Wednesday, June 29, 2016

MTI and What's Next?

It's hard to believe I have already been at MTI for almost 7 weeks. I have reached my half-way point here at my internship, which was marked by the start of a new COMPASS program, where I'll be helping in the process of training families as they head to the mission field by working with the 7-12 year-olds classroom for this next month. 

I'm co-teaching this class for the program so that I can get acclimated to the curriculum and learn from the expert - Brittney, who's been here for years! Really, all of the kids' trainers here at MTI are incredible at what they do, and I am mostly learning from observing them day in and day out. I am overwhelmed at times still by all that is new, but the staff is so gracious with all of my questions. My favorite part is always getting to know these kids and creating a safe environment for them to learn, build relationships and grow in. 

You might be wondering at this, is MTI the kind of work you're hoping to do after college? And I can honestly say I don't know. My parents are (wisely) advising me to "suspend all judgment about the future" for now, since I'm still collecting pieces and don't have enough information to decide what's next after I graduate in December. Once my internship is over, I'll start processing everything that happened this summer and look at what my options are ahead. It's scary sometimes. It really is. Isn't the unknown always somewhat daunting? 

At the same time, I've seen the Lord guide me so lovingly over the years and am also excited to see what he has up the path a ways. I won't know until I get to the bend; and I'm not there yet. 

I'll admit, it's pretty difficult for me to not think about what's next, but it's part of what I'm learning this summer: live in the present, take each day as a gift from the Father. Live with what the Lord has placed before you, Claire, right in the time he has given it. If the Lord provided manna for the Israelites in the desert, enough for each day, ordained for them and given by His good hand, then will He not do the same (Exodus 16)? He is the same God yesterday, today, and forever.

Or to take another OT story, will there not be just enough oil and flour in the jar tomorrow (1 Kings 17)? To the widow in the story, it looked like she was running out each day, and yet each day, the Lord showed his faithfulness and came through on his promises to provide.

One other verse comes to mind as I think through all of these things, and it's one I've heard since I was a kid, but that keeps coming back...

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" - Matthew 6:26

So I keep doing what he places before me each day, learning all I can here at MTI, and soaking in the wisdom of those who are so good in this field. I'm trusting that the Lord will take what little I feel I have and use it for his good purposes and for his glory. He knows what's next; I need not worry. 

(There's a little perspective from the driveway of the place I'm staying for the summer - "Forest Lane", as I like to call it)

P.S. I have lots more photos of the kids, but for their own safety and privacy, I don't feel comfortable sharing their photos without parent permission! I would love to share their faces of joy and friendship, but want to be sensitive to their families. Thank you for understanding!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Surprising Anwered Prayers and a Hike

I was driving back from the Springs, headed towards "Forest-Lane" and continuing to ask the Lord for open eyes to see opportunities for when I could talk with people, no matter where I am. I pulled into the local park on my way home, hoping to not only get to walk around the pond, but also see if there was anyone to meet along the way. Sure enough, I ended up talking with a grandma and her granddaughter ("K" and "J") who were playing with their dog in the park. 

Side note: Let me just tell you - it's not my custom to stop and talk with people I don't know, so this has been a stretch since coming here and an uncommon challenge the Lord has placed before me. 

We chatted for a while and found surprisingly a lot of common ground! These two were friendly, kind, and spoke dearly of the Lord. Just a few of the connections we made were that K's husband works at Focus on the Family (Adventures in Odyssey, anyone??) and K's mom grew up as an MK in India. These might seem insignificant, but I think it made us (= me, mostly) feel safe and even a little known. 

When K mentioned that she and J loved to hike, I asked for suggestions of trails that she could recommend to someone like me who was new to the area. It was then that she asked if I'd like to come along with her and J the next morning, bright and early, for their weekend hike. And you know what? I said, "Sure! I'd love that!"

Again, side note: If the Spirit had not already been prompting the willingness for new connections like this, I would have never been ready to say yes. God knows what He's doing in our hearts!

And so, after meeting these two sweet ones yesterday in the park, I met up with them at 6:30am and we ventured off into the Rockies and enjoyed our 6.5 mile hike with our pal Mitra (their hiking buddy, a catahoula hound, named after the Hindi word for "Friend"). 

The Lord answers prayers in unexpected ways, let me tell you! This morning was not only refreshing, but I now have two new friends. I feel so encouraged just by spending the day with them. What started as a prayer to see if there was anything I could do for the Lord ended with Him showing me what He can do to show his love to me. Grace. I'm blown away by Him. The Father - gracious, good, loving. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Cake Smash

One of the staff kids here at MTI just turned one, and his birthday party and cake smash were my favorite. I had never seen a live-action cake smash, but it really did live up to everything I had imagined. He hesitantly touched the frosting with his fingers for a second, and then before we knew it, went face first into the cake. Oh, it was just too good. 

Here are just a few photos from the day. If you'd like to see more, you can head on over to Clairelyseen Photography!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Still Learning from Dad

It seems appropriate that on Father's Day I happened to come across Josiah Venture's collection of teaching that's happened recently at conferences and trainings in Europe...and some of it is teaching by my dad! It's always such a delight to listen to Dad's talks and to continue to learn from his wisdom even across the ocean now. 

So here's just a shoutout to you, Dad! Thanks for all you do to equip, serve, lead, and teach so many others, and for all the time you've invested in doing the same for our family. Love you lots!

(Click HERE for links to some of these teachings - they're directed towards specific audiences, like the interns or the JV staff, but I'm still loving them!)

(Photos from

Saturday, June 18, 2016

When the Car Has Troubles (Receive Help)

Why did I get to sit at my favorite coffee shop in the area with Grandpa this morning? There's a story to that.

Grandpa and Nana live about an hour north of where I am for the summer, and they're also generously lending me their car (a 1998 Jetta manual!), while I'm here for my internship at MTI.

This dear car is full of quirks and charm, and isn't even much younger than me. It has been on the verge of an issue with the coolant for the past week, so I've been keeping my eye on the temperature gauge to make sure the engine didn't overheat. I dubbed yesterday my "exploring day", so I drove up to Palmer Lake and down to Colorado Springs, all the while watching the car along the way for any potential issues.

As the Lord would have it, after my full day out and about, it wasn't until I was ten minutes away from home and on a back road that I noticed the temperature getting too high on the engine and pulled off to the side to stop the vehicle. God had protected me the whole day, and honestly, the timing of this issue flaring up could not have been better (although that does sound kind of strange when I say it that way!). It's a good thing I stopped it too, because when I opened up the hood, you could definitely smell the engine. I don't know much about cars, but I think I can sense when the potential of danger comes near.

I called Grandpa, and minutes later had updates from him that he would come down to the Springs the next morning to take a look at it and potentially have it towed. My host family picked me up, the car overnighted on the side of the road, and Grandpa came to the rescue in the morning. He was able to drive the car to the mechanic after taking a brief look at it, and it now gets to have a slumber party with the other cars for the weekend, since they won't be able to work on it until Monday.

Since Grandpa was already in the area, we stopped for coffee at my favorite little shop, which was conveniently only a couple of minutes away from the automechanic. We swapped latest stories and he shared more wisdom with me about walking with the Lord. We even got to have sandwiches for lunch back with my host family before he headed out.

Sure, the car has issues. I won't have a vehicle to drive for these next few days, so that'll be an interesting adventure figuring things out. But the Lord has provided thus far; will he not be present and near now too? I honestly have peace about it all and am actually amused at the way it all panned out. The Father had it planned out (before I even knew what coolant really was), and he's even giving blessings along the way of this hiccup, like getting to spend a morning with Grandpa.

(Pray that the car would get fixed by next Thursday when I start up at MTI again... without a car I can probably find a way to get there, but it will be difficult! The Lord will be faithful though. He cares about the little things!)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Rainy Plan B

My days in Jackson Hole were often drizzly. Although I would have loved traipsing around outside in the sunshine, the rain was equally as refreshing. I grew up in Czech after all; rain is comforting and charming, reminding me of home. 

On the day when Sara and I were going to go visit a hot spring about an hour away, we looked up at the sky and saw dark clouds. After looking at the weather forecast, we decided it was safer to stay close by, so we went for a drive along a road that paralleled the mountains, and wove through a canyon to find a small lake. It rained off and on, but we savored the views and the spectacular shades of greens and blues that seemed to glow in the rain. 

It finally cleared up a bit so that we could see the Tetons. What a sight to behold, uncapturable with the one lens I had brought with me to Wyoming. I guess our own eyes are sometimes the best way to soak in beauty anyways.

I'm so grateful to have gotten to spend even just a couple of days with this friend! Thank you, Lord. Getting to experience the gift of friendships that the Lord has given me in each season of life reminds me yet again that he always provides just what we need when we need it.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Slow Sunday in Jackson Hole

Here I am, on this drizzly Wyoming day, nestled into a coffee shop in Jackson Hole. I can't hardly believe that I'm here, and especially visiting a friend, Sara, that I met at Gull Lake last summer! Her family lives here in Jackson, so I not only get to visit our family friends, but a personal camp friend as well. We worked together last year, and I would have never dreamed it would actually work out one day to visit her.

Sara is off at work this afternoon, so she dropped me off at a little place called Persephone Bakery after church, and it's been lovely here. I'm soaking in a quiet restful afternoon, and even a familiar cup of Intelligentsia coffee, which reminds me of Chicago. Isn't it strange how places can collide and pieces from homes follow you wherever you go? 

I have now been in Colorado for a month, and I have only pulled my camera out once during that time. I can't quite figure it out, but somehow when I'm in CO, I feel that I have to take everything in with my eyes before I can even imagine trying to create a photo of the beautiful surroundings. I've needed time to process everything in person, and haven't wanted to take photos with my camera of it yet. Today, I finally pulled out my camera to savor the sweetness of this little shop. I hope it makes you smile today to see a glimpse into this world here. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Airports and Wyoming-Bound

Airports feel sentimental. I can't quite describe it, except to say that it's pretty common for Third Culture Kids to feel safe and settled in an airport. It's the "in-between-place" of our worlds, the place of connection, the place of transition from one home to another, and to another still.

Even little flights, like the one I'm taking today, bring up all the memories and emotions of past trips. The one that comes to mind immediately is the last time I was in this airport: Denver. I was on my way to Oregon for Spring Break when my flight was delayed and I was stranded in Colorado for the night. Except, I wasn't exactly stranded. I called my family and my aunt came to pick me up after my cousin's play that night and I stayed with them before catching my next flight in the morning.

I'm headed to Wyoming today to visit some family friends, as well as a friend I worked with at Gull Lake last summer. I have a break this next week from MTI, since they don't have a program going on right now, so since I had been wanting to visit these friends for a while, this seemed like the perfect opportunity. 

So here I am, sitting in the airport, feeling almost as happy to be here as to be heading to Wyoming. 

I'm thanking the Lord for how He uses places and people to mark significant stories of our lives that He is weaving together. Airports are especially associated with those markers of His faithfulness.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Three 3's and One Week

Tomorrow marks the last day of a very important week. I'll be finishing up my very first week of DAR (Debrief and Renewal), where I got to help debrief and teach 3 precious 3-year-old boys (missionary kids moving back to the States with their families!). It's been quite the learning journey, but one that will forever mark the way I do children's ministry and serve missionary families. I have absolutely loved getting to know each of these boys and seeing even now the seeds of the Gospel being planted in their hearts.

Often this week, I have stopped by this park on my way to DAR, just to walk around the pond a few times, pray, breathe and run through the lesson of the day to have it fresh in my mind. It has become a safe place and a quiet one too, since I'm usually there at 7AM. I have been grateful for sunny mornings and the smell of pine in the air, and even the occasional heron (or maybe a crane?) that you can see if you look really closely at the water right in the middle of this photo.

I wish I could tell you all the ways I've seen the Lord work this week. I've had a lot of questions and thoughts that mull around in my head, but I've also been blown away by how much the Lord can do in and through the heart of a child. One little quote that I heard this week (in reflecting on one of our lessons about feelings) was, "God loves me even when I'm sad." Hearing something like this come from the mouth of a 3-year-old will always melt your heart, and my heart must be a puddle by now after all of the melting this week.

Of course, there are hard days sometimes. There are hard questions I'm asking. There are hard minutes here and there. But overall, I have seen the goodness, graciousness and faithfulness of our Lord this week and that has filled me up with joy and gratitude. Thank you for praying. He has been so near this week, even while I'm in transition and figuring things out from scratch.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

When in Colorado: Family

I have now finished a week of training here at MTI, and will begin serving at their debrief program tomorrow. I'll be with the 3-year-old's talking about stories, transition, and the Lord as their families reenter the States after living overseas and doing ministry.

But before I go into this week, I got to make a very special trip up to Fort Collins to see some of my favorite people - Caleb and Haley! It's incredible to me to be only a drive away from both Fort Collins and Denver. This is a new concept to me, and I'm grateful.

Thank you, Caleb and Haley, for having me this weekend. You have no idea how much my heart was filled up.

We hiked up Horsetooth Mountain on Saturday, which was meaningful after only seeing it from a distance when visiting Fort Collins, and hearing about this particular hike from Haley, who grew up here until her family moved to Slovakia before she went to college. Even Sofie, their 5-month-old puppy came along for her first hike (she did great!).

The last bit of the day after the hike was spent at a wonderful coffee shop downtown called Harbinger. We both had similar things to work on: curriculum for 3-year-old's! Caleb and Haley were teaching Sunday school this morning, and I was prepping for this week's MTI program. I loved thinking about 3-year-old's together and hearing them talk about the Bible lesson they'd be teaching. It's not very often that I get to sit with someone and work on Children's Ministry things, so this was special!

Would you pray with me for this week's debrief program? That families would be refreshed in the Lord and that these kids would be able to share their stories and begin the transition too. This is new curriculum to me, so it's a sharp learning curve, but I'm looking forward to seeing what the Lord does this week. I am a little nervous, and I'll be dependent on Him to move among the families this week, and in my heart too as I debrief with the littlest of ones.