Sunday, December 31, 2017

Czech New Beginnings

I have moved to the Czech Republic. Wow. Christmas has now even come and gone, and the new year is just about to roll around, with many new chapters about to begin. 

Here's to new beginnings, the constancy of the Lord, and the beauty of what he promises in His Word...

“Behold, I am making all things new.” - Revelation 21:5

Moving to Czech may be a "moving back", but the Lord has changed my heart since I last lived here. I'm grateful that he is unchanging, but that we change. I feel small and sinful next to him in his holiness, yet so safe and known by him as he receives and forgives constantly. And he is forming and shaping the church here, just as he was able to continue drawing us, his church, to himself all the way in Chicago. His hand is ever reaching out to us. 

He is Imanmuel, God with us, just as we sang in church this morning.

This song has been playing on repeat in my thoughts and heart these past couple of days. May we sing it ever more loudly in this next year! 

I lift my eyes up to the hills
This my morning song
Where my strength comes from

I lift my eyes up to the hills
This my evening song
Where my help comes from ...

This is the hope of every land
Just as the universe expands
Your love is reaching
You're holding everything

(Gravity of Love, The Brilliance)

Monday, December 4, 2017

With Two Weeks Left

November slipped rather quickly into our memories, fading into the stories of life and ushering in a new season marked by wreaths and boughs and red ribbons. The last leaves that bravely clung to the tree are also being blown away by the winds of change, echoing unknowingly the very thoughts swirling past my mind as well. 

Last week I said goodbye to the kids I have had the privilege of praying with every week for the past ten months at a church in Wheaton. We have gathered weekly for a time of play, worship and prayer and it has been a highlight of every week to see the Lord at work here. Proclaiming alongside these kids that, "We're like stars burning with love so bright, blazing with hope and life, bringing him glory, showing the world that we love Jesus," never gets old!

These kids and the children's ministry director at the church had a mini-commissioning (sending out to Czech) service for me on Wednesday, and my heart burst with gratitude to the Lord for these kids. He is working in their hearts in such a way that the presence of Christ in them blesses me so greatly too. I am humbled by their prayers and their faith. And I will miss these kids greatly.

A few other bittersweet goodbyes happened this past week too. These goodbyes bring great hope for the future, great rejoicing in what the Lord has already done, and great thankfulness for the blessing of relationships and the body of Christ. They also bring sadness. I lacked words this past week to express all of that paradox, yet moving forward always involves leaving something behind. And it's ok to grieve those losses.

The Lord is near. Great things are yet to come.

And for now, as autumn fades, so does my time here in the United States for the time being. Two more weeks. I look forward expectantly, look back gratefully, and look at the present with joy and sadness wrapped up together in one.

Monday, November 27, 2017

At the Door and Between Worlds

Three weeks from tomorrow, I will be moving to the Czech Republic. 

This picture sums up about how that feels. 

Anticipation. Change. And also loss. The future is unknown (I can't say I've ever lived in Czech as an adult, nor as a missionary!), yet familiar at the same time.

In some ways, my heart mirrors some of the stories of Narnia (this photo actually reminds me of the wardrobe in C.S. Lewis' books). It's as though I am stepping into another world, yet that involves leaving this one for a time. Just as when the Pevensie children left England to enter Narnia though, I am not truly "leaving" the U.S. The relationships and "home" that have been built here will continue, though I may not be physically present in them soon. Just like Narnia. And when I return to the U.S. to visit, it may feel as though so much time passed, and no time passed at all.

I am excited for all that the Lord has ahead, and also fully aware of the sadness and loss that comes along with moving too.

Three weeks does not feel like enough time to soak in the joys of fellowship with my church, friendships, the home that the Lord has built here, and to leave and say goodbyes well and care for those I love in the process. Yet, in his perfect timing, this is exactly when he has planned for me to go. Even in the tension, I rest in that, knowing that what awaits me on the other side of this move is still God's presence. More than that, there is a job and role ahead, and I can hardly believe I'll be with the JV Kids soon!

I met with my pastor and his wife back in August, right before I headed to JV Kids' Camp, to gain their wisdom on a few questions I had. I'll always remember a quote my pastor said along the way, as we talked about transition and change.

His words resonated deep within as he said, "It's always hard to leave a place where you have seen God work." 

Yes, the Lord has been faithful thus far. And he will be the same Lord both now and forevermore, both here in Warrenville and in Eastern Europe.

Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,

There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
(Great is Thy Faithfulness, 1925)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Judah is Two!

Judah, my oldest nephew, is now two years old!! Getting to see him, Tyler, Lara and Asher a couple of weeks ago was such an unexpected gift. We only had a few hours together on a Sunday afternoon in Chicago, but in this season of life, where we all live in different places, family time (regardless of how long or short) with them is a gift.

One day soon we will all live in Czech together, which is hard to believe sometimes! The Lord never ceases to surprise me. I can't wait to continue to see this little curious, courageous, determined and relational kid grow up. Judah, you are so loved! 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

These Are The Days

This may not be the season for regular everyday-style blogging and photography, but it is the season for...

Crisp air.

The best Sunday school class of 4-6 year-olds.

Jobs in the city (remember the food demos?).

Testimonies of God's work and the JV Kids.


"Krtek" (Little Mole) key-chains shared with friends.

"Deep Dive" research with the JV Kids.

Church family.

The Lord's grace and power.

It is a season to grow in faith and trust in the Lord, and also one to soak in and breathe deeply into. These are the transition days before moving to Czech in not very long -- these are the months in between. And I am learning to lean in.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

When My Brother Became a Dad

If you have been an aunt, uncle, or grandparent, then you know how sweet it is to see someone in your family take on a whole new role: father or mother. I can't even begin to say how special it is to see my brother Caleb be a dad, and how beautiful Haley is as a mom. 

And then there's Charlie. 

Dear Charlie Salem, you are deeply loved, cherished and adored! You're handsome too. I echo the prayers of your mom and dad: I pray that the Lord raises you up as a strong man of peace, one who leads confidently with kindness and love, and with full assurance of Christ's truth and grace. 

There is much life to catch up on, but amidst support raising travels, one of the sweetest gifts was getting to meet Charlie and see Caleb and Haley. Mom and I spent a few days with them in Colorado when Charlie was still in his first three weeks of life. 

I love all three of you, Caleb, Haley and Charlie! 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Oregon Through the Eyes of a Toddler

There are some days when you realize that even in the midst of "ordinary", you are actually witnessing the extraordinary.

We packed up after a slow morning and managed to all pile into my grandparent's van - all eight of us. Tyler and Lara and their two boys, my Uncle Mike, Grandma and Bapa and I took the familiar drive from Eugene up to the coast. Tyler and Lara haven't been to the Oregon Coast since they've been married, and it is quite spectacular that the first time they came together was with their two boys.

Judah experienced sand and the ocean for the first time on this day. We walked along the blustery shores and soaked in the salty air. The sun warmed us, but the wind had an autumn bite, which meant that Lara and little baby Asher couldn't stay out for too long.

Before I knew it, it was just me, Tyler, and Judah left on the beach, and we meandered about, exploring the ins and outs of what might be interesting to an almost two-year-old. Judah loved the dogs on the beach the best, as well as the stick we found for him to draw in the sand with. He ran and ran and the coast had a new wonder and charm through the eyes of a toddler.

We found some Oregon blackberry bushes close to where we parked and made a pit-stop to pick them. Judah calls berries "buddies", and he can't get enough of them. 

"Thank you for taking us to the coast, Grandma and Bapa (and Uncle Mike - somehow I didn't get a picture with you!), and for being such amazing great-grandparents to these two cuties!" 

It is so sweet to share this support raising journey with family along the way. As I had meetings with supporters in Eugene, I also got to spend time with my grandparents before I move across the ocean. Oh, how I cherish and treasure this time! And Tyler and Lara, I can't wait to be on mission alongside you all over in Czech very soon! I can't believe Judah and Asher are both my nephews and JV Kids!

Monday, September 4, 2017

JV Kid's Camp 2017

It amazes me the way that time works. These past few weeks have been a cultural mish-mash, and the Lord's grace has abounded throughout each of these transitions! It was the greatest gift to get to be at JV Kid's Camp this year. Even though it was a quick trip over to Czech and then down to camp in Croatia, the Lord completely ordained that time and answered so many of your prayers!

There are countless stories to tell that I hope to share in person with you someday if ("when", I hope!!) we sit down for coffee or share a meal. From early mornings to late-night campfires, nutella to peanut butter, water games to "ultimate what" (ultimate frisbee, but played with food items instead!), Bible teaching to sword drills, small group time to worshiping our Lord and King together - it is the week that the kids look forward to all year.

Though we may not be catching up over an aeropress coffee (my personal favorite!), here are some photos to give you a glimpse of camp - some of the highlights.

Oh, and God works in the hearts of children. He truly does. And it's the most beautiful thing ever. Thank you for praying!

If you'd like to read more stories of the JV Kids, what God is doing in Central and Eastern Europe, and what's ahead for me in ministry, sign up for my updates! Fill out your info in the box in the right column of my blog (the one that says, "you can receive my updates!").

I may not be showing direct photos of kids' faces here on this post, but I hope you get the feel of the camp through all the in-between photos too! 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

122 Steps Closer


That's how many steps it takes to get to the top of that the Svatojánská Věž ("Holy John's Tower") in Frýdek-Místek.

In this time of preparation for JV Kid's Camp (I leave tomorrow with the team!), I have a few days with my parents to get over jet lag, catch up with the town's happenings, run errands, and pray. 

We also got to finally see something we have wanted to see for years - the view from the top of the tower, which is only open during quite random hours of the week. To get there, we walked past shops and parking lots, my favorite antique bookstore, and other familiar sights. 

This particular verse written out in stone and placed at the top of the stairs stopped me in my tracks. 

The verse reads, "'I tell you,' he answered, 'if they remain silent, the very stones will cry out." 

To see that written here in this little region of the world reminds me that the Lord is at work, and he will accomplish his purposes. The question is, will we join in the joy of proclaiming alongside other believers that the King has come, and he is Lord?  

"As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, 'Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!'"

I leave for camp tomorrow. Wow. Soon I will be with the JV Kids, and I absolutely can't wait. I will only be here in Central and Eastern Europe for two weeks this time, but it won't be too long before I move here!

These past few days here in Frydlant have been sweet, but I sure am ready to head into what I came here for. At the same time, I recognize all the more these days that I can do absolutely nothing without Christ. 

I texted back and forth with my mentor (in Wheaton) today, as I was feeling the spiritual battle and weight of my own sinfulness, and her words of prayer meant more than I can even say. Would you pray this for me, my fellow staff at JV Kid's Camp, and the JV Kids this next week? 

"My prayer is that... when all is said and done, your life and your actions and your heart will glorify Him alone. What a wonderful gift it is that God created us to be able to do that for Him."