Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Svačina (Comments of a TCK)

A window into one of the little Third Culture Kid things:

This is a svačina. Quickly after snapping this photo, I carefully placed these items in my backpack (no one likes smushed banana bread!) and strode out to class. 

My days this semester more resemble school days in Czech - they start at 8 and sometimes go until 2:15 before I'm back at my apartment. Without a lunch break, I'm left to only one option on those slightly longer days: bring a svačina = snack.

What makes me laugh about this is that in elementary school we were basically required to have a snack every day at school. I would panic as a kid when I forgot my snack, because I would stand out if I did. Our 15 minute break from 9:30-9:45 was reserved for this purpose alone, and everyone always took this time to eat their snacks. In my early days, I was on the "meal plan" for snacks, and my two favorite things that got delivered were jam-filled light and fluffy doughnuts, and when they would give us bread and yogurt (which were always eaten together when presented this way). 

Middle school pre-gluten-free days included peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (which made Czechs very confused and sometimes disgusted), or my favorite - cherry turnovers. Not bad, eh? Heh...Actually, it's probably a good thing I had to go gluten and dairy-free in high-school. 

Svačina time did not even end in high-school! Although at this point, students ate their snacks whenever they wanted to instead of at a set time. There was also not as high of pressure to have a snack every day (though everyone did anyways). I suppose this habit of never leaving the house without a snack was one that was ingrained in the Czech school system, and has burrowed itself into my patterns of life too.

I ran into Pavel (the only other Czech at school, and one of Caleb's friends from pre-college days too) later today and heard all of his updates on life. He's married and living off-campus, so I don't get to talk with him much, but when our paths cross, we both enjoy getting to speak Czech for a bit. At the end of our conversation, he said that he'd better get back to "domácí úkoly" (homework), and all of the memories of Czech school came flooding back. Domácí úkoly, svačina... it's all still in my heart and head and it's strange to access those memories only at certain times, since I only speak English every day.

Czech and the U.S. have made their imprints on me, and I think that I'll be discovering those marks for the rest of my life as different situations present themselves. Today though, I'll thoroughly enjoyed the svačina that I happened to remember to pack thanks to Czech school systems. Gluten-free banana bread, a piece of chocolate, water and some cherry tomatoes can do wonders for making it easier to concentrate in class and at work. Thanks, Czech teachers. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

NEXT Children's Ministry Conference 2016

How can I even capture what this weekend was like? In short, I have now completed my capstone project for Children's Ministry. The NEXT Children's Ministry conference was hosted by Moody Bible Institute and put together by the senior Children's Ministry majors.

We got to do everything from finding speakers, to budgeting, to creating a schedule, visitor badges and providing food for over a 100 people. More than that though, we learned how to entrust our work to the Lord and surrender to Him, for nothing would happen apart from Him. All of our effort would be for nothing without prayer and the Holy Spirit's work in our hearts and the hearts of those who came to the conference.

Of course, this conference would not have happened without our beloved professor, Mrs. Elizabeth Smith. She not only guided us this whole semester as we prepared, but she taught a general session and led a "Day in the life of Children's ministry" simulation. 

Every one of the seniors did an excellent job in the positions they were given, and I loved working with this team. But seriously, if you're looking for someone to work in Children's Ministry, you should hire these ladies. 

Pastor Brian Smith was another one of our head speakers, and he brought wonderful illustrations and ideas, practical resources and sound biblical instruction for Children's ministry. 

Essentials for any conference - a program, coffee, and water! Crayons are a great addition too. 

On the right is Claire, one of the seniors in our class, who also acted as our conference coordinator. Cinda was the Hospitality team leader, and they both played a significant role in making the conference run smoothly and beautifully. 

And that's a wrap! I continue to pray that the Lord uses this conference to encourage all who were there. I'm grateful for my major, for Mrs. Smith, for the privilege to help equip Children's ministry leaders from the Chicago area, and mostly, for getting to be a part of what God is doing here. He's the one to be praised.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Small Delights in the City

It's a regular Wednesday afternoon in the city -- full of logistics, classes, paper-writing, illustrating (yep, that's part of my prep for the NEXT Children's Ministry Conference), drizzly rain, sirens, traffic and rush hour. The smell of spring trees permeated the air, which vaguely reminded me and Michelle of fish, or goose, or something else that's not so lovely, but the trees are still beautiful all the same. 

I took my homework to my favorite coffee shop today, and then took the long way back to campus by walking through Millennium Park to another Brown Line stop on the train that's just a couple of blocks away. I intentionally travelled this direction today just to catch a glimpse of the white trees in the park, because they come and go so quickly, yet they're my favorite (even though they smell funny). They bring so much life to a place that's been gray and dull all winter.

It's the beginning of a change towards life and color again, and I always make a point to see it here in the city when April nears May. 

I suppose I should call these, "beauty breaks". Essentially, it means taking even just a short stroll to appreciate the Lord's creativity and soak in the beauty of what He has made. I'm naturally drawn to nature for beauty breaks, but people-watching could fit into this too, since people are made in the very image of God, and the Lord is to be praised all the more for creating us than for even creating the trees and flowers. But that's another conversation for a different day, for it's a lesson I've had to learn the hard way living in the city. 

Monday, April 18, 2016


Pace yourself.

Those are the words I used to describe what these next three weeks will be all about. And so, with everything that has to get done, I stopped here on my way back from grocery shopping for a fig macaron and some sketching for a class project. The city sounds were still in abundance outside the cafe window, but the sunshine glowed and the fake flowers looked surprisingly beautiful. 

Spring is here. Last weeks of school are here. Yet amidst that, the Lord is near, he answers prayers, he sustains, protects and encourages. He is faithful. My goal in these next weeks is to pace myself so that I don't have to crash at any we'll see how that goes! Ultimately though, I can't do this on my own and rely on the Lord for new mercies every morning.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Senior Photos: Emily

When a fellow photographer asks you to take her senior photos, you say "yes!", for it is such a privilege. This friend is a creative inspirer and vision caster. She's also one who's not used to being in front of the camera, but rather behind it, so Saturday was a day of conquering fears for her. Here's a glimpse into a greater collection to come. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Bright Spots

It's that time of the semester when everyone buckles down and realizes how much is still ahead in homework, yet how little there is of time. It's easy to see my weaknesses in this season, which I know is good in some respects. This week has caused me to stop at my door before leaving my apartment in the morning just to take deep breaths and pray for the Lord's perspective. It's scary to look ahead and not really see a break in the run of it all, even though I'm still learning and loving my classes.

Yet despite all of those pressures that finishing up a semester holds, there have been breaks of brightness. Just today, the Lord gave me the gift of three of those bright spots.

1. Every Thursday morning for this past semester, Kelley and I have met up at 7am to spend time together until I have to be at work at 8:30. With our school, work and other commitments, we sometimes don't see each other during the other days of the week, so Thursday mornings have been a priority for us, and worth it even if it means we have to get up earlier. I am grateful for Kelley's commitment and that she goes along for the ride, even at 7am!

2. The sun. It has been a dreary month so far, so the sunshine today was literally a bright spot of the day. It's amazing what a little sunlight can do for the whole campus. Students are generally happier on sunny days!

3. Before PCM, I got to spend some time with Tyler, Lara and Judah. Seeing him grow is quite the adventure in and of itself, and I love seeing his little personality come out more. Tyler and Lara are in plenty of transitions in this stage of life, and it's always meaningful to me to get to be not too far away. I rode back with Tyler from his work and joined in on all of their normal family life. I also love seeing them both be parents, since they are loving Judah so well!

Friday, April 8, 2016

When You Trip Along

A wise woman in her 90's, Pam Reeve, once quipped to me about the way she lived her life of faith...

"I'm just tripping along with Jesus!"

When I was processing the week today and recognizing lots of ups and downs of this point of the semester, I felt discouraged. Maybe it was the snowy gloomy weather, or the imminent cold I might be catching, or the three group meetings one after another I had for class projects, or... Then the Lord so kindly brought that quote to mind and I found comfort in it. 

It's not wrong to find your feet faltering on the paths of following Jesus, for we recognize that though we are declared holy and righteous in him, we are not yet glorified and still live in a sinful and broken world. Yet what is key is recognizing that the "tripping" is not done alone! Christ is ever near. Our dependence on him is merely highlighted by our inability to walk on our own. And what sweetness it is to know Jesus' presence precisely there. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

To The Zoo?

When's the best time to go to the zoo?

Answer for a college student in the city: When rain is imminent, skies are gloomy, daffodils are blooming, and the pathways are empty.

Ok, I do actually love going to the zoo on happy sunny days when all the families are out and you get to watch kids exclaim with joy over monkeys and tigers. I also loved today.

When I was feeling under the weather and in need of some fresh air and a break from homework, I hopped on the bus and got off at the Lincoln Park zoo, just up the street. I strolled around and then walked back to campus with rain coming down just as neared my apartment again.

While I was at the zoo, I actually enjoyed the daffodils maybe even more that the animals themselves (since most of them were hiding indoors!). I did get to see some brave camels though. I wondered at the emptiness of the whole place, but also welcomed the unexpected quiet in the city.

Yes, it was a gloomy day, but I also got to see happy flowers, trees beginning to bud, and listen to the strange stillness of the park before a rainstorm. I grew up with a lot of rain, so today was comforting.

Don't worry, if you come to the city, I won't make you come along with me on a rainy day to go to the zoo. For a dreary day of classes and homework though, I welcomed this little escapade up north, and I can't wait to continue to watch the zoo blossom with spring. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Where Will Claire Be This Summer?

In just 6 weeks I'll be packing up my apartment for the summer and heading out for my 3 month Children's Ministry internship. Where to?

Mission Training International in Colorado!!

Back in the summer, I only dreamt about this internship, and now it's going to be a reality. The Lord completely provided this opportunity, and I can't wait to learn and serve in the Children's Ministry section of MTI. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else this summer, even though I'm sure there will be a learning curve as I dive right in right after the semester is finished.

I'm quoting MTI's vision from their website here, which says, "Mission Training International’s vision is to see cross-cultural messengers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ experience effectiveness, endurance and personal vitality. MTI accomplishes this through two main programs: COMPASS and DAR."

I'll get to come alongside families and kids as they prepare to move overseas to do cross-cultural ministry, and then also work in the DAR program, which helps families transition back to the States. 

I am already blown away by God's generosity displayed through the body of Christ - I have a home to stay in that's only a 12 minute drive from MTI, and my grandparents are lending me their car to use. Thank you, thank you! Both of these provisions were such specific answers to prayers. 

Would you pray with me as I prepare for this internship? As I said before, I feel absolutely confident that the Lord has set this before me and I'm looking forward to walking in that, but of course I'm a bit nervous about the "transition time" of acclimating to a new context and adapting to skills needed there. You can also pray that this internship provides direction for what I'll head towards after I graduate in December, and that it would be a joy-filled summer too. 

I'll hopefully get to post updates here this summer and share praises to the Lord, as well as what I'm learning and how you can continue to pray. I'm excited for what's ahead!!

And if you happen to be reading this and you're going to be at MTI this summer, then that makes me so happy!! Building relationships with families and the MTI team will be the sweetest part of the summer. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Last Enrollment

It's April 4th, and it's snowing, even though the daffodils are already blooming. Chicago weather is funny sometimes. But despite it being a weird weather day, there was a bright spot that happened at 2:45pm. I enrolled for classes for the last time at Moody!!

My enrollment appointment was at 2:45pm and now it's over. I won't be following optimal schedules anymore, and all I have left is 5 more weeks in this semester, and then one semester in the fall. It seems almost impossible. Could I be graduating college this year?? That hardly seems possible.

Though I still have a lot to do this semester, during my internship over the summer, and in the fall, I still want to celebrate today that the Lord has led me thus far, and will continue to do so. No more enrolling for this Moody student after today!