Sunday, July 31, 2016

Take No Thought for Tomorrow (+Car Troubles)

One of the many provisions of the Lord this summer has been a car that my grandparents are lending me. Having never had a car to use as my own, even just for a season, it has been not only extremely helpful and necessary during my internship, but fun too to be able to get up and go someplace whenever. 

Accompanied with the joy of the car have also been some adventures. The latest adventure involved the poor little Buick becoming overheated again after just filling it up with coolant two weeks ago. This isn't the first time the car has overheated, so I knew it was probably the coolant, but I didn't feel safe even driving it to a place where I could have someone take a look at it. 

Thankfully, Mom had spent the day in Colorado Springs and had been driving right behind me when I panicked slightly at the rising temperature and had to pull off into the parking lot of a YMCA. We sat in the parking lot trying to figure out what to do, and ended up having to leave the car parked there and Mom drove me back to my "Forest Lane" home before she headed back up to Denver. 

By this point, I was stressed. Car troubles baffle me. Fixing cars is definitely not my strength. We all have our weaknesses, and this is one of mine for sure. After Mom dropped me off, I sat down on my bed and took deep breaths, closed my eyes and told the Lord where my heart was at. I know cars overheat; that's not something that is unfixable by any means, but it concerns me not knowing if there's a leak or a bigger problem behind it. As I was praying, the Lord kept reminding me of the ways He had already provided and protected, down to the very last detail of there being a parking lot on the way back as the car overheated. 

I realized that some praise to Him was definitely in order. And then I remembered a song that was actually on a lullaby CD I had played for my 2-year-old in class last week that was based on Matthew 6:34. Some of the words of the song go like this...

Take no thought for tomorrow,
For tomorrow will take care of itself.
Take no thought what you'll eat or what you'll drink or what you'll wear,
You needn't care.

Take no thought for tomorrow,
Know that God is watching over you.
Your heavenly Father knows what you need,
So take no thought for tomorrow.

It was a reminder of His promises and of His Father heart. He cares about the littlest things, like what we eat and what we wear, so he knows about this car issue too. I asked Him to take care of these car things right when they needed to be taken care of and to provide peace and wisdom. I didn't feel relief right away, but still, I felt comforted. 

I woke up the next morning at 5:30AM to get ready for an early hike with my hiking buddy, "K". She picked me up (since she knew of my car troubles) and we headed for the Air Force Academy to get to the Stanley Canyon Trail. K's son-in-law, "R", is a retired military officer, so he was able to get us on base and then pick us up after our hike. I had never met him before today, but R was kind and servant-hearted. 

After our hike, K and R offered to take me to the store to get coolant and then R took care of everything. He helped me figure out which coolant to buy, helped carry it out of the store, and then filled the car up with coolant and made sure it ran smoothly. At one point R told me how old his own car was, and it happened to be from the same year I was born. After this funny coincidence, he realized he could be old enough to be my dad, and that triggered my memory of the prayer I had uttered the night before. 

This photo represents so much grace, love and care from the Father to me today (this is K and R with R's Jeep!). 

I had asked the Lord to be who He is as Father and take care of something so little as car troubles. And you know what He did? He sent someone whom I had never met before to be "like a dad" for half an hour and get the car settled. I wasn't alone, I didn't have to figure it out on my own, and the Lord proved Himself yet again. Not because he had to, but because he loves his children so much that he wants to show that love. His love is the lavishing kind, the kind that knows our hearts and knows exactly what we need. 

Your heavenly Father knows what you need,
So take no thought for tomorrow.

P.S. Would you pray that this dear little car would continue to run smoothly for the next two and a half weeks I'll be using it? Thank you!!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

East of the Mountains

What is east of the mountains? A yellow house nestled into the plains with a welcoming porch and two familiar faces. 

I remember finishing up last semester and talking with my friend Shannon who would soon be graduating. As we talked, we both realized that we'd be doing internships in Colorado this summer, and knew we couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit with one another at least once during that time! Today was finally the day.

Shannon has been married since May, and her and her husband are living in an adorable apartment above a family's garage. The dog in this photo isn't theirs, and neither is the baby swing! They are thriving in this new home though, and settling in to make it their own. Their internships will be completed this summer, but Shannon's husband will actually be going on staff full-time at the church they've been interning at, so they are already committed to this adventure here in this little town.

It felt like a clash of worlds to combine Moody with Colorado, but it was a delightful one. I'm thankful for their hospitality and that it worked out to see one another even after Shannon already graduated! We were on the same dorm floor for my first two years at Moody, and it's hard to believe that now she is beginning her new family journey right here. 

Thank you for hosting me, friends!! 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wedding Celebration: Lucy and Sheldon!

Here I sit, on the floor of my room for the summer, just as the sun is setting. I'm reminiscing on this past weekend as I look through photos of a very special wedding weekend. My buddy Lucy got married this weekend, and I couldn't be more excited for her and Sheldon. It is pretty surreal to be back in Colorado after spending 48 hours in Chicago, but it couldn't have been a sweeter weekend. 

Lucy is a special friend. She and I share a unique season of life that we both remember quite vividly: "druhý stupeň", a.k.a. middle-school (6th-9th grade in Czech). We walked through those difficult years together and made the best of it too. I remember vividly playing in the forests of the Beskydy, picking blackberries together, doodling in German class, baking gingerbread with our tutor's grandma, staying with a host family in England, and people laughing about us being friends because for a long time I was more than a head shorter than Lucy and we were quite opposites from each other. We were unexpected buddies, but I thank the Lord for her friendship, which continued past middle-school too!

This was ninth grade!
It was the greatest privilege to get to celebrate Lucy and Sheldon this weekend! I love how the Lord has brought them together. I don't have official wedding photos yet, but here are a few snapped by one of Lucy's Czech friends who was able to come to the States for the wedding!

Mom was able to be at the wedding too, and she snapped this photo during the ceremony. Presenting - Lucy and Sheldon, husband and wife!!!

Lucy, you two are suited to each other just perfectly, and it is beautiful to see the love you both share. I am so grateful that I got to come to Chicago for the weekend to witness such a beautiful day! You were (are!) a stunning bride. The stories have just begun for you now as husband and wife. May the Lord bless you abundantly with his grace and love that fills you up and overflows into your love for one another.

Lucy and Sheldon - congratulations!! 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Learning How to Say "Good"-byes

To this day, even after growing up as a Third Culture Kid my whole life, I'm still learning how to say "good" goodbyes. My parents and Josiah Venture staff were incredible at modeling that growing up, but it still doesn't mean it's easy. I'm learning that there are ways to make goodbyes more bearable though. 

When goodbyes are affirmed and meaningful, when there is space for both celebration of the joys and grief over the loss, then it at least feels more possible to move forward and think of the next destination. 

I just finished up a COMPASS program here at MTI, which is the month long training program for families moving overseas. I had to leave a day early to fly to Chicago for a wedding this weekend, so I had to say my goodbyes with the kids on Thursday. 

We made scrapbook memory pages, talked about what we learned in the past month, shared favorite playground/field trip/lesson stories, ate Starbursts together, and the kids were so thoughtful and gave me cards they had made earlier in the day. We did a big group hug, and then one by one they were picked up by their parents at the end of the day, and some hung back for as long as they could. We chatted until it was really time to go and gave final hugs before saying our last goodbye. 

I share this little snippet of our goodbyes to give you hope. I'm actually learning how to say "good" (if there is such a thing) goodbyes in a way that brings closure, though the sting will always be there. It's important to take the time to name the goodbye and fully enter into it, whether I'm the one leaving or staying. This time I'm staying and they'll be moving overseas with their families in the coming months, but the roles switch back and forth in different stages of life. 

If you're going to be saying goodbyes soon - with kids, at work, with friends or family, one little helpful acronym that MTI uses is C.A.R. - closure, affirmation, reconciliation. The other thing I like to think towards that MTI taught me is using the "Five Love Languages" in saying goodbyes. Being able to love others well throughout goodbyes is one of the best gifts to receive and to give. So when saying goodbyes, think of a way you can 1. serve someone, 2. be sure to affirm them with words, 3. find a meaningful gift for them to take along as they move forward, 4. give them hugs or pray over them in a huddle, 5. and carve out time to spend with them. Those are just a few ideas to get you started. It's painful, but so so worth it. 

I'll miss this group of kids! Would you pray for them right now as they continue in their journeys serving the Lord with their families and in transition? 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Children's Ministry: A Snippet of the Backstory

I never would have thought three years ago that I would be sitting here, surrounded by four precious babies. I was a sub for a teacher who was sick today, so I got to hang out with the nursery kids for the day at my internship, and it was a delightful surprise not only because of their sweet faces, but because of the reminder of where the Lord has brought me from (hint: I could never have done this three years ago).

I share this photo not to tell you about baby skills (which I still have lots to learn in!), but to be a testimony to God's calling and the way He not only equips us for the plans he has for us in the future, but also changes our hearts too.

Before college I don't think anyone would have guessed I would go into Children's Ministry. I didn't really have much experience working with kids, but more than that, I didn't have a desire to. I thought kids were fun, but felt awkward when they were placed in my care. I was the teenager who didn't rush to hold babies or play games with little ones. In fact, I was often scared of any responsibility concerning kids, for fear of messing up or not knowing what to do with them.

I went to Moody to study TESOL (God knew that's the only major that would get me there in the first place; I needed something "concrete" with a clear target in mind), but quickly discovered that teaching English was not the right place for me. I cared too much about relationships with people and not enough about English itself. If I were to be an English teacher and build relationships, I knew I would have to steward my position and give my all to being the best English teacher I could be. I just wasn't too excited about that. English wasn't my passion, and I knew my students would suffer from that. I also recognized my pragmatism in choosing the major, and was convicted of being of little faith for what the Lord might have ahead.

This was from my first blog post about my journey to Moody, and my first days. 

Thus, God led me to Children's Ministry. I was shocked when the idea even came to mind as I was researching other majors at Moody. I had been doing my PCM (Practical Christian Ministry - part of Moody's curriculum and vision) at an after-school program on the West side of Chicago with inner-city kids for a semester, and that had opened my eyes to the impact God's Word and a lot of love can have on children at young ages. Other than my PCM though, I didn't have much exposure, let alone experience, with kid's ministry besides what I grew up with during my childhood.

I knew by this time that Moody was 100% the right place for me to be, but I was surprised that my foolproof plan had been dashed and I was among the high number of students who switch their majors during college (I never thought I'd be one of them, but alas, God knew I needed humbling!). My heart kept being tugged towards Children's Ministry, though I didn't know why. I sought wisdom from those who knew me, talked with my parents a lot, and went for it. Children's Ministry it was.

There's more to the story than what I can even share in a blog post, but let me tell you, after I switched majors, my heart was not the same towards children. Slowly, surely, the Lord began pulling my clenched fingers off of the concept of control, and he opened my eyes to the beauty and delight of the littlest ones of his Creation. What joy I suddenly started experiencing! This was new. I had never before been excited about hanging out with kids. My heart was thawing.

Since that first semester at Moody when the whole Children's Ministry journey began, I have seen Him constantly do His work of taking me step by step where I needed to go. I remember when I worked in the nursery at Gull Lake my first year, one of the full-time staffers told me, "I didn't like babies before I worked in Cove Kids. I was completely surprised that Gull Lake changed everything. You never know, you might find that you love babies like I do after this summer." She was right. That was the first time I truly loved babies, even though I hardly knew how to change a diaper at that point.

God changes hearts. He provides all that we need. He is generous with his love, which is poured into us and overflows. I am undeserving, un-capable without him, and in desperate need of his grace, which gives me what I absolutely don't deserve.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Finding Beauty and Being Honest

Today was a day off from my internship, so I got to explore the area a bit. Part of what this day also included was time alone with God, and that was much needed, and hard too as I wrestle with questions and anxious thoughts about the future (and the present). 

Pressing into those kinds of places is never very fun at first, but the Lord is ever near and faithful and forsakes us not when we come crying out to him in confusion. He already knows me completely, and yet sometimes I hold back from honest words in prayer. I have been challenged lately to bring everything before him, even as the psalmists held nothing back. 

In the end, the day could be encapsulated by two things - talking with God and enjoying His creation. This looked different than I expected, but it was good, as He intended it to be. 

First stop: Garden of the Gods. 

Second stop. I googled "Most beautiful churches in Colorado", and found one that wasn't too far away in downtown Colorado Springs. There's something about the majesty, creativity and reverence of a church like this one that brings me to silence and awe. My heart needed that on a regular Monday. These kinds of places also remind me of Czech and the story God has been weaving together with his own hands.

Third stop: Not pictured. It was my favorite coffee shop though, and one that includes big windows with bright light beaming through, warm and comforting pourover coffees, service that's friendly and inviting, and a yellow couch that almost always has a free spot right by the window. 

Fourth stop: Broadmoor hotel. This is a five star hotel where you can visit even just for the day. It's free to walk around their grounds and the pristine lawns and flowerbeds along with the crisp lake complete with swans made me feel like I had escaped to another world. 

I also finally got to finish a little mini-painting that I had been working on for a while. It's of a house that's next-door to my favorite coffee shop here. It's eclectic and charming, and little house portraits are a relaxing no-pressure project. 

Happy Tuesday now to you all. You've almost made it to the middle of the week. 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Meet-Up in Colorado

An unlikely combination occurred today: Caleb, Haley, Me, Grandma and Bapa - in Estes Park, CO. 

It's incredible to me that I can drive up to Ft. Collins for the weekend and join Caleb and Haley for a couple of days. I'm still wrapping my head around having a car (though it's just a borrowed one!) and being able to pick up and go somewhere like this. Not only were Caleb and Haley around this weekend though...Grandma and Bapa came through Ft. Collins on their road trip out towards the Midwest! 

We spent the day leisurely exploring around Estes Park together, with not much of an agenda except spending time together. As a Third Culture Kid, family time is not something I take for granted, and it's almost like a surprise every time there is an opportunity to be together. I'm grateful I could join in on this mini Colorado gathering this time. 

P.S. If you've been following my blog for a while, you may remember that it's always my goal to get Bapa to give a big smile with me for a photo at least once. This time it was Mom who requested the smile photo in a text later in the day, and so me and Bapa obliged. That last one's for you, Mom.