Sunday, April 30, 2017

Conversations on Airplanes

What happens when the Lord prompts us to keep our eyes open for opportunities to see him? He answers those prayers in continually unexpected ways. 

On a recent trip to visit dear family friends, and to share about what God has prepared ahead in my ministry with JV, I made my way down the aisle of the airplane and took my spot in the middle seat.

I was never one to consider myself a "talk to the person next to me on a plane" person, but somehow it has ended up happening more often lately. Well, and when I spied this book being read by the woman next to me, how could I not start up a conversation?

The woman I spent the next hour and half talking with has lived in Chicago for a long time now, despite having family in Puerto Rico. Who would have guessed that we would ever have something in common, yet we both agreed that there is something about the global church and being the body of Christ that brings us together from any corner of the earth. It's quite incredible when you actually stop to think about it.

She actually asked me to take that photo so I could look up the book she was reading when I had wifi again! I got her address, and I'm sending her a copy of my mom's book, since I think she will just love it, since it tells the story of a "modern day" missionary, and all the twists and turns that were involved in the beginnings of JV too.

This isn't a post to say, "I had a conversation with someone on the plane. You should too." In fact, you should know that I often wonder how the Lord could possibly use me for his work, and why he has invited me into what he is doing in the first place! But when we make ourselves available, he does wonders with what we give him, and continues to surprise us again and again.

Friday, April 21, 2017

A Sister In The Produce Aisle

I have often said that "God meets us where we're at." As I quoted once previously when reading a book about Old Testament theology, "God desires closeness. His goal is intimacy. It always has been."

Well guess what? 

God met me even in the produce aisle, in front of a display of tomatoes to be exact. 

I have been working for a company called Demolicious for about two and a half years now. It's a long story how I got connected to them, but let's just say, the Lord set it up! It was quite "random". Nevertheless, the job has looked different throughout these years.

Sometimes I do food demonstrations on the weekends, and sometimes I'm in Wholefoods or other specialty grocery stores. I have represented lots of different brands and food products, and have learned a lot in the process! It sounds fancy, but essentially I'm the person who gives samples and tells you how great a product is. It's a fairly ordinary in-between job, but it has been helpful these years too.

Yesterday I was demoing local tomatoes, and a kind older woman came up to my table to say hello and try a sample. She asked me if I had tried the Sauerkraut around the corner in the store, to which I replied:

"Ooh, I haven't yet! But I love Sauerkraut! I grew up eating it all the time."

"Do you like the Wisconsin kind, or the German kind?" she asked.

"Well, actually, I guess I could say I'm used to Czech sauerkraut. I grew up in Czech, so that was a normal part of life."

Her face lit up.

"I'm from Germany!" she replied. "Were your parents missionaries?"

I was quite surprised at this point that without any hesitation, she had already guessed my background. I'm not sure if it was the fact that I didn't have an accent speaking English, or that the Spirit was just prompting her to say that, but that began the sweetest conversation.

We talked about where she was from (Stuttgart), where I was born (outside of Heidelberg, Germany!), and my future steps in returning to serve the Lord in the Czech Republic. She even spoke to me in German briefly, and I understood most of what she said (which is a huge surprise since I haven't taken German since 9th grade).

She began tearing up, and asked if she could give me a hug. Then she leaned in and began praying over me, starting with, "Oh, gracious Papa, thank you for this dear sister in Christ, thank you for placing a hedge of protection over her all these years..."

And then soon she had gone, encouraging me more than she'll ever know.

How is it possible that in the produce aisle in Wholefoods, the Lord would reach down to show his presence right there through this German sister in Christ? He knew that on that day I had needed his presence dearly. How good a Father we have, making himself known through his people!

Monday, April 17, 2017

All My Belongings in a Pile

Today was Move-Out/Move-In Day #1. 

Families from my church are generously hosting me in their homes during these next months as I raise support to head back to Czech to join God in his work among the JV Kids. As I have said before, this is a unique time of life. A friend of mine likes to call it the "nomadic life". I'm not sure what to call it, except frequent transition.

It's quite the odd feeling when you realize that all your belongings (at least, all of the ones in the US) can be packed up all at once. It's a bit thrilling too. I fit almost every bin and suitcase, box and pillow, lamp and shoe, into my little Saab (nicknamed "Sylviaaa" - yes, with the drawn out ending, just for the added flair). 

I think if my dad had packed the car, he could have found a spot for that last lonely tub that I couldn't fit in with everything else.  That tub got a special trip in a much more roomy spot on round #2 of moving belongings from one house to another. Lucky storage bin. 

But I was also really grateful that I was able to pack everything up and make a fairly smooth transition to my new "home". Multiple trips back and forth from the car with big and small items really didn't seem too bad on this lovely April day. 

The Lord has given me the ability for mobility in this season, and though that can feel rootless at times, it can also be fun too. 

This is a constant reminder of what it feels like for the JV Kids I'll be serving, who also understand this kind of constant change and a disconnect between "homes" when growing up on mission with their families. This can be both lonely/hard/frustrating and thrilling/new/exciting at the same time. I get that. These are the kids that I will get to do life with once I'm over in Eastern Europe, and I can't wait. 

And God takes the broken pieces of our lives, the messy ones - the ones with suitcases and full cars, and goodbyes and loss and the sense of constant change and not being able to hold onto any thing or place... and makes them something beautiful. He makes them into relationships with my church family, and a precious opportunity to see his name proclaimed among and through the JVK. 

I'll be here at my pastor's family's house until mid-June, tucked into their sweet guest room that has a pretty nifty Murphy Bed (the kind that folds down! Yeah!!). "Thank you for hosting me!!"

Move #1 on my journey here in the western suburbs: check! 

Or should I say..."Czech"?! I mean, I can't resist the opportunity for a Czech pun. ☑️ 

Pssst...I'll be sending out my first e-mail newsletter very soon! Don't forget to sign up, so you can get the first one! You'll find the sign-up box to your right, under the heading "You can receive my monthly JV newsletter!" 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Take Heart, There's Hope!

On this Easter Sunday, I not only remember the resurrection of Christ, but rejoice in the news being fresh and true today. Jesus still lives! His life and reign are still earth-shattering.

So take heart. You weren't left alone to figure out how to earn your way to right standing before God. Jesus changes everything.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

What Iowa and Kansas Have in Common

What do Iowa and Kansas have in common? 

Incredible people.

Sometimes God arranges connections with people in the most unexpected and wonderful ways. He did that twice this past week. 

I was in Kansas City, MO for a conference (more on that soon!), and I found out at the beginning of the conference that some family friends of ours live in Kansas City, KS. We had met once in Czech about five years ago, and I remember thinking the world of them then. My parents have kept in touch with Kelly and her husband through these past years, but I haven't seen them since that one visit when I was still a senior in high-school. 

I e-mailed Kelly on Monday to see if we could get together, and she offered her home as a place to meet up, but also as a place to share meals, to learn from her wisdom, hear family stories, and to enjoy a beautiful spring evening. 

Actually, on that Wednesday I had had a small mishap with my car. It was all ok in the end, but being met with Kelly's joy and hospitality was better than any other remedy on a tough day. God provides, does he not? 

Reconnecting years down the road with Kelly and her husband was the sweetest surprise. Kelly, thank you for saying yes (even spontaneously) and hosting me with such kindness and thoughtfulness. I am incredibly encouraged by you and your family, and I still think the world of you. 

The other sweet meeting was in Iowa with some new friends that felt like old friends from the very start. I've heard so much about Ben and Avery, and finally got to meet them in person in their sweet home. We shared a meal and talked of all the ways we are surprisingly connected. It all started when Ben's parents and my parents served in Germany together way back when!

Even amidst much change, constant transition, and preparing to move to Czech to serve the JV Kids, I am more and more amazed at the ways God is involved in your stories and in your present times as I talk with you and share journeys. Thank you for telling of his works and for walking in all the many uncertainties together...which also means rejoicing together in the little things.

If I have not met you in person yet, I hope I have the privilege of getting to soon. You know you can always reach me via e-mail ( or Instagram (@clapatty). I really mean it - I love reconnecting with old friends, meeting new ones, and staying in touch with those from all walks of life.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Reflected in Her Eyes

Fridays are one of my favorite parts of the week. Why? Because of this sweet 10-month-old. 

She's tenacious and curious, engaged and constantly learning.

As I sit with her and flip pages of books open and closed, listen to her say "wow!", put tiny pink socks back on, or try and wipe boogers off her face when she refuses to have a tissue go near her, I see the beauty of God's creativity.

When we walk in circles around the house with her clinging to me with one hand, and to her purple plush hippo with the other, I think of what it means to walk with courage. It makes my heart glad.

This is one of the many reasons why I love working with kids - I see our Lord in the reflection of these, the littlest ones.

There's a song that came out last year by Sleeping at Last called "Sight". The artist actually wrote the song briefly after his daughter was born, and it's about seeing God in the beautiful things in the world, and in the eyes of his own kids. There's a specific part in it that just captures the essence of how I glimpse this as well...

without assurance,
without insurance,
you believe.
without condition
or the promise of heaven,
you see the Holy Ghost in broad daylight.
and i see the reflection in your eyes.
i see the reflection in your eyes.

Ah, how beautiful it is that when we receive children, we receive Jesus! No wonder it is so sweet to hold the hand of a 10-month-old as she explores the world.

"And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." - Matthew 18:5

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Library Card (Comments of a TCK)

 I never thought that my own joys and challenges of growing up in Czech, along with my Moody education in Children's Ministry, would be of such direct use to the Lord. But now I'll be going back to Central and Eastern Europe to serve the JV Kids* and their families. Who knew?!

It's been special to zero in on these kids and the stories they are living, and the one that God is weaving right now in Josiah Venture. Since now is the season for building a team of ministry partners, that means I get to share about the vision of Josiah Venture these JV kids often!

Speaking of these JV Kids (and thus TCK's) this often has made me acutely aware of my own little TCK tendencies that I sometimes forget about. I feel very comfortable both in America and in Czech, but I have moments of learning in both cultures, as do we all!

An example: Just two weeks ago, I learned that there is a white flashing signal at the traffic lights that turns on when there is an emergency vehicle nearby or approaching. Pretty nifty, right? Yeah, not sure how I never knew that before. This is probably obvious to some people who have grown up in America, but still struck me as new.

Example #2: Yesterday, I used my very own US library card for the first time!! And I was strangely excited about it. I just registered for a library card last week.

Now that I know that the suburbs of Chicago are my "home base", I can get a library card. In some ways, this is my TCK version of putting down roots, or should I say, of committing to relationships here. I may not always physically be here in the suburbs, but I will forever have relationships and a home church here!

You know what makes this library experience extra special?

It's actually the only library I remember visiting in the States when I was a kid.

I had some serious health issues when I was little, and had to come with my mom to the US to see doctors a few times throughout my childhood. On this one occasion, we stayed with a family friend from church (what I now call my church too, which is pretty cool!) and I remember her taking me there to borrow big floor puzzles. We never had floor puzzles in Czech, so I reveled in the availability of them and at the plethora of fun things in the American library.

Little did I know that one day I'd go back to that same library with my very own card, as an (healthy! Praise the Lord!) adult, to rent movies to watch with friends from church.

The way the Lord has brought so many aspects of my life full circle still surprises me. Now that I'm seeing some of these patterns, it makes me excited and curious to see what's next on the journey.

And just as a bonus: Here's an old-school photo from the 90's in Czech - yep, I was all about the leggings and pink accessories at that age!

*JV Kids are a group of over 100 children of Josiah Venture missionaries (most of the parents are North-American, though some are bicultural families too), who live across the 13 countries that JV is in. These are all TCK's, and most of them attend national schools. You'll hear more about these JVK in the future!