Sunday, September 25, 2016

81 Days

This was the caption of my latest Instagram yesterday, and it seems appropriate to note here too: 

"There are 82 days left until December 16th. 82 days until graduation. 82 days to soak in learning in classes, reading, writing papers, Chicago culture. 82 days is going to go by really fast, I can already feel it. Bittersweet."

People tell you that college years are going to be the best years of your life. You come in with expectations, and are met with newness and yet another challenge to identity. You are faced with papers, assignments, tons of reading, and the overwhelming nature of dorms and being surrounded by your peers. Yet despite all of these things, now is a good time of life too. 

Is it the best? I'm not sure I would put it that way. But are these significant years? Absolutely. Just like life in any stage of life, there are yay's and yuck's, ups and downs, hard times and times where you can't help but smile. There's nothing glamorous about it. It's just day by day, where you struggle with your own sin and the brokenness of the world, and yet see the faithfulness and goodness of the Lord. That is life. 

Last weekend my roommates and I hopped on the train and went grocery shopping, and I realized that this will be changing before I know it. I don't like to dwell on the nearing graduation date, but I want to recognize this transitional season as well. 

The three of us have finally settled into "The Little Byt" (the little apartment, in translation). Some friends from my church out in Wheaton helped move our couch back to the city, and then we eagerly hung pictures, filling them with all of the random pieces of art that we have. Michelle and Michelle are gracious enough to go along with my "nesting" antics tendencies, and generously helped put the finishing touches on the apartment. 

We even have a painting on the wall opposite from the couch that Michelle M (the blond one!) brought back from her internship in Uganda. It's stunning. 

This is normal life for now. This is normal life for 81 more days. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Wedding Photographers

Please allow me to introduce Joe and Emilee's (the groom and bride) team of wedding photographers for the weekend in Michigan:

We snagged a few last photos at the end of the day, shortly after we said goodbye to the bride and groom whom we waved off after a beautiful ceremony and reception. We look happy and chipper in the above photo, which we honestly were! It was a fabulous day. However, part of us also felt like this:

It is the greatest joy photographing a wedding, but it is also surprisingly exhausting. I've been told that most photographers have their own unique ways of resting after a wedding. It is joyous and celebratory, and you also have to be "on" all day. I wouldn't have it any other way though. We felt equally glad and tired, knowing we gave our all to the day, and to Joe and Emilee. More photos will be coming in the next weeks, but here's one for now.

I had asked Ashley, a friend from Moody, to be my second shooter back in the Spring, because I knew she wanted to gain some more experience in photography, but she also has a flexible, hilarious, and helpful attitude about life, so she would be the perfect fit for the day. Come to find out, after she had already agreed to be my second shooter, that her family lives only 15 minutes away from the wedding location! Now that made me laugh. The Lord has a good sense of humor and works things out in surprising ways.

We were not only able to enjoy Michigan together for a weekend, but we even stayed in her house. I was grateful for Ashley on Saturday! Thank you for being a great second-shooter, Ashley.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Networks and Trains

I hopped on the train after classes this afternoon and stared out the window as the green of September whizzed by in a blur. Trains are reminiscent of childhood, and they always bring back a sense of connectedness. I've been on this particular train route quite often, though usually to visit one particular family - Tyler, Lara and Judah. 

These Patty's moved to Tennessee this summer, and are actually in Czech currently, so I didn't get to see family this time around at my final destination from the north-bound train. Who was I headed to see up in Highland Park? Someone I would be meeting for the first time - Dr. Karen Wrobbel. 

I met with someone from the Career Development offices here at Moody a couple of weeks ago to brainstorm ideas for future connections and jobs (networking!), and he gave me Karen's name and e-mailed her to see if I could meet her sometime.

Karen teaches at Trinity up in Deerfield and did her doctoral work on Third Culture Kids. Yep, that's right. She has dedicated so much of her time, specifically to the field of education and MK's. She is a Moody alum, but also studied the psychosocial development of MK's for her Master's thesis, and then studied the effects of national schools on MK's for her Doctorate. She was willing to meet me for coffee, which was an honor.

I made the trek up to Highland Park to meet Karen, because I was so eager and curious to talk with her about MK's and what she has observed in all of her studies and experience. After serving at MTI this summer and focusing on pre-field and post-field training and debrief of MK's, I would love to gain experience and resources in on-field care as well, so am in the process of exploring who is (or has been) already out there in that realm of work and what I can learn from them.

I'm asking lots and lots of questions these days. I still don't know entirely what's ahead, but the Lord is starting to solidify some dreams and desires he's placed on my heart, and I am (tentatively!) starting to trust that these are actually from him, and not just my own. It's still quite a mystery to me what work he's doing not only through this whole process of making connections and reaching out to people, but in my own heart as well. I know one thing though - the Lord is showing up, and already providing.

Karen told me about her experiences with MK's in Argentina and in Spain, as well as all about her studies and her current involvement in the field. She is a professor now, but still has a heart for MK's and seeing families thrive in whatever context the Lord has placed them in.

It's these kinds of connections that I don't understand yet. I don't know what the significance is of them long-term, but I am taking one little step at a time, trusting the Lord that it all "counts". All he asks of us is to "keep in step" with the Spirit, not to make leaps and bounds in the unknown future.

So here I am, making little tiny steps, it seems, praying that God does indeed direct my path...even as I discern which continent that path might be on after December. He always does. Wait and see. Wait and see. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Czech Stories in Chicago

Yes, I am back in the city. City life is fast, hectic at times, yet also exciting and fascinating. There are some places in the city that are like little escapes though, and Lincoln Park is one of those places. 

What brought me to Lincoln Park this time? A trip to the Farmer's Market with my friend Tiffany!

Tiffany was an intern with Josiah Venture this summer in Czech, and we got to have a few hours of uninterrupted story time. Nothing brings me greater joy than hearing accounts of how the Lord has worked in and through peoples' lives. I grew up hearing these stories often, and it's something I miss about not being directly in Josiah Venture now. There are always stories of God's goodness though, both in Czech and here in Chicago. I got to combine those two worlds on Saturday with Tiffany.

We sat by the little pond in the Lincoln Park Zoo. It couldn't have been a more glorious morning, and we soaked up the lingering summer morning, while Tiffany told stories of friendships, learning experiences, hard times and incredible moments where God showed up. This girl is beautiful. 

Indeed, Chicago has its perks - mostly, the people. So many come together in this one urban area and it's a privilege to make connections both at Moody and in the city.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Mattoni: Taste of Home

Don't they say that smell is your strongest memory trigger sense? Well taste must be high up there too, because when I found Mattoni at the local Jewel down the street and tasted it again for the first time in nine months, it brought me right back "home". 

The neighborhood where this Jewel is located caters to the nationalities represented, and I know there's quite a few Eastern Europeans in the area. It was a complete surprise though to find genuine Czech Mattoni, with Czech writing and no translation at all. What a delight! I must say though, what should have been a pear sparkling water had turned quite flat. I have suspicion that people don't purchase Mattoni too often from Jewel, but I'm glad they keep it on the shelves anyways. 

What tastes bring you back to your childhood, or remind you of a place you love? It's those kinds of things that become so dear to our hearts. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Then and Now: With Hannah

I distinctly remember a lot of what happened during freshman international orientation. I still say hi to people on a regular basis that I really only met during that week. Something like that one week, where most everyone is new to the country and culture, bonds people together. International orientation in 2013 was also when I first met Hannah, who was an MK from North Africa. 

We ended up having PCM (Practical Christian Ministry) together that first year, and living on the same floor for two years as well. Her and I, along with Kaitlyn and Michelle somehow stuck together as the "Fantastic 4" (not sure when that name came along), and what started as a freshman connection has lasted into our senior year. All four of us don't necessarily see each other very often, and have different friend groups, but we all know that we've got each other's backs when it comes down to it, and make sure to get together at least once during the semester. 

The Lord answered many prayers for friendships here at Moody. Hannah is one of those gifts from the Father! We don't get all that much time together anymore, so a spontaneous trip to a new coffee shop today together was a sweet adventure. 

As my "Moody career" comes to a close in December, I want to take the advice of a pastor who came to speak at chapel this week. Pastor Choi told us to take time to reminisce and see how God has worked in the past, to remember "our first love" of Christ, and let our hearts be changed by the longings we have for closeness with Him and the memories we have of His goodness.

I'll be doing a couple of these blog posts in the coming months that look back at how I've seen the Lord in these past three years at Moody. Senior year crept up somehow, and I want to take moments to pause and reflect on this unique time of college life. God's mercies are new each day, and I never want to forget that. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Internship: Complete!!

I can't even quite describe the significance of this binder. But here it is, completed and organized, even color-coded. This is the culmination of so much work and time, and I can't quite believe this day has come.

I turned in my internship portfolio today!

This binder consists of learning experiences, journals, lesson plans, handouts, administrative tasks, stories, photos, time logs, special projects and reflections from this past summer at MTI. My professor, who is also the head of my department, Mrs. Smith, doesn't take this project lightly. The internship is a big deal for the Children's Ministry major, and I was nervous of how it all would come together.

I printed out the very last pages to be put in today and brought it upstairs to Mrs. Smith's office. She wasn't in, so I dropped it by her mailbox, only to round the corner and find her coming up to get coffee. She gave me a big hug and expressed her excitement with me that it was done. I am actually very grateful for all of the work she requires of her students not only in internships, but in her courses as well. With all of these different kinds of learning environments and opportunities she gives us, we really do learn and grow. I am thankful for her diligence in encouraging us and challenging us at the same time.

All that's left is meeting with Mrs. Smith about my internship and giving a presentation about it in class. Those things seem easy though in comparison to this binder being completed! I'm definitely celebrating over here!