Wednesday, July 30, 2014


It's been a week and half now since I wore this name tag. And I wore it every day, all day, for five weeks.

Everyone gets a camp name at Gull Lake and your real name stays a secret from the campers until the end of the week. It's part of what makes camp fun and it's easier for the campers to remember the staff names when they're crazy and ridiculous (names like "Scate Goat" or "Princess Lay-a" are hard to forget!).

I made one of my name tags, but all the rest were made for me. I traded off wearing different ones during the day, mostly sticking to the one in the first picture, but using different ones whenever I felt like it. The one in the first picture was one Tyler made me and sent with my parents to camp when they came week 1. His creativity inspired one of the campers to do something similar - it's adorable!

The top middle one was the only one I made, and the others I received as gifts from little campers. So great!! Even my Cove Kids helped out and wanted to make me name tags. Every one represents a story and the names of precious kids I grew to love every week.

I think about Gull Lake a lot still. There were so many things I learned while I was there, things I was stretched in, and I pray for the staff who are still serving there. They're working hard for the Lord! 

It's such an interesting thing to be a part of an entire camp world for six weeks and then leave. To be called one name and then to be called another when you get home. Sometimes I miss being called "Czecholate". It's never easy leaving people you bonded with either.

But of course, this past week and a half has been much needed.

I read a whole book (For fun! Shocking!). I've gone grocery shopping with Mom often. We've visited with people and reconnected to familiar places here. I've watched thunderstorms roll in and out daily. I am speaking Czech again, which feels good. I missed that. Some words come a little slower to memory, but I've gotten into the groove of flipping between languages again, which is a relief, because I didn't know what to expect coming home (language skill-wise). 

This time is one of reflecting, of processing, of resting. I miss Chicago at times. I miss Gull Lake at times. And I'll miss Czech again when I leave. But I'm also soaking in every one of these places and being fully here. Breathing and living wherever God takes me. And I'm loving it, no matter how far apart each of these places is. I am thankful. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Senior Photos

Our friends Yvonne and Kyle, who visited us this past weekend, love photos. Kyle, who is now a senior, randomly said something about senior photos while we were in Krakow on Friday, and I jumped at the opportunity. They didn't know that I loved photography, but they were talking about it in a hypothetical "wouldn't it be cool to get your senior pictures here" kind of way. I'm glad they had the idea!

We took a couple in Krakow, but then the four of us - the two moms, Kyle and I - headed up to Malenovice (our JV training center) on Saturday morning before they had to be at the train station. What fun it was taking these photos and what a great way to end our time together - capturing moments!

Hope you have a great senior year, Kyle!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Outlets and Door Knobs

One of the questions I got most often in the States while working at Gull Lake was, "what are the biggest differences between here and Czech?"

One of these things is not like the other...

There are plenty of big differences! But that's a longer conversation. There are some little things though that I've especially noticed since being home again.

To give you a glimpse, here are five random differences between the two places I call "home"...

1. Electrical outlets

When I moved to the States, I actually missed European outlets! I find that plugs always fall out in America. I just always seem to be trying to balance a plug in an outlet because the prongs are so skinny and slip out easily! But I talked to another missionary friend here who is from the States who said the exact opposite - he misses American outlets. So it must be a matter of what you're used to.

2. Cars

The Ford F-Series (pickups, in essence) are the most popular cars in the States. We don't even have any form of pickup trucks here in Czech. People opt for smaller cars with good gas mileage.  Big cars are not really a thing here. It's all about efficiency. Trucks are a big deal in the States though, and they're useful too for different purposes!

3. Bathroom stalls

Yep, that's right. They are different! (So is cheap toilet paper, by the way) Czech bathroom stalls typically go from floor to ceiling, and don't have gaps between the door and the stall. Some people might feel claustrophobic because you're basically in a tiny room a lot of the times, but I find that it's way less awkward that way.

When I worked at Gull Lake, some of the five-year-olds thought it was the funniest thing to lock the door and crawl out beneath the door. When I was a kid, I can recall panicking because I would lock myself into a bathroom and there was no way out but through the door. I guess there's advantages to both kinds!

4. Roads

Roads everywhere in Czech are so much smaller than in the States! Even a road through a small town in Michigan is much wider than our road that goes through town here. Again, there are advantages and disadvantages to this too. Small roads = also less cars, hence less stressful sometimes, but not always. Big roads = more space, not as tight, but there are also a lot more cars, so maneuvering can be stressful at times.

Last but not least...

5. Door handles vs. Door knobs

Ooh, which is better, do you think? 

I can't think of a house in Czech that I've seen door knobs in. We have them on some random old doors, but it's definitely not the norm. All outside and inside doors have door handles on them (which I personally find a lot easier to use!). What would your preference be?

Those are just some of the small differences. I wish I could sit with you over coffee and talk about all the other differences too. I find it fascinating and curious to talk about. 

(All images were found on Google)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Krakow: A Gem

I can't remember the last time I went to Krakow just to visit and enjoy the city. It's not too far of a drive from home, but I don't remember even seeing some of the most famous sights in Krakow. 

Some friends from the States came to stay with us for a couple of days before heading to their English Camp on the other side of Czech. When they mentioned they would love to see Krakow, I was thrilled when Mom got excited about the idea and we made plans to take a trip there the next day. I finally got to see the city on a beautiful summer day and enjoy it without any other agenda (like an airport run, or passport renewal, etc). 

It could not have been a more perfect day to stroll across plazas, into gardens and down cobblestone roads. 

It's good to be in Europe again. I'm thankful for new friends (on my part), old friends (Yvonne knew my parents 29 years ago!), and the majesty of the Lord, which He displays through His creation and by how he gifted people to make such beautiful things like castles and palaces.

P.S. Thankfully, the flu was only a 24-hour one, so I felt fine again in Krakow. Thank you Lord!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Red Currants and an Angel

I got the stomach flu yesterday. I was up most of the night, reliving many years of my childhood. Growing up I had an extremely weak immune system (because of a mold allergy and a mold-infested home...but that's another story) and I often caught even the smallest bug. As a kid, my system collapsed easily and it took days, sometimes weeks, to recover.

Thank you to all those who prayed for me as a kid. I can't remember the last time I was really sick, which is a miracle. I caught a cold once this past year and now have this 24 hour bug, but compared to my childhood, those things are completely normal. God has strengthened my body in ways that I could never imagine and I thank Him every time I do get sick, because it reminds me of all that He has already brought me through.

Although being sick is never fun, there is no other couch I'd rather spend the day on than the one inside the yellow house with its red roof: home. Mom brought me Sprite and toast when I needed it, I didn't have any other responsibilities I needed to report back to, and I knew where the medicine cabinet was at 3AM.

The best surprise of today? Even our dear neighbor wanted to help. "Pani Andelova" (Mrs. Andelova) lives next-door and comes to visit us many days a week. She rings our doorbell until we come and then gives us the biggest smile and we chat at the front door. She may lead a simple life, but her faith is childlike and genuine. She came to say hello today and when she found out I was sick, her first response was to go home and pray for me.

An hour later, I heard the doorbell ring again and again and easily recognized it was pani Andelova. What I didn't expect was this:

She told my mom at the front door that as she was praying for me, she remembered that when she was little, her mom used to give her red currants when she had a fever. So she picked some from her yard and brought them over. Mom put them in a bowl for me and thanked pani Andelova. Our neighbor doesn't even know that red currants are such a comforting food to me because I only ever eat them in Czech during the Summer.

What a precious reminder of how the Lord cares for us even in the midst of a small flu.

Oh, and one more tidbit about pani Andelova. Her last name translated means "angel". So Mrs. Angel lives right next-door. If that's not comforting, I don't know what is.