Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Friendship from Across the Globe

It's not everyday you get to retake a photo with someone you've known your whole life, but seldom get to see. 

My mom and Amy's mom served together in Germany before I was even born (we were both actually born in Germany though!). Even though God led our families in separate ways, our parents remained friends. Us kids saw each other a few times during our childhood, but with them living in Guam for 12 years, and us living in Czech, those "hello's" were few and far between!

Although we are five years apart in age, and have never lived a stretch of life together like our moms did, Amy is still such a kindred spirit. We've been following each others' journeys through our family connections, and I could never have imagined our paths would cross like they did this weekend. What a joy!

It was a special privilege to be here in Czech at the same time as she traveled here from South Korea (where she teaches at an international school) for a few days. God orchestrated that so lovingly.

Amy came all this way to see if God might be leading her to Eastern Europe and Josiah Venture's sports ministries. I'm so encouraged by her faith and boldness to step out and seek God's will. As someone who grew up in Guam for 12 years, studied in California, and now teaches in South Korea (yes, she's a beautiful TCK!), she has a heart to serve God wherever that might take her. Her life is to me a testimony of God's grace and faithfulness, and I can't wait to see where he leads next!

Amy, we sure love you! 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Winter Salad Recipe

I recently caught up with someone I haven't seen in years, and after we talked for a while, she asked me, "Do you still post recipes on your blog?" I was shocked that she remembered that detail of my high-school years! It is true - recipes and food posts used to be a norm here on Claire's Corner, and have faded to the background during my college years. 

Thanks to the reminder of old times from this dear friend, I present to you today a creation of my own that I think you will enjoy in these chilly months. 

Usually, I associate salad more with summer, and fully embrace soups during the winter. Something has been different in 2017 so far though, and our family has wanted salads more than ever. With the shortened winter days and then some of the bitter cold we've had this past month, it has been refreshing to dive into a delicious green meal to remind us of warmer times. 

Below, you will find a recipe for a winter salad based on in season ingredients we have in the grocery store. And here's my 2017 challenge for you - create your own green masterpieces using in-season ingredients. I promise the Lord won't let you down with the abundant creativity you'll find in the patterns, colors and textures of fruits and veggies. 

Winter Arugula Fennel Salad

1/4 of a fennel bulb, shaved or diced
4 Radishes, thinly sliced
1 kiwi, thinly sliced
1/4 of an avocado
Goat cheese
Sesame seeds

Dressing: equal parts olive oil and red wine vinegar, plus honey and salt and pepper to taste (optional: dill). 

Thank you, DU for the inspiration for this post! 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Currently Reading: The Suffering of God

When I graduated from Moody, I asked Tyler if there was a book he could recommend that could help me continue to learn and grow. So on our shared graduation day (me from undergrad at Moody, him from graduate studies at Trinity!), he picked up a package from the post office and handed it to me. I found a precious treasure inside: a biblical theology book. 

Unexpectedly, Moody lit a flame in me for reading, and I actually came away from my studies there with a greater desire to read than when I started, which I know is not always the case for students. Perhaps I should say it in a different way instead - God used Moody to draw out a love for reading that I had never known before. 

I had not been a big reader throughout my childhood, though I had spurts of interest in specific series here and there (like Narnia and Anne of Green Gables!). Somehow though, I was changed by the books we read at Moody and the way we talked through them in classes. My perspective on the Word and on God's character was given new life and light in those three and a half years. I am forever grateful to our professors and my classmates who wrestled through tough questions together in classes. A lot of those questions remain, but there is greater trust in the God who receives those questions too. 

The book Tyler gave me is called The Suffering of God, by Terence E. Fretheim. It's absolutely beautiful and perspective changing.

Fretheim's book is not a quick and easy read. It's more like a long meal that has to be savored and taken in slowly. I have about 30 pages left in the book, and I have had to discipline myself to actually read it carefully enough to catch the depth of the book. I have so enjoyed it though, and hope to continue to ask more questions, and keep pressing in to this aspect of who our God is. If you happen to read the book, or are curious about it, please leave me a note, and I'd love to talk!

Thank you for the book Tyler!! This only touches the tip of the iceberg with Old Testament theology now, but I love seeing a window into your world of study and expertise. Just know that your sister will happily read any books you recommend for many years to come!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

So It Begins...Or Continues

Now that you know the big news (that I'll get to work with JV Kids!!), I get to share a few sweet stories from these past weeks at home that I have been holding off on until now. This time that I have spent in Czech has included running errands with my mom, meeting with old friends, and taking walks in the countryside, but much of what I have been doing has been making steps forward in the journey with Josiah Venture

One of my greatest joys these past weeks has been seeing some of the JVK over here in Czech. Maybe you remember my little buddy here in my hometown? She is growing up so fast! Already, she is blossoming into a witty, thoughtful, stylish, engaging young lady, who has a deep dedication to pursuing conviction that is true and honest. 

Our times together have always been a delight. Last week was no exception. We went out for tea and then baked (gluten-free!) chocolate chip cookies together. I think we would both agree that no one would know they were gluten-free. If a 10-year-old approves of a gluten-free cookie, I'd say it's a winner in our books. 

For a little perspective, here we were in 2011! I had just gotten done with school and ran into this girlie at the grocery store with her mom.

Who knew back then that one day I would get to join the JV team to work with JV Kids? The Lord still astounds me with the way he orchestrates pieces together. 

"Thanks for coming over Lia! Hanging out with you is always such a treat." (no pun intended, actually!)

I look forward to many more times ahead with the JVK all across Central and Eastern Europe. The Lord will be leading each step, because I have a feeling there's going to be greater joys and greater challenges ahead than I can even imagine right now. And he will be there every step of the way, calling us all to greater experience of his presence, power and love. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Big News: Next Steps!

When I moved to Chicago in 2013 to study Children's Ministry at Moody, I never expected that I would get to return to the Czech Republic after graduating. It's really happening though!! The Lord surprises us.

I will be coming on staff with Josiah Venture as a JV Kid Ministry Specialist by the end of 2017! I love these JVK dearly, and I can't wait to serve them and their families.

Click HERE to see my bio on the JV website.

As I prepare for this next step, I am beginning to see how all of the pieces of my past and present are being put together for what's ahead. Here's just a little flashback to part of the story that God has woven together. These are the "old days" of JV Kids!


Much has changed since those days, but as the number of JVK has increased, so has my love for them grown too. It is the most unexpected privilege to return to Europe and come alongside them, learn with them, and grow and challenge one another to know Christ more in the countries we live in. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

In Between, News to Come

You guys! I have some exciting news to share tomorrow. 

Until then, here have been some of the little delights of this past weekend:

- I got to hang out with two of my buddies from high-school yesterday - Kristi and Magda, I love you both! 
- I traipsed through the snowy forest with a friend and a dog in sub-zero temperatures - pure joy and a gift from the Lord (plus a little bit of chapped faces and frozen hair too!). 
- Magda stopped by our house tonight on her way back to Brno, where she and her husband live. She came to pick up my mom's and dad's books, and brought her dad's honey too! Literally gold. 
- Worship at church today was so sweet - being with the body of Christ here in my little town astounds me. 
- Even though the temperatures have hovered around 0F this past week, today actually warmed up to a balmy 34F. We are sad to see the snow melt, but did soak in a long walk with Kaylee. 
- Most of my conversations at church today were with people half my height, and I wouldn't have had it any other way. The kids' stories and exuberance for life warmed me more than the 34F breezes. 

More news tomorrow!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

When It Snows, Go Sledding

Sometimes I just want to act like a kid again. A lot of those times are when it snows.

When it first snowed in Chicago this season, I happened to be teaching Sunday school at church in the city. A 5-year-old exclaimed mid-lesson and pointed out the window, drawing everyone's attention to the first snowflakes outside.

"Can I build a snowman after church??" the little boy asked excitedly, although the snowflakes were barely hitting the pavement before melting into the sidewalk.

There's something about that kind of childhood joy, where one notices the little things, that we sometimes forget. I sometimes forget too. Until it snows.

When it snows, I want to pull on my boots and go traipsing through the fields to make the first tracks.

When it snows, I forget about the cold and the wet, and just fall into the white canvas to make snow-angels.

When it snows, I beg my friends to go out and play, although some of them cringe at the cold.

When it snows, those same friends oblige and smile, knowingly, right alongside me, because they know how happy the snow makes me.

And today, on this day when the snow was just starting to melt at temperatures above freezing, a friend of mine came all the way from Olomouc by train (a two hour trip!) to come visit, go sledding, and subsequently drink tea and catch up after the year I've been away from Czech.

With the thick wet snow and that warm winter breeze that comes at about 34 degree weather, we sat on top of the hill and talked for a while before trying our best to get the sleds going, despite the density of the snow. It had been about 6 years since I had last gone sledding, and about 10 since my friend had. We beamed like little kids when our sleds finally took off down the hill.

I hope to go sledding with friends, with siblings, with kids in children's min, with my nephew, and with lots of others in the future. So if you have a hill with snow on it, no matter what your age, find a buddy, a sled, and a little childlike wonder. Sledding is always bound to be wrapped up with laughter and cold memories that will quickly become the warmest kind you'll have from the winter.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Life Skills I Learned from 7 College Roommates

Hye-jin (starting off in the dorms).
Julia and Kimberly (now I was in a three-person, one-bedroom apartment). 
Julia and Michelle #1. 
Michelle #1 and Michelle #2. 

7 roommates in three and a half years at Moody.

Yep, somehow, that's just how it worked out. Whether it was graduation or student teaching or extended internships, I strangely ended up having a total of 7 roommates throughout my college years.

In honor of all of them, here are 7 practical life skills, ranging from silly to serious, I learned from living with all very different people:

1. Hye-jin: You can fall asleep in any situation with enough practice.

Hye-jin is wonderful - she was a hard-working junior at Moody, the most dedicated to prayer and her friends, a good student, and kind. She was also Korean, and her fiancé was on the other side of the world. She stayed up late at night to talk with him, then would stay awake to do her homework, and catch up on sleep during the day. Our sleep schedules didn't line up very well (I'm not a night-owl!), so we ended up switching roommates in my second semester, but the valuable lesson of being able to get needed rest despite imperfect environments will stick with me!

Thank you, Hye-jin, for your patience with me, and for welcoming in a nervous freshman roommate. 

2. Beth: "Just do the next thing".

Beth was an Elementary Education major who had to work especially hard as a double major at Moody (El Ed and Bible are a difficult and demanding combination). She was excellent at keeping Elizabeth Elliot's phrase (from a poem) "Just do the next thing," in mind always. Beth was able to manage her workload, and never complained about what all had to get done. She quietly worked away and honored the Lord with her excellence and dedication.

Thank you, Beth, for your encouragement and humility in your schoolwork. 

3. Sam: You can steam-press your clothes using only a hot shower (WHAT).

When in a pinch, you can shut the door of your tiny dorm bathroom, turn the shower on hot, hang your clothes up (keeping them away from the stream of water), and they will be "like fresh" in just a few minutes! Sure, it's not the most economic use of water, but it does the job in a cinch if you're getting ready for a job interview.

Thank you, Sam, for bringing delight and fun into that semester we roomed together. 

4. Julia: Only wash a cast-iron skillet with water (not soap!).

Julia is from Texas. She seemed to know all the cleaning tricks for everything, and had a knack for homemaking. She invested into a cast-iron skillet while we were roommates, which was something I had never used before college. Julia gave me lessons on cleaning the skillet so that we could all use it (and subsequently clean it correctly!) in our tiny kitchen.

Thank you, Julia, for exhibiting kindness and joy in even the little things - like the excitement of a cast-iron skillet. 

5. Kimberly: When in doubt, listen.

I moved into The Little Byt with two roommates I hardly knew. Julia was an acquaintance from my previous dorm floor, and Kimberly was one of her best friends. They graciously took me in as their third roommate, and we all embarked on the adventure of getting to know each other in the confines of small spaces. Having only a semester together as roommates, and as friends, I learned to listen that fall. If I didn't take time to stop and actually have meaningful conversations with my roommate, and continued about my own business, I would have missed out on getting to know someone who has a lot to offer the world.

Thank you, Kimberly, for generously sharing your stories, and for offering friendship, even just for that one semester. 

6. Michelle #1: Put down the toilet seat cover. And on a more serious note... Give people the gift of eye contact.

Michelle spent the summer in Uganda serving alongside her sister in ministry this past summer. Her sister was adamant about them both closing the toilet seat cover because of airborne germs, so Michelle came back with those standards, and asked us roomies to make this a habit too. I should have been doing this long ago, but had never heard the argument why, so just hadn't made a point to be consistent! Ha! Now I am!

Ok, but really, Michelle taught me so much more, including the value of giving people the gift of eye contact. Giving someone your full attention makes them feel known and seen and loved. If you're communicating with someone you care about, do your best to truly give them your eyes. It's worth it.

Michelle #1, thank you for your deep conversations and your playful conversations; you are equally as caring as you are quick-witted (in all the right times).

7. Michelle #2: Be loyal, and be faithful in prayer.

Michelle joined the Little Byt in my very last semester at Moody. We had been friends since the first week of our Freshman year, and weekly prayer buddies since October that first semester. She is incredibly faithful as a friend and as a prayer warrior, and it was the greatest privilege to receive this kind of loyalty from her. I learned to give it back with consistency and intentionality. Again, it's worth it.

Michelle #2, thank you for the hours of morning prayer we shared (which then turned into evening prayers when we were roomies!), and for your constancy amidst life's uncertainties, twists and turns. 

To all my roommates: THANK YOU  for your patience, and for each being integral to what the Lord had in store for these years at Moody. It was an honor to get to know you all and live through everyday Moody life together. You all are amazing. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

This Czech Village

Both of my parents are sick. They're recovering well, but it's been a quiet past couple of days at home. Kaylee (our dog) has entertained herself with snow-eating, and then otherwise sticks close to Mom, as she usually does. Meanwhile, I've been the homemaker and cook, hoping that eases their burden a bit as they rest up for this upcoming week. 

It was a beautiful day yesterday, and I needed to run out to get some groceries. I love grocery shopping, and it's all the more fun when I get to drive down to town, instead of carrying my bags on Chicago public transportation (though that too is nostalgic and I usually enjoyed that in its own way too). I must have missed the walking aspect of grocery shopping though, because I had the biggest desire to go outside on this day and soak up the lovely January sunshine, despite the frigid cold and not having a buddy to go with. I decided to go out anyways! 

My Czech home can be smoggy, it can be rainy, gray, and sometimes there are weeks when we don't see the sun for more than 10 minutes a day. This home can also be spectacular, displaying all of its majestic beauty when the sun reflects off of the sparkling snow on a regular January day. 

"The cold never bothered me anyway," right? (That's the best I can do for a Frozen correlation!) 

I hope these photos can bring you to worship of our incredible Creator. He's the one who is most spectacular of all. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Two Thousand and Sixteen

Is it strange that even six days into the new year, 2016 already feels like it's way behind us? Today I had to go to the town hall in Ostrava to work on some Czech citizenship documents (you can be praying that the process goes smoothly to finally apply for a Czech passport!), and when I signed my name with the date, it seemed so natural to write "6.1.2017" (our month/day order is opposite from the American system of 1/6 - confusing, right?). 

The three of us...wait, four of us - Dad, Mom, Kaylee and I - arrived back home to our snowy hometown on Wednesday evening, and I've been simply catching up on life post-travels since then. Now, almost a week into the new year, I present to you my annual year-roundup of photos and memories. It helps me to mark the years in this way, and somehow brings closure too. 

See here for 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015

This is only a snippet of the past year, but here goes nothing... 

I left my foggy and woodsy home to return to my skyscrapers and streetlights home. This was the last time I'd be leaving Czech to return to Moody as a student.

For the first time, my Czech-home world and my Chicago-home world collided when a Czech friend from my hometown happened to be in the Chicago-lands for a couple of days, and came downtown to visit me, which meant so much. Terka - thank you for taking the time to come downtown! You are a treasured friend, and it made me feel like a complete person to have both worlds collide together in one day. 

My mom gave me the sweetest gift for Christmas - a student membership to the Art Institute. The Art Institute became a refuge of sorts during the year of 2016, and it is now the most dear place in Chicago. It was a quiet haven, a place of reflection, beauty and history. There was also a member's cafe downstairs where I would sit and do homework while surrounded by others who felt the same fondness towards this place. 

I lived in the Little Byt all year with such wonderful roommates. This place, too, became a refuge, but also a place to welcome people into. Hospitality is something I missed when I lived in the dorms, so getting to offer even just a couch, a bowl of soup, and a cup of tea to my friends actually brought me so much joy.

I worked with my team at Event and Guest Services to coordinate ushers during Moody's Founder's Week. Us three friends and coworkers were head ushers, and although we worked long hours and late nights, it was still fun somehow. 

I spent Spring Break alone in Chicago, because I needed to complete an online class for Moody. What I learned? I miss people when they're gone! What I loved? A week of setting a schedule, exploring the city, and being able to complete my Romans class. 

Easter was spent with these three Patty's up in Deerfield, IL. Lara's parents were there too, as well as some of Tyler and Lara's friends. Tyler and Lara moved from Chicago to Tennessee in late Spring, so these memories of spending holidays and weekends together in the Chicago-lands are especially precious.

I registered for fall semester classes for the very last time! This was one of those moments where I realized that my "Moody career" was on its way towards the end. This felt like an accomplishment to get to this point, but was sad too. I loved my classes at Moody, and was excited about the ones that were coming in my last semester too (Apologetics, Internship II, Marriage and Family Systems, Genesis, and Theological Issues of Missiology).  

The Children's Ministry seniors planned and hosted the NEXT Children's Ministry Conference at Moody. It's quite the task to plan a conference, but it really is the team that makes it a joy to put on a big event like this. 

Caleb officially graduated from Moody! Well, technically, he graduated in December, but he came back to Chicago to walk in the graduation ceremony in May. All of us Patty's were together for about 24 hours to celebrate this occasion. There really is something special about a ceremony - it brings closure and marks transition. I'm glad Caleb came back to walk, even though he and Haley had already moved on in Colorado. Caleb, I'll say it again - WELL DONE!!

My Children's Ministry Internship finally rolled around! I was in Colorado Springs at Mission Training International for three months. This summer was a confirmation of where the Lord has been leading me during my time at Moody. It was a delight to serve missionary kids-to-be in the COMPASS training program, and to debrief with missionary kids upon their return to the States. 

During my internship, I got to make connections with family in the area as well. I was only an hour's drive from Denver, where my Patty grandparents live. It was one of the sweetest parts of the summer to be able to see them more often!

 I had a week off during my internship as MTI transitioned between programs, so I took a trip to see a friend I'd been wanting to visit ever since we were counselors together at Gull Lake in 2015. Spending a couple of days in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, was such a treat, as always.

My France grandparents came to visit in Colorado too! Loved getting to spend time with this many members of my family throughout the summer, including Caleb and Haley too!

One of my most influential classes this semester was Apologetics. It forced me out of my comfort zone, made me think through things I had never really questioned before. This spot in a coffee shop I love gave me space to process the class and write a paper that was worth 50% of my grade. Talk about pressure! The same day I handed in that paper, I also took an exam that was worth 30% of my grade. That means that 80% of the grade for that class was determined in one day. Whew! Thankfully, it all went smoothly though, and I learned a lot in the process. 

Haley and I took a trip to New York - a graduation gift from some dear friends of ours. We didn't even get lost, which was quite the accomplishment, seeing as I have a history of not being great with directions. Google Maps is almost my best friend now.

This was my last assignment I ever turned in at Moody. Sigh. 

I packed up all of my belongings into tubs and suitcases. Finishing up at Moody was bittersweet. I'm ready and excited for what's next, but it's strange to leave something so meaningful behind too. The way that the Lord taught me to love Chicago still surprises me. It really did become my American home, and I'm so grateful for Moody and the city!

I didn't have a graduation ceremony (they only have them at Moody in May, which I plan on attending!), but Tyler did! He graduated from Trinity Evangelical School of Divinity this December. Get him talking about Old Testament theology, and you'll see his face light up. It's so much fun hearing about his field of expertise!

Finally, I flew from Chicago to Croatia with Mom and Dad, and spent Christmas and New Years on the island of Hvar. Besides my own homes, this is my favorite place on earth. It's peaceful, unpretentious, a bit wild and rustic, but refreshing and beautiful. It was the perfect transition place between college life and future-post-college-adulthood-life. 

The Lord is a God who pursues. He keeps calling us back to himself again and again, showing up, blessing, providing, and loving. He astounds me. This was a year of learning, growing, being stretched and pushed and surprised.

What's next in 2017? I hope to be able to share that soon. I'm in the process of applying for a position. I'm pretty thrilled at the opportunity, so I'll keep you posted!