Thursday, June 29, 2017

Rhythms and Transition

Chaos or routine. 

Which would you choose? 

I suppose you could find something good and something hard in both. Maybe it's even a matter of perspective and personality. But maybe neither of these is the goal. 

In the past five months, I have lived in three different homes. In these months, I have also spent three weeks in three other homes for dogsitting, and have made trips to Ohio, Iowa, Kansas, Oregon and Washington. This has been an adventure, and has also been stretching. 

There is no denying the fact that I look forward to the day when I move to Czech and get settled in an apartment there as I start working with the JV Kids. I will be visiting JV families across the 13 countries JV missionaries work in, but my homebase will be in Czech. I can't wait to host guests, create a home, offer it as a safe and welcoming space for people, and put away my storage tubs for a time!

Yet I am treasuring these months too. The Lord has met me in such kind ways when I have failed to trust him, to feel weary, confused or expectant of the future. He is teaching me to rest in him no matter the circumstances. It makes no sense, but he has brought peace and joy to each of those homes, each of those moves. He teaches me these days what it means to create rhythm, and to lean on his grace when I don't have strength to adapt on my own. 

One of those ways of creating rhythm amidst transition has meant enjoying the simple routines... like learning how to make coffee! I finally have my very own bag of Intelligentsia coffee, which feels very nostalgic after the years Tyler worked at Intelligentsia in the city. And the Aeropress is a travel-friendly coffee brewing method. I'm learning the tricks of the trade, and have a long ways to go to be like my brothers, but it has been fun!

Other rhythms that are travel-flexible, and transition-friendly:

  • Listening to the Word in the mornings - I'm an auditory learner, so this helps me focus, whether I'm on a walk, making breakfast or reading along in my Bible!
  • Savoring times in the car - these times can actually be restful as I am forced to simply think, ponder and focus on driving
  • Finding spaces and people that do remain constant no matter the moves - church, friendships, a park, a coffee shop, a lake
  • Prayer! Focusing on the Lord and on the people around me is the only way to get my eyes off of my own selfish desires and needs. This is where the Spirit convicts my heart and reminds me of truth from the Word too. He is constant to provide, and he gives joy to those who turn to him!
What are your "stability zones" in the midst of transition? Where do you turn to in the stress of chaos or the monotony of routine? May the Lord meet you precisely there. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

GGB: God Goes Before

Three weeks ago I sat in my "aunt Michelle's" house (she's been like an aunt ever since I can remember!) and she told my mom and I about a phrase that a wise woman had once told her. 

God Goes Before. 


Michelle has a tiny frame, which sits on her kitchen counter and displays those three precious words. The words don't stand out boldly, though one would expect they would, since Michelle herself is bold and vivacious, colorful and vibrant. Yet these words whisper in her home. They speak gently of truth, and bring the attention off of circumstances and onto our gracious Heavenly Father. 

When I was staying at Michelle's house in Oregon, I had one morning free amidst the many meetings and opportunities to share about God's work with JV Kids. I didn't have anything scheduled for a time when my mom and Michelle were gone doing a radio interview. Michelle is (among many other talents and skills) a painter, and when I asked if I could use the morning to paint, she graciously shared her painting supplies and canvases. I'm no expert at painting with acrylics, but my heart was so refreshed nonetheless.

Before a landscape came into shape on my second canvas, all of my thoughts, feelings and prayers needed to come out on the first. As I painted, one phrase stuck in my head.

GGB - God Goes Before.

So I painted the above canvas with that phrase in mind. And this theme has followed me ever since. Or, rather, I know God has been pursuing me and his people, going before us, since the beginning of time, but my ears and eyes are attune to seeing him in this way.

Today was one of many days of seeing him go before me in grace and provision in the littlest of ways.

I wasn't sure how everything would fit together today, because the timing was so tight. I prayed in the morning that God would stretch the time and provide even daily bread for today, since I didn't even know how I would fit lunch into this day. He went far beyond what I had asked!

Mom and I were free at the same time, and Mom had to take dad's pants to a tailor in Wheaton, so our paths got to cross this morning. It felt as if we do this all the time, as if we always live on the same side of the ocean. I'm thrilled that I will be living on the same side of the ocean and serving alongside my mom in Josiah Venture soon!

God not only answered that desperate plea in the morning, but he gave me an unexpected hour with my mom too!

Then I was able to make it just in time for my next appointment - babysitting for a church family. From there, I made it again just in time for a Skype meeting with a new friend and prayer partner who lives on the other side of the world (hi Janene!!). We finished earlier than I expected, and that gave me even enough in-between time to make a cup of coffee and sit down with no minutes to spare for a conference call for my food demonstration job.

I finished my call just in time to clean up the kitchen, put on the rice, and have dinner on the table for mom this evening. Being able to host her, even in a home that's not my own (I'm at this home for a week of dogsitting!), gives me such joy. That was a sweet gift from the Lord too.

God goes before us, in the smallest of ways. He turns our faces upon him, so we can bask in his glory when we so easily get discouraged and consumed with the cares of this world. The LORD has always been working in this way, going after his people, dwelling with them, caring for the needs of those who call upon him.

O God, when you went out before your people,
when you marched through the wilderness,
the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain, 
before God, the One of Sinai, 
before God, the God of Israel. 
Rain in abundance, O God, you shed abroad;
you restored your inheritance as it languished; 
your flock found a dwelling in it; 
in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy. ... 

Blessed be the Lord,

who daily bears us up;

God is our salvation. 

(Psalm 68)

Monday, June 19, 2017

3 Lessons from My First VBS Ever

The tradition of Vacation Bible School in the summer fills the memories of countless kids and adults in the US. 

For many families, VBS is to summer as peanut butter is to jelly. Although our family imported peanut butter from the States during my childhood for those famous sandwiches, VBS could not be so easily replicated in the Czech Republic! I had never seen or taken part in one before!

This brings me to June of 2017, when I experienced my first VBS ever here at my church. 

Actually, did you know that VBS originates from right here in Illinois? Legend has it (a.k.a. Wikipedia says...) that a schoolteacher in Hopedale, IL began teaching Bible classes in the summer of 1894. Then again, another source says it all began in New York in the 1890's. Regardless, It's hard to believe that 100 years later I was born, and now, as an adult, I got to see the Lord work here in this little suburb of Chicago. 

What did I learn from my first VBS ever? Lots! Here are three simple ways the Lord taught me this week:

1. VBS requires the church to be on mission together

One of my favorite aspects of the whole week was watching and partaking of this local body of believers serving on mission in such a tangible way. Almost a third of our church members joined the VBS team in some capacity - that's 94 volunteers!! I loved seeing the way God used all of the gifts of his people to accomplish his purposes. And I LOVED my small role of being a kindergarten counselor and van supervisor (for kids whose parents couldn't drive them to VBS). 

Truly, "For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others" (Romans 12:4-5). 

Every one of those 94 people were integral to this past week, and I am overjoyed to have served alongside them. 

2. Teaching kids through all learning styles is worth it!

God has created us each so uniquely, and even the way that we learn differs from one person to the next. What a creative God, who gives us the ability to learn and grow! He reveals himself to us, and continues to pursue us and communicate to us in ways we will understand. 

In the Old Testament alone, God revealed himself through a whisper in the wind, through a burning bush, through his covenant promises, through the majesty of Creation, through speaking to his chosen people, dreams, and visions, and in countless other ways. He does not give up on his people!  

God still reveals himself to us. He still pursues us. God speaks through his Word! And sometimes we understand that best through auditory learning, visually or kinesthetically. Whether that's through songs, hands-on activities, or a thoughtful lesson, God uses all of these to make himself and his truth known in ways that each one of us can uniquely hear and understand. 

I loved when a little 5 year old sang these words as we transitioned from one room to the next - the words had stuck in his head, and I pray the Lord uses them to speak to his heart!

3. Prayer changes everything

The Sunday before VBS, our team leader assigned each section of the pews in church to pray for a specific day of the VBS week. The Lord answered those prayers! He worked in the hearts of these kids, prompting some to ask for Bibles, to read his Word, and to put their faith in him. I was astonished at the questions the kids asked, the conversations that happened in the "in betweens", the hearts he turned to himself, and the way that God could use even one week to fill the rooms and auditoriums of our church with such joy and wonder. 

He impacted the lives of 140 kids by the proclamation of his Word this past week. Praising him for his heart for even the littlest ones!

What have you learned as a kid in VBS? What have you learned by serving in your church's VBS? I'd love to hear.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Local News

We have an incredible new addition to the family!! Asher was born to Tyler and Lara on June 12th, and I couldn't be more excited.

I love that little family!! And I am already so looking forward to meeting you, Asher! 

In Wheaton news, we have had some pretty incredible rainstorms. I had a meeting in the afternoon, so when it was time to go back out to my car, there was already a little pond forming in the parking lot! I had to wade through the water a bit, while also getting drenched, but I always find that kind of rain hilarious. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Before Support Raising Even Began

I will never forget the words the Lord whispered in my ear before I spoke at Moody's Founder's Week in February. Those words changed my entire experience and perspective for what has now been three and a half months of raising support.

It was the week before JV Orientation in Wheaton, and I had returned from Czech in time to be at Founder's Week down in the city.

I was sitting in the front row at Moody Church on the last day of Founder's Week, getting ready to speak in front of thousands of people for 6 minutes. I only had moments before I would be getting up to share my testimony of how Moody shaped me during my time there. I felt a knot twist in my stomach and a wave of nerves rush over me. I turned to the Lord in prayer. 

Moody Church - image courtesy of Caroline Nye Stevens

Before I could even utter any words in my heart to the Lord, he spoke gently to me:

"Claire, it's not about you." 

Reality. Relief. Release. 

This could have sounded harsh to some, but to me it was the kindest reminder he could have given me. My words - whether well delivered or not - were only to glorify him. That really took the pressure off! 

I felt the corners of my mouth turning up as I couldn't resist a smile.

I did not need to fear the crowd. Nope, this was for Him, for my Father. It was about him. And if his name was lifted up before these dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I would rejoice and be satisfied, no matter if I stumbled on any words in the process.

When I walked up the steps to the Moody church stage, I was excited. I was excited to show off the goodness and faithfulness of the God whom I trust. I smiled through most of my presentation because I couldn't help it.

It wasn't about me. 

It still isn't. 

And I still get excited about sharing testimony of God's goodness in this support raising process! I get to tell stories of God's leading towards this position in JV, present about how he is revealing himself in Central and Eastern Europe, and tell of the Lord's heart for the next generation of JV Kids. He is already working, and it's amazing to share in that with others!

Is the Lord calling you to join his work among the JV Kids with me? Would you pray about joining my support team? I am currently at 57% of my monthly support needs, which is so exciting! I am praying the Lord provides the remaining amount by the end of this year, but I will be able to make the move over to Czech whenever I reach full support!

In the meantime, pray with me that his name is lifted up each time I share about the JV Kids, and pray that even in this process of raising support, others would be blessed by seeing the Lord's gracious and generous hand! I pray that YOU are blessed today too by knowing that God is truly near, and pursues us daily with his abundant love.

P.S. You'll find that Founder's Week session online here:  My testimony is at about minute 38. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

First Church Tailgate

Yesterday I found myself googling a word, because I wasn't positive what precisely it meant. Yes, I still have moments when I laugh at myself and realize that I'm still learning, no matter what culture I'm in. In this case, I learned a new American tradition. 

I got to attend my very first tailgate yesterday! Grace Church of DuPage kicked off their summer tailgates last week when I was still gone, but I was so delighted to be back for this Sunday for some "home church family time". These evenings will continue throughout the rest of these warm months, and I think it's the best idea ever. 

So although I may not have been positive about the meaning of a tailgate before, I'm the biggest fan of them now. We heard updates on missions and ministries that Grace members are involved in, ate bratwurst and hamburgers, and sat on the grass until the sun set and the mosquitos came out. 

How would a tailgate look in Czech? It would be considered a "grill party", and we would also have sausages and probably some grilled veggies and chicken. Sometimes we also make scrambled eggs with lard in a big pot over a fire in Czech, and it's the best.

There are ways to build community, live as family in Christ, and eat and spend time together in all cultures. Sometimes we just use different words - like "tailgate".