Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Faces of Graduation

Ah, how to even encapsulate graduation day? Although I received my diploma in December, I walked at the graduation ceremony today. I will say, there is power to the words spoken over you, to wearing the cap and gown, to going through the traditions, to celebrating and saying goodbyes. It all enacts a reality of change, or transition, of growing up. 

But all of this would have had no meaning without the people who stood with me. 

From my parents who flew all the way from Czech to be here... celebrating alongside former roommates who shaped my everyday life at Moody... 

... to marking yet another significant life event with the Fantastic 4. 

From friends who were there along the way during my time at Moody, who became lifelong friends, like Kelley (who graduated last year)... 

... to Hayley, dear dear Hayley, my buddy since we were little, who just so happened to finish out a year as a student herself at Moody. Since she had just finished finals week, she got to be at graduation too. Incredibly special to have walked part of the journey of high-school together, and even overlapped at Moody for a semester too.

And that was only the beginning. There were so many amazing friends, coworkers, professors and classmates from yesterday - moments of recognizing the people I've grown to love in this crazy and wonderful city.

Thank you to everyone who has imaged Christ to me in the mundane parts of life, on the mountains, in the valleys, in the fields and in the bustling streets. You have been just as much, if not more, a part of my "education" as any class I took at Moody. I cherish you all!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Snippet of a Day

Hey friend, just popping in to share a happy picture with you from babysitting recently. 

Kids are the best.

In other news:
  • There's a new coffee shop in Wheaton (that's all I've got in the "local news" arena)
  • I had a job in the city yesterday at Wholefoods and it took an hour and 45 minutes to drive downtown in the morning because of traffic (without traffic it's about 45 minutes). Haha. 
  • I picked up my cap and gown from Moody yesterday. I graduated in December, but I get to walk at graduation this Saturday!! It definitely feels more official with the cap in the corner of my room, just waiting to be worn. 

There is much more going on too, but there's a little snippet of the littlest of things! 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Lilacs are Memories

My sense of smell may not be at its best this week due to a pretty bad cold, but that didn't stop me from taking a little detour after work yesterday! 

I first noticed Lilacia Park from the train window on my way from Chicago to Wheaton. Since my ticket was limited to the direct route, I never could get off the train at Lombard and then get back on, so I merely stared at the park and hoped to visit one day. That was two years ago.  

Fast forward two years and I'm living only 20 minutes away from Lombard, and Lilacia Park is in full bloom this week. Despite the cold I caught, I wasn't going to miss my one chance to visit the park.

It didn't disappoint! I was a little sad not to have anyone to share the joy with, because I wanted to exclaim out loud at the loveliness! Photos will have to do this time. Maybe I'll have to take a friend here soon too!

When we lived in Havirov, before we moved to Frydlant, we used to have the most glorious lilac bushes in our yard. I used to go outside and stop to smell the lilacs at any chance I could get. They were enchanting to me. At 5 years old, I always wanted to pick them and bring them inside.

I had to take a couple of trips to the States around that same age because of some serious health problems. We stayed in the basement of a family friend's house. She had lilacs in her neighborhood. Thus, another scent memory was born.

My most recent lilac memory is associated with Caleb and Haley's wedding in Ft. Collins. A group of us girls stayed together with Haley and woke up bright and early for the big day. We were staying at some of Haley's friends' house, and someone had picked a bunch of fresh lilacs and put them in a vase in the kitchen. The scent permeated the air in the last moments before we headed to the church.

I strolled around the park, soaking in the beauty of the flowers, and trying to breathe in deeply to take in the scent of the lilacs.

Scent is memory.

I guess that means that Lilacia Park was memory lane.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

JV Spring Conference This Week

This photo from last year may be a bit drizzly-looking, but it still captures the faces of so many JV Kids that I love. They're all together again starting this very day, and I can only imagine their excitement! 

Although I can't be there yet, I am eager to hear stories of how God works this week! Would you pray  with me for these kids right now?

  • Pray that they would connect with one another quickly - this time always feels short for the kids, but it is very meaningful. Pray that their relationships are deepened through this conference. 
  • Pray that they would be encouraged by one another and by the greater JV family - pray that this would give them the energy to persevere through their last two months of school (they finish up at the end of June)
  • Pray for the teams who are there putting on the kids' program - the older kids will be learning a musical theatre production to put on at the end of conference for the adults. This is something they would never get to experience otherwise, so it's exciting, and a challenge too! Pray that the leaders would have creative flexibility and energy this week. And pray for the team that came to provide care for the younger kids too - that the littlest ones would adjust well, and that joy would be abundant this week. 
  • Pray that they would know their Shepherd, Jesus Christ, more deeply after this week (the theme of this conference is "Shepology", and the adults will hear teaching on Psalm 23!) 

Thank you for standing with me and with the JVK and their families! 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Fresh(wo)man "Fan 4" Friends

"The Fantastic 4" is what we called ourselves after our first semester of our freshman year. It started as a joke, since we were the four fresh(wo)men who came in on our floor together back in 2013. We were all straight out of high-school, in the same stages of life, though from very different backgrounds.

Kaitlyn grew up in Illinois, but had recently moved to northern Wisconsin with her family. 

Michelle was from Maine.

Hannah grew up in a couple of different places as a missionary kid - including Malta and Tunisia, as well as in Indiana. 

And me, well, I was from Czech, as you probably know. 

Yet somehow, despite not having much in common, and coming from different places around the world, we became friends. I think it happened because of that desperate need for friendships in your freshman year, where you cling to the people who are in your everyday life for security. But I think it was more than that - the Lord knew we needed each other to grow. It was only Christ that really bonded us together, nothing else. 

We had our own different friend groups, but we ended up coming back together a couple of times a semester, which were always sweet times. 

We took this photo together in 2013, and reenacted it for sentimental value yesterday. I graduated in December, and the other three graduate in two weeks. Though we may see each other again all together, it will never be easy after this. A quick drive into the city made it possible this time for me to join, but soon we will be more dispersed.

Here is another slightly random before-and-after photo too. 2014 and 2017. I was grateful for these friends then, and I am grateful for them now. 

Truly though, "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17

Kaitlyn taught me to be bold and to pray for others right on the spot at any time.

Michelle taught me to be consistent and more loyal, and to give sacrificially of ourselves to others.

Hannah taught me to be present for people in the moment, and to not take myself too seriously, but be able to laugh along the ride.

They all taught me to work hard, and to love others because we are already so loved by our Heavenly Father. We may not have spent much time all together throughout the years, but we always knew we had each others' backs, and that meant more than anything during the turbulent and formative years of college.

Last night we went to a really wonderful Ramen restaurant in Wicker Park, got SOAKED in the rain on our way back to the car, stopped to get Frosty's (except for me, because of dairy!) after we were drenched, and prayed together in the car before heading our separate ways for the evening.

We will see each other again, for sure at graduation, and hopefully beyond, but this marks a turning point in our friendship. So we celebrate that, and grieve that at the same time.

May the Lord be with you all, Fantastic 4.

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! 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What Is Normal Anyways?

One could say that no day is "normal" right now in Claire's life. 

One could also say each day is unique. 

I guess it depends on perspective, right? Is the goal of life to settle in? Maybe in some seasons. This is not one of them, which is both exciting and hard at times. The Lord has been faithful though and has provided for each and every day, even with joy and strength for the little things. 

So, what does this week look like? House/dog-sitting! And working various jobs, plugging into Bible studies, small groups and sharing the vision of Josiah Venture and about the JV Kids. What will next week look like? Completely different, probably!

I remember that at Mission Training International we taught the kids the phrase, "Keep your expectations moldable like play-dough." That can be challenging, but it's been an adventure too. Thank you for your prayers and for joining along, friends! 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Welcome to Seasons Changing

It was the second day of spring, 2017. You can only find a few first signs of the season changing outside, but you really have to look close. If you search hard enough though, you'll see a few new colors, and even notice some that have been there all along. 

There's something about the transition between winter and spring that makes you look for beauty expectantly and find it in the unexpected. 

Welcome to Wheaton in March. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Stamped and Mailed (First Round)

I sent out the first stack of letters and prayer cards this week!! Yay! I'll be sending more in the coming weeks/months, but the first ones are going to be delivered soon. 

It's quite strange for me to be sending these out as extensions of my own story, since I remember sending out family newsletters during my own childhood. We even have a cork board filled with prayer cards in our kitchen, and I have always loved having a visual testimony to the work of the Lord right there in view in daily life. 

It's hard to believe that now I'm sending out letters as testimony of God's work too. 

How incredible is it that God would open up an opportunity to serve with the JV Kids though? I am continually going to be excited about that. Thanks for joining in and following along!

Pssst...e-mail me ( your mailing address and I'll send you a handwritten note, a letter and a prayer card!  I absolutely love doing that.