We are hoping that by next week registration will be ready to go and you can find out all the info about the conference. Here's what I'll tell you for now...the theme is #HowTo. We'll be learning the practical skills of having a biblically grounded children's ministry that thrives! 

I present to you, our conference team, and also your seniors in Children's Ministry (and Mrs. Smith, our professor, is standing in the middle!). Coming soon to a world near you...

All images courtesy of Clairelyseen Photography...yes, I set up my tripod for these pictures! Yay! 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Photos: A Proposal

What a celebration to get to photograph such a momentous occasion! Many congratulations, Eric and Steph! 

I was a little nervous, but mostly excited when Eric, a friend of mine here at Moody, asked me if I would take his proposal pictures. As soon as I saw them from around the bend though, all nervousness faded and only smiles abounded. They beamed with joy all the more! To get to witness such a precious moment was such a delight. 

Here are just a few snapshots from this Saturday. I hope they make you smile! 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Learning: Temple Grandin

I'm taking a class this semester with Mrs. Smith called "Exceptional Children", and one of our assignments includes watching one of the movies she gave us and discussing themes and what we can learn within small groups. Ah, what a great homework assignment, right??

The movie I got to watch with my group was one that I had never heard of before, but completely changed my understanding on the perspective of someone on the Autism Spectrum. Temple Grandin is an incredible movie that's not only captivating, but accurate to Grandin's story. She holds a masters and doctorate degree, and is now a professor in Colorado, and she's simply incredible. Her mind amazes me and she has tenacity and passion that I can guarantee will inspire you.

I hope you get a chance to see the movie, but if not, here's a great TED Talk Temple Grandin did in 2010. Take a look and enjoy learning!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Children's Ministry Major

I study Children's Ministry at Moody. Have you ever wondered what that looks like, and what it's all about? Moody put together a video last year highlighting our department. Not only does the video feature our beloved professor and head of the department, Mrs. Smith, but the ministry site where the footage was taken was actually the place I did my PCM (Practical Christian Ministry) for my first two years at Moody at their afterschool program.

If you are considering studying at Moody, I so highly recommend this department to you. I am not the same person today as a result of the teaching, training and love from our professors here. I graduate in December, and although it's often tough and extremely stretching, I will be soaking up as much as I can in these next two semesters.

And here's a little more about Mrs. Smith (with whom I have four classes this semester!)

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Valentine's Story

I share this snippet from yesterday to show you what Christ-like brotherly love can look like. My roommate is dating Josh, and they often come by our apartment to grab a meal or have a movie night. They are always extremely respectful and it has been so fun to watch my roomie, Julia, love and be loved so well by Josh these past two semesters.

It's always great when they're around and we are all glad to open up our safe little apartment in the midst of crazy school days and schedules. Julia always checks with us to make sure it's ok if they come up, and we always say yes because having Josh around is like having a brother come over to visit.

Josh had surprised us (me and my other roommate, Michelle) earlier in the week by letting us know that he wanted to do something for us all in the evening. He said that he wanted to thank Michelle and me for our hospitality and willingness to have him over, and for loving Julia too as her roomies. I was speechless, but it was such a thoughtful gift to us on this particular Sunday evening.

Josh and Julia went on their Valentine's date in the afternoon, and then they cooked dinner together for Michelle and me (and he gave us chocolate along with it!). We all ate around the table and laughed and told stories. It was so selfless and brotherly of him, and something that reminded me of my dad and brothers too, but mostly of the Lord. Not only did he bless Julia on Valentine's Day and in the ways he loves her daily, but he blessed her roommates as well.

It all made me think of the Father's great love for us. I love how He chooses to communicate that to us constantly. He does so through His Word and through the hands and feet of his church; and yesterday He did so through the thoughtfulness of Josh towards all three of us, most surprisingly towards his girlfriend's roommates. Thank you Josh...and thank you, Heavenly Father!  

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Tikka Masala (Food Is Memories)

I didn't grow up eating any type of Indian food, but when Haley made Chicken Tikka Masala for us one time when I visited their apartment, it was one of the most delicious and nourishing meals. Warm and spicy, yet also sweet in a way, it's a great meal for a snowy day.

I'd never made this recipe before this last week, but as soon as I tasted it, the flavor brought me right back to Caleb and Haley's little Chicago apartment on Mozart St. They live in Colorado now, but as the quote from The Hundred Foot Journey goes, "Food is memories."

This meal reminded me of memories with Caleb and Haley here in the city, and I look forward to making it again with them when I go visit them one day!

Find the recipe here: Chicken Tikka Masala.

Note: I used almond milk instead of heavy cream, and also added a slurry of starch and a bit of milk to make it a little thicker because of that swap.

I don't have anything special to say about Valentine's Day today, except that the Father's love is so so deep for his children. Soak that in amidst all else that is going on in life. It's a sweet promise and reality. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Good Day and How Are You

Occasionally I still encounter moments of "culture shock" here in the States. Those times can take me by surprise, and they're often little, but they remind me gently that I have roots on the other side of the ocean that are still very much present.

Yesterday I was walking from one class to another, crossing the salt-crusted plaza along with the other students braving the cold as well. I passed a professor as I walked. I haven't taken a class with that professor, but his face was familiar to me from around campus. It pained me that I couldn't greet him with any respectful phrase, like "Good Day" (students won't usually greet professors they didn't personally know). He is a professor, someone I respect, and I had to walk by without acknowledging his presence. This still feels strange with my Czech instincts.

As I left another classroom later in the afternoon, the same sensation came over me again as a different professor walked past me in the hallway. Just like the time before, because I hadn't taken a class with her, nor had a conversation with her in the past, she didn't make eye contact, and I couldn't say hello. Not to mention, a friendly "hello" didn't seem respectful anyways. It's confusing.

In Czech we are trained from pre-school to greet those in authority with a "Dobry Den" ("Good Day"). If you walk past a group of kindergartener's, chances are you'll hear them all exclaim a long and loud greeting of Dobry Den to you. It's adorable. In high-school too, whether I knew a teacher personally or not, I always greeted them if I passed by them. It's a sign of respect. Maybe they get tired of being greeted all the time, but it's part of the culture.

That was just one Czech moment I had. There was one more yesterday. (Strange how some days are just like that, right?)

I subbed for a desk worker on campus for an hour yesterday, so I sat at the Welcome Desk, which is at one of the entrances to Moody. People are usually kind and say hello when they walk in, but one friend in particular surprised me with her greeting.

This friend was walking by the desk and asked, "How are you?" I answered something along the lines of, "I'm alright. I'm a little sick, but it's ok." She stopped in her tracks and spent the next couple of minutes talking with me and listening to the rest of the answer to her question. "How are you?" is usually a greeting asked in passing, often answered with "Good, how are you?", but this friend took the time to really ask the question and wait for the answer. It was good for my heart.

The friend who stopped to listen is actually German. It didn't surprise me that her question was meant to be genuinely answered then, since usually in Europe the question isn't used as much for a greeting. There is nothing wrong with it being a greeting here in the States (I've gotten used to it!), but it took some adjusting of expectations when I first came in as a freshman. I was reminded of my other culture when my German friend stopped to ask that question, which was different from the American quick greeting.

I appreciate so many aspects of both of the cultures that I call my own, and actually ended up laughing at the end of both of these instances. Little cultural idiosyncrasies say so much about a country, and I love getting to experience those in person. For example, Americans are generally friendly and approachable, so respect and status may not be as high of a value for them (hence the lack of a "Good Day" to professors).

For those of you who have travelled or who live overseas, what are some of these cultural differences you have noticed lately? I'd love to hear!

And here's a photo of Czech my mom sent me a few weeks ago, just for fun. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Not Pictured

We sat at Plum Market with our salads and gluten-free snickerdoodles talking about future plans, dreams, and what life looks like for Tyler and Lara right now. Judah joined in after he woke up from his nap, and there we huddled on our lime-green chairs around the small table. 

Not pictured? 

This weekend has been a hard one for me. Right on the heels of Founder's Week came unexpected exhaustion and a cold. I was caught off guard and didn't know how to deal with it. When school continues to press in on me, I feel that I have to keep pushing forward and through it with my head down. 

When I was a kid I wasn't always the strong one. I didn't like working much and enjoyed coloring and having picnics over strenuous activities or helping out with housework. I suppose that's pretty normal for kids, and the Lord did change that in me as the years went on. With Mom and Dad's careful instruction, difficult high-school years (academically), then moving to the States and working in EGS, as well as two summers at Gull Lake (where they push your limits daily, and the Lord strengthens us through it!), I can't do a task without thinking of all of the influential people who have taught me the value of hard work. 

I've also swung to the other side of the pendulum too. I don't know when to stop. I keep going, keep pressing past emotions, desires, and even relationships, to get things done. It's "worked", but at the expense of obedience to the Lord and vulnerability in friendships. 

Today I experienced what it means to be able to express exhaustion, to not fake being "ok" and "just fine", to let the wisdom of those who have way more experience than I do seep in where my heart is hard. My family was gracious as I didn't have the usual pep and joy this weekend.

Love isn't conditional to good days or bad days. Somehow in my heart I've let myself believe that just maybe it was, and I did have to always choose to smile and keep going as if nothing happened. A friend of mine called me out on this just yesterday, in perfect timing for today as well. I'm thankful for family and friends who lean in when my weaknesses come out. Thank you.

Malenovice, Czech Republic
I am learning today that rest is worship. And I'm trying to wrap my head around that. First of all, resting is obedience to God's command. Strict observance of the Sabbath is no longer required, for Christ has fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17), and Jesus is now our Sabbath rest. That means that at all times we can rest in our assurance of salvation if we are in Christ, and no longer have to strive...for anything. Rest is trust that his provision is enough on the other side. Rest is admitting that I am not God and my supplies are not limitless. Rest is submission to the Lord, and actually honoring to him.

No, I don't understand it yet. I thought that I did, but right in this season of life, this week, it's not something I am living out. I'm praying that the Lord leads me into his rest and teaches me that I may sit in his holy and precious presence. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Founder's Week 2016

It's Founder's Week. My third one, and last one as a student at Moody.

I have worked with Event and Guest Services on campus since my freshman year, and have gotten to see a unique perspective at how this school makes events happen. So many departments come together to put on these events and countless hours are dedicated to glorifying the Lord by doing so.

While we do all we can to help the conference run smoothly, we have fun in EGS too during weeks like these. For example, we have had a competition going that we nickname "the rubber band game". Essentially, every EGS employee is given a rubber band at the beginning of the week, and any time someone catches another saying "Founder's Week", then you lose your rubber band. We've had to get creative at calling Founder's Week by other code names ("FW" or "Fweek" or "this week") to keep our rubber bands. How am I doing in this competition? Well, just yesterday I had two rubber bands, and then I lost them both in just one conversation by slipping up and saying the conference name. It adds laughter to the team and we bond with little things like this!

Although we are exhausted after long days, we are also glad to have been able to play a small part in Founder's Week. The Word of God has been preached and the Lord has been worshipped as his people have gathered here this week on campus in the mornings and at Moody Church in the evenings.

We have one more session tonight with Ravi Zacharias and then FW 2016 will be complete. Praying we are able to serve our guests tonight in a way that will bless them!

(And here's a photo of your head ushers with D.L. Moody!)