Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Good Day and How Are You

Occasionally I still encounter moments of "culture shock" here in the States. Those times can take me by surprise, and they're often little, but they remind me gently that I have roots on the other side of the ocean that are still very much present.

Yesterday I was walking from one class to another, crossing the salt-crusted plaza along with the other students braving the cold as well. I passed a professor as I walked. I haven't taken a class with that professor, but his face was familiar to me from around campus. It pained me that I couldn't greet him with any respectful phrase, like "Good Day" (students won't usually greet professors they didn't personally know). He is a professor, someone I respect, and I had to walk by without acknowledging his presence. This still feels strange with my Czech instincts.

As I left another classroom later in the afternoon, the same sensation came over me again as a different professor walked past me in the hallway. Just like the time before, because I hadn't taken a class with her, nor had a conversation with her in the past, she didn't make eye contact, and I couldn't say hello. Not to mention, a friendly "hello" didn't seem respectful anyways. It's confusing.

In Czech we are trained from pre-school to greet those in authority with a "Dobry Den" ("Good Day"). If you walk past a group of kindergartener's, chances are you'll hear them all exclaim a long and loud greeting of Dobry Den to you. It's adorable. In high-school too, whether I knew a teacher personally or not, I always greeted them if I passed by them. It's a sign of respect. Maybe they get tired of being greeted all the time, but it's part of the culture.

That was just one Czech moment I had. There was one more yesterday. (Strange how some days are just like that, right?)

I subbed for a desk worker on campus for an hour yesterday, so I sat at the Welcome Desk, which is at one of the entrances to Moody. People are usually kind and say hello when they walk in, but one friend in particular surprised me with her greeting.

This friend was walking by the desk and asked, "How are you?" I answered something along the lines of, "I'm alright. I'm a little sick, but it's ok." She stopped in her tracks and spent the next couple of minutes talking with me and listening to the rest of the answer to her question. "How are you?" is usually a greeting asked in passing, often answered with "Good, how are you?", but this friend took the time to really ask the question and wait for the answer. It was good for my heart.

The friend who stopped to listen is actually German. It didn't surprise me that her question was meant to be genuinely answered then, since usually in Europe the question isn't used as much for a greeting. There is nothing wrong with it being a greeting here in the States (I've gotten used to it!), but it took some adjusting of expectations when I first came in as a freshman. I was reminded of my other culture when my German friend stopped to ask that question, which was different from the American quick greeting.

I appreciate so many aspects of both of the cultures that I call my own, and actually ended up laughing at the end of both of these instances. Little cultural idiosyncrasies say so much about a country, and I love getting to experience those in person. For example, Americans are generally friendly and approachable, so respect and status may not be as high of a value for them (hence the lack of a "Good Day" to professors).

For those of you who have travelled or who live overseas, what are some of these cultural differences you have noticed lately? I'd love to hear!

And here's a photo of Czech my mom sent me a few weeks ago, just for fun. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Not Pictured

We sat at Plum Market with our salads and gluten-free snickerdoodles talking about future plans, dreams, and what life looks like for Tyler and Lara right now. Judah joined in after he woke up from his nap, and there we huddled on our lime-green chairs around the small table. 

Not pictured? 

This weekend has been a hard one for me. Right on the heels of Founder's Week came unexpected exhaustion and a cold. I was caught off guard and didn't know how to deal with it. When school continues to press in on me, I feel that I have to keep pushing forward and through it with my head down. 

When I was a kid I wasn't always the strong one. I didn't like working much and enjoyed coloring and having picnics over strenuous activities or helping out with housework. I suppose that's pretty normal for kids, and the Lord did change that in me as the years went on. With Mom and Dad's careful instruction, difficult high-school years (academically), then moving to the States and working in EGS, as well as two summers at Gull Lake (where they push your limits daily, and the Lord strengthens us through it!), I can't do a task without thinking of all of the influential people who have taught me the value of hard work. 

I've also swung to the other side of the pendulum too. I don't know when to stop. I keep going, keep pressing past emotions, desires, and even relationships, to get things done. It's "worked", but at the expense of obedience to the Lord and vulnerability in friendships. 

Today I experienced what it means to be able to express exhaustion, to not fake being "ok" and "just fine", to let the wisdom of those who have way more experience than I do seep in where my heart is hard. My family was gracious as I didn't have the usual pep and joy this weekend.

Love isn't conditional to good days or bad days. Somehow in my heart I've let myself believe that just maybe it was, and I did have to always choose to smile and keep going as if nothing happened. A friend of mine called me out on this just yesterday, in perfect timing for today as well. I'm thankful for family and friends who lean in when my weaknesses come out. Thank you.

Malenovice, Czech Republic
I am learning today that rest is worship. And I'm trying to wrap my head around that. First of all, resting is obedience to God's command. Strict observance of the Sabbath is no longer required, for Christ has fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17), and Jesus is now our Sabbath rest. That means that at all times we can rest in our assurance of salvation if we are in Christ, and no longer have to strive...for anything. Rest is trust that his provision is enough on the other side. Rest is admitting that I am not God and my supplies are not limitless. Rest is submission to the Lord, and actually honoring to him.

No, I don't understand it yet. I thought that I did, but right in this season of life, this week, it's not something I am living out. I'm praying that the Lord leads me into his rest and teaches me that I may sit in his holy and precious presence. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Founder's Week 2016

It's Founder's Week. My third one, and last one as a student at Moody.

I have worked with Event and Guest Services on campus since my freshman year, and have gotten to see a unique perspective at how this school makes events happen. So many departments come together to put on these events and countless hours are dedicated to glorifying the Lord by doing so.

While we do all we can to help the conference run smoothly, we have fun in EGS too during weeks like these. For example, we have had a competition going that we nickname "the rubber band game". Essentially, every EGS employee is given a rubber band at the beginning of the week, and any time someone catches another saying "Founder's Week", then you lose your rubber band. We've had to get creative at calling Founder's Week by other code names ("FW" or "Fweek" or "this week") to keep our rubber bands. How am I doing in this competition? Well, just yesterday I had two rubber bands, and then I lost them both in just one conversation by slipping up and saying the conference name. It adds laughter to the team and we bond with little things like this!

Although we are exhausted after long days, we are also glad to have been able to play a small part in Founder's Week. The Word of God has been preached and the Lord has been worshipped as his people have gathered here this week on campus in the mornings and at Moody Church in the evenings.

We have one more session tonight with Ravi Zacharias and then FW 2016 will be complete. Praying we are able to serve our guests tonight in a way that will bless them!

(And here's a photo of your head ushers with D.L. Moody!)

Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Response That Changed Everything

A messy desk. A mostly made bed. A morning dawning bright and strangely warm for January. 

With four Children's Ministry classes this semester (as well as two other classes), I am being pressed, but also shaped. This past week I wrote one of my more important papers for my major. It's the one that we then rework again and later in the semester have to present before a theology professor or a senior pastor and let them ask us whatever questions they would like to ask. I sat in the Art Institute cafe writing this paper, reminding myself to breathe and drink lots of water, but at the same time recognizing the privilege it is to get to write such assignments. 

In Caleb's last year at Moody (before he and Haley moved to Colorado), he taught me something I'll never forget. 

I used to ask him, "Caleb, how's such-and-such paper coming along?" or "How was it for you when you wrote this paper that I'm writing now?" His response got me every time. 

His words were usually something along the lines of, "You know what? It was really worshipful." 

That phrase has not left my mind. Any time I think that a paper is hard, or an assignment is too much for me to process at the time, I think of Caleb's words. Isn't everything we do worship? The question is who we are worshiping. When Caleb responded by reminding me of the one whom I worship through these papers, I remembered why I am here. 

Ultimately, the question is not, "what am I getting done right now?" or "what will I gain?" but rather "who is God shaping me to be through this assignment?" and "how is he praised through this?"

All that I write, read, say, do should be turned back to him in praise. And you know what has taken me by surprise in doing so? The joy. There is so much more joy and peace and rest in knowing that what I do does not have the goal of perfection, or people-pleasing, or gain of approval, or a sense of accomplishment, or even the acquisition of knowledge. It is all for God's glory. There is freedom in that. 

Deuteronomy 6 tells us to worship God, and God alone. May we do so in the smallest and biggest tasks we are given. So as I read books, write papers, and struggle along, I remember that it can be worshipful, in the most delightful and fulfilling way. After all, we were created to worship our God, so there is no better place to be. Joy is usually a result too, which is a sweet (and undeserved, as always) gift. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Little Byt (Apartment)

On a very regular cloudy day in Chicago, I want to give you a glimpse of a very regular college apartment. Me and my two roommates share a bedroom and we have a little kitchen and a living room with two big windows. It isn't anything fancy, but it's home to us. Couches, our own dishes, and a fridge full of food somehow do make a difference between the dorms and having a tiny place of our own. 

Here's what real life looks like today. 

Side note: I have nicknamed our apartment "The Little Byt". Byt = The Czech word for "apartment". 

(We have closets now! It really is the littlest of things that bring joy)

Find something beautiful, even if messy, in the ordinary life you're living today on a plain January day. I see stories all the time in the city and they grab my attention, whether wrenching my heart or making me giggle. Sometimes you have to look for those moments when days stretch on.