funny stories

OK, I thought I should devote at least one entry to some of the funnier things that have happened since my move to the Windy City. To be sure, there are more than I can write, but just to show the not-so-glamorous or professional (and sadly typical) Caroline moments, I thought a few were appropriate.

necklace strangle
Well, anyone who moves to an urban area will tell you that you are slightly more aware of fashion. Sure, I was always interested, but it's harder to branch out into what some may call "your own style" when you feel a bit stifled by trends. I was never a trend-setter or a trend-follower, but moving to the city I think I got excited about being a little more creative.
With that said, I've been utilizing accessories. For 1, they can be worn a lot and with many different outfits, which makes the cost-per-wear so wonderfully low! And for 2, it's a good way to test out your creative boundaries without walking the fashion plank in the first weeks of arrival. One of said accessories is a necklace with all sorts of colors that I picked up at H&M last Spring Break. (this is the good part)
I wore it out with a stellar outfit one Sunday night to enjoy the sweet sounds of Jazz playing from Grant Park. At the request of my friends, I was made to show my one and only hardly qualifying "break dance move" (which is just a creative way to put my feet up in the air). I wrapped my necklace around one more time to keep it out of my face and all was well.... Until I got home and wanted to take it off. I could NOT untangle the necklace and after struggling for a good 20 minutes, relented and slept with the darn thing on. .. THEN, the next morning I still could not remove it and decided if it wasn't coming off it wasn't keeping me in, so I dressed for the day and came back late morning, when I pleaded with my roomie to help me. She couldn't get it... and I thought I would be stuck forever. Completely unsatisfied with my claustrophobia-inducing fate, I was determined to get it off. Now is when the light bulbs start flashing... I simply undid one of the connecting chains. Yep, that's all she took.

(Wow. that was way too dramatic, I'll have to tone it down!)
clothing malfunction
Continuing with the clothes theme, this story is quite a bit more embarassing, but I can venture to say it was part of God's plan. So, maybe some know of my duress in finding employment when I arrived here weeks ago. This was not due to my lack of persistence, though. One day after I realized that Starbucks just really didn't want me, I ventured out to pick up applications at Chipotle, Barnes and Noble, and Corner Bakery. I had showered and I was ready to impress from the start... who knew, maybe they would offer me the job on the spot. Anything is possible and I was in good spirits. So, I went to the first two places and thought their faces seemed a little blank, but so goes the life of the working, right? Nothing too odd, so I kept my spirits up and ventured to the last place, where I decided the job search needed a coffee. I asked for an application and ordered a plain, old coffee. I went over to sit down and felt a sudden urge to look down. Sure enough, my fly was wide open. You've got it folks, my zipper had never been at the top of my pants that day - of all days. But, that's not all - no that would be too simple and lacking the horror I felt when, as I left, my hand went to my right ear. I felt for my earring, which should have been there, but found nothing. Hmm... Darn earrings, I thought I'd lost one and looked like a fool at this place. No, actually I felt the other ear and found that I had put both earrings in the same hole!! The very same! Oh, this was quite a day. I laughed and hoped that those people laughed, too. Because that was sure funny. .. Oh and the God's will part came when I realized I wasn't SUPPOSED to have any of those jobs. I was supposed to meet a friend named Jenna who would encourage me to apply at Sullivan's where I got a JOB and love!

Because for some reason I decided to make these cute little novellas, I'll stick to just one more:)
coffee with women and bathroom blackout
So, in order to tell this one I've got to give some bonus background. First - to God be the glory for how He works, reveals, and blesses. What a mighty, mighty God!! So, last Sunday I decided that I wanted to start serving at church. I know it was only my 3rd time there, but I can't waste any time -I've only got 3 months! So, I went at about 8:30 and the service started at 9. My rationale was - I'll just look around and hope that someone will need some help. Well, when I got there I froze. Everyone was running around, but they all had purpose. I escaped to the bathroom to regroup and give a mini pep-talk. Fresh from my little girls' room prayer, I set out to find a place for my hands and heart. I quickly spotted a woman and man unloading some boxes at the book table. Books are always attractive to me, and these people looked like they could use some help. So, I walked up to the woman and said, "Hi. I'm new here - can I help you? I'm looking to serve in some way..." Her face lit up like I was about to give her a Chrstmas present. She went on to say oh how much that would be wonderful and they would love for me to help... Her name is Jenny and she is marvelous - reminds me of my grandma Phyllis. She figured out my story and started introducing me to everyone that walked by. .. in minutes I had about 20 new friends. I ended up sitting with some of her lady friends (they were all older women) and had a blessed, blessed time. After the service I sold my first book ... John Piper's Pleasures of God. THAT was a good feeling! Then the ladies asked me to join them for coffee at the little cafe down the street. Why NOT? I thought. So, I walked there to meet them - JoAnn, Kathy, and Ann (transit Annie they call her because she knows the system so well). I felt like I was back at club with my gram. So... now to the funny part. It was getting towards the end of my second cup of joe and I surely had to go to the bathroom. I found out where it was and had to wait a while for the right time. Then I had to wait for the person inside... so I finally get in and I have to go really bad. It's tight quarters, but at least I was in... and then there was total darkness. Absolutely pitch black - the lights had gone out! I could not see anything at all and I was stuck. There was no way I was opening the door into the crowded restaurant so I could see. I didn't know what to do, because the ladies were probably waiting now to leave and I was captive of this dark, small space! I don't know how, but I somehow managed to get out alive, but man that has NEVER happened to me before!

OKay, enough stories for now!

Pictures....finally

I have so many I don't know where to start, so I'll begin where part of my heart still is: Poland.

These pictures (left to right) are: the place where the camp was held, my friend Ula, my first castle, Piwnicna, and some of the team.





These next pictures are of my English students and then a lake at the base of a beautiful castle.

Apparently this is all my computer can handle right now...so I will add more as soon as I can

Hosting friends in Chicago

I can finally understand my sister's distress and joy in having visitors to the city! This past weekend, two friends came to stay and hang out in Chi-town. It was wonderful to just spend time with people outside this experience and share some of the few things I've come to enjoy about this city.

It was quite interesting, however, to do "host" things without a host budget. We found ways to get around it, though, which made things pretty crazy! I slept on the floor, we scrounged for cheap breakfast foods, did a LOT of walking and window shopping, and went to the restaurant on top of the John Hancock building (instead of going all the way up for $25) and paid the $6 minimum tab in order to enjoy the view and some dessert.

All in all it was a great weekend. Shyle and Lydia were wonderful guests - the easy going kind you wish everyone was - and we made many memories!

I'm back at work right now and about to head out for a conference with my practicum supervisor. My boss is out of the office this week, but I'm working on two different projects that consume all my time and energy... My healthy stock of organizational skills ran dry when I saw the mounds of information I was supposed to compile into an Orientation Package CD. I worked through lunch, so I think this break and reflection is warranted:).

(entirely unrelated... but my thoughts on home)
Sometimes I surprise myself with my ability to adapt to new locations. It seems like nothing phases me - distance, relationships, routine. But, this past weekend I realized how much I missed my friends.
The friends I really miss are the ones that understand silence and smelling the rain. They talk until 3 in the morning because it's more important than sleeping.
I miss being around someone who knows me and calls me out on my bluffs.

I've been thinking a lot about what I call "home." Of course, my beautiful farm in Iowa will always that place, in a way. But, getting closer to graduation, I am thinking about what home might look like after that. Honestly, my mind is completely open as to where God might send me. It seems like my idea of home is oddly fluid - not rooted by location. But one thing I really hope is that wherever my home ends up I will have those kinds of people who understand silence and rain and honesty.

I think God will honor that - He knows me and created me to desire those kinds of relationships. He is the master of orchestrating all those things that I sometimes doubt about life.

And I think that is amazing.

JEAN DAY

I got into the office a little early - wearing the comfortable Friday jeans - and my boss hasn't given me a direction for the day, so I thought I'd use a little time to jot some much needed reflection.

I wrote on Monday that the blessings of the weekend were a whole different story, so here it is:

My friend and I wanted to visit Moody church the first Sunday we were here, but we underestimated how far it was and how long it was taking to get there. So, when we spotted a church sign, we ducked into a building, up an elevator and into a room of around 12 people for a small service. It was a great experience and the people were wonderful, but we were still in search of Moody... I was talking to my boss about it and she suggested Park Community, which is an offshoot of Moody, but less traditional. She said she finally found her church home there and she really liked it..... So, I suggested it to my friend and we got a group together for the 11:30 service. The message was dynamite.

I could tell that at the heart of this church was God's heart for reaching people with the gospel. Last Sunday, Jackson (pastor) started a new series called "The Great Investment." Prejudiced as I am against topical sermons, I ate it up! He used scripture from Jeremiah 29:4-7 (I could say so much here but you'll have to read, digest, and think about it if you want)

They have been praying about how God wants this city to be His and what part they have in His work - and they've set a goal to reach 1%. I know, to my small-town mind, I was like "that's all?" But they aren't just fooling around - 1% of Chicago is around 29,000 people. And they don't just want to hand out tracts, they want to witness the transformation through salvation and discipleship (by partnering and beginning with many other churches). This is something I can get excited about! The church has committed 25% of its budget to the cause of local ministry and I saw evidence of that right away when they handed out envelopes at the end of the service. We opened them to find different amounts of money. Jackson told us that we have been blessed with gifts from the Father in so many ways, but that we have to decide how to best be stewards of those gifts. I opened up to find $10 and I've been stewing all week about how to use it best... and today I realized that if I'm not careful I could bury it like the man with the talents.

Wow. So, I walked out of there and immediately found out about small groups I could plug into. I'm not wasting time, here:). But, God's blessings continued. We were waiting for the bus and it started to sprinkle. I offered to share my umbrella with a girl who was waiting beside me. We started talking and she had just been to the service, too. We quickly became friends. I found out she's studying at Columbia, but is from Kansas and spent last summer doing missions in Mexico. After that experience, coming back to Chicago and a dry community was super hard... She'd only been back for about a week, but that Sunday morning she went up and asked for prayer for fellowship. That was MINUTES before meeting us at the bus stop! God is good! We made plans to meet up again for the 20somethings small group that night.

The night was amazing - fellowship with sweet people, great leadership, and challenging discussion. My new friend and I talked afterwards about how amazing everything was and I ended up telling her about my job search dead ends. .. She told me to apply at the restaurant she'd worked at, Sullivan's. Super nice and super upscale (same owner as Del Frisco's, for any of you family who have heard the Nichols' rave about the steaks in NY). Well, I applied the next day, had an interview yesterday and GOT HIRED. It is a huge blessing to have work AND I talked to her last night and she's going back too, so we'll be working together!

Wow. I guess that takes me to right now, but I left a lot of blanks. I'm a jumble right now, but I am going to start in on some research. This microfinancing industry is quite complex! I think my brain is going to have to grow in order to store all these words!

Blessings today and always - REMEMBER who you are and WHOM you represent.
Keep the main thing the main thing.

a case of the Mahndays?

Well, my first Monday went by without too much of a glitch, except that it seems so weird to just work all day. I mean, I honestly came to work, sat down, and only left for the bathroom and to grab my sack lunch. My legs started to cramp up and I had to do a round around the office just to stretch out a bit. I'll get used to it - I just have to change positions often.

On the upside of my hour commute - I finished a book this morning, "The Alchemist." It's pretty interesting, also pretty polytheistic, but I found some gleaming nuggets of goodness hidden in the pages. I've been thinking about this concept a lot and I guess it could go here:
In Philippians 3 Paul writes,

"7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."

I recently listened to a Nooma from Rob Bell that considered our blessings - just what it is to truly contemplate the gifts we've received from God. Everything that we possess, attain, and experience is a gift - graciously given without cost. To relate back to what Paul was saying in Philippians, I think it is so essential to see that Paul didn't say everything was worthless and rubbish. He said that everything is loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus. Everything has its place in creation and reflects the beautiful, perfect image of God Himself. When these gifts become idols is when they are rubbish. I think some things that tend to be categorized as "secular" can be the same way, whether its philosophy or art. Like the book "The Alchemist." Taken at face value, it may seem like an artistic way to convince vulnerable minds of a religious agenda.

Yet, I did find some insight that forced me to think about who God is and how I might better reflect His glory. I do understand how difficult it becomes to discern between truth and untruth, but if we keep Paul's view in mind, we will always be content in every situation, yet straining to see wait awaits in heavenly splendor.

I have again began to tackle Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis. It was almost a shock to read such bluntness after floating over the pages of the Alchemist, which seemed to move in a vague, aesthetic deepness. I finished up the chapters on pacifism and started on transposition - his argument about glossolalia (speaking in tongues). I will write more later about his comparison between emotion and sensation...

My head hurts from thinking, traveling, and typing. I turned in two more applications for jobs today. My hope is in the Lord!

wow.

Chicago… new, mysterious, and waiting to be read like an undiscovered should-be bestseller. Today marks two weeks that I’ve been in the city and I want so much to shed the tourist skin that stuck so comfortably when I arrived.

It's hard to know where to start, but from experience I know that starting is better than procrastinating. I've only been an "official" intern for two days, but I can see the Lord's heart reaching into what this organization is doing. I will try to explain how it works...and I'm still learning:)
Basically, Opportunity International is a non-profit organization that's purpose is to respond to Jesus Christ's call to serve the poor. The way they go about this is different - they aim to create sustainable economy in developing nations by connecting organizations working on the ground to provide small-business loans. This gives the poorest working people the chance to start and grow a business so that they aren't left dependent on hand-outs.

There are two Opportunity International fronts: the US side, which works to fundraise for the expanding efforts in developing nations; and the Network side, which was formed in the last 5 years to accomodate all of the organizations working in micro-business around the world. I am working for the Network, which operates out of Oak Brook, but the headquarters are really on the airwaves between countries. The goal is to share resources, training, and encouragement and to advance the cause by being stewards with what we have.

I am mainly doing public relations and event planning... creating press releases, media kits, and helping to plan their annual global conference in the Dominican Rebublic. I've already learned so much in those two days - the greatest of which is remembering and re-learning the importanced of dependence and God's glory.

Let me re-hash my first day (partly to clarify that I didn't end up there dirty, crying, and upset).
My doubt began when I left my apartment for the day and got lost trying to find the train station. .. But not really lost - I asked directions a lot. Well, when I made it there, I found out that it was the wrong station. On my way to the right station, I realized that I did NOT have cash to pay for a Metra ticket (they don't take anything else). I admit at this point I wasn't sure if I was going to make it to that monumental "first day on the job." I called my mom, who instructed me to call my job and tell them what was up... But, I knew they were too far away to do anything about it... so I built up some courage and asked an unsuspecting, random stranger if hewould let me pay for his breakfast and give me cash. He agreed - thank the Lord and I was on the train to Oak Brook. I finally called my boss when I got to the station, and she picked me up because I couldn’t find the bus.

All that said, my doubting completely lacked reason – God was sovereign over my situation and I was abundantly blessed that day and the next. Every time I doubt or become anxious, the Word reminds me that God is so much bigger than these things that occupy my mind. God deserves more than my worries - because He is Lord over the situations causing me to fret. Today is a completely different set of blessings altogether. The church I went to, people I met, my friend Jenna, the bible study we are already plugged into, and the community forming around me... God orchestrated this, here in the city of Chicago, while He was orchestrating so many other beautiful and intricate things - and all for His glory.

Last notes: I have decided to have bookstore books (books I don't buy, but read while at bookstores). My first choice has been Bob Dylan Chronicles, Vol. One, which I started recently and I know I will enjoy. ..Other books I'm reading currenlty are: Monster by Frank Peretti and The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. The written word has such power!

I am so blessed by the friendships I have - both here and in New York, Iowa, Krakow, and Nebraska. How wonderfully I have been blessed - and I know this is for one purpose - that I might be a blessing for God's glory.

I have to end with that because I have more to read and an early morning to see tomorrow. My love to Allison, because we didn't get to talk today... and Patrick, because I haven't talked to him in too long - I send them some Chicago lovin.

is this my life?

If I could get a video of the past week and a half, it'd look something like a kaleidescope - so many colors, constantly changing, and just when I thought the picture was beautiful it would morph into something else - wonderfully complex and unexpected.

I'm moved in to my new apartment and loving every bit of it. I am literally 3 blocks from the beach, where I rushed to this morning for a jog to breathe in the sweet, Lake Michigan air. My apartment is on the 16th floor and we can see the lake from our window. There really is something about being near water that makes me want to sail around the world in a ship like the Dawn Treader from Chronicles of Narnia.

This past weekend, with all the moving in, beach time, and exploring, I started to feel a little sad. I realize I get this way a lot and it's a signal for alone time - or actually time with my Lord. So, I spent some time journaling and reading in 1 Kings, where I most recently read Solomon's prayer in response to the Lord's blessing after the building of the temple. Both he and David prayed grateful prayers where they asked the Lord to remember His promises. How important it is for us to know the promises of the Lord, so we can go to Him with His promises in our hearts. He does want to bless His children! I feel like David in so many ways - who am I that You would bless me!?

There must be something in the air here in Chicago - something that adds more weight to the normal gravitational pull. As I walk from place to place, I watch this unseen force, with each step, pull at the eyebrows and smiles of the people I pass. It's not that they are all sad or mad, but their faces are just unfortunately defenseless against this force. The weird thing is - I started to feel it too, the more I walk the more stern I become - how does this happen?
So, I'm making an effort to defy this pull and lift my eyebrows and curve my smile, because I have so much to be joyful about!

Speaking of joyful - I have received news from Poland and my heart leaps with joy. I am so thankful for new friends, but at the same time I long for the miles to shorten and my time back in Poland to be only just beginning. I want to cry at the difficulty in communicating across technology and languages. God is my only help there:)

One last anecdote on my new home: blisters. Whoever decided that pointy shoes were the new "thing" should try walking 20 blocks and then interviewing for an internship. I lost track on just how far I walked all together, but I'm pretty sure my feet haven't forgotten - I have the blisters to prove it (actually now they are more like open wounds that look like I have a foot disease). Well, at least I'm not the only one fooled by the demands of the uncomfortable pointies, all my friends have similar stories. We quickly realized that although it looks funny to wear sandals or tennies to work, it is a much better choice and worth the morning stares to save the feet.

I'll write more later on my internship placement, but for now suffice it to say that I am extremely excited about the semester ahead. My job is in Oak Brook, which is about an hour commute, but it's going to be worth it. The organization is Opportunity International (www.opportunity.org) and I'm looking forward to learning more about how they are responding to Jesus Christ's call to serve the poor through the emerging area of microfinance. I've never really been a business-minded person, so I'm hoping this will give me the opportunity to develop some know-how in this area.

Please pray for a job - I'm checking in on Starbucks today.
My love to my family that I haven't gotten hold of lately - I do think of you!

another day another dollar...wait

yep this internship program is unpaid, but it's worth every penny! :)

Today was a struggle for awhile, but I had three great interviews and one that went much better than I expected. My last interview is tomorrow and then it's decision time. .. I start early and heading for the coffee.
I'll write more later, but for now it's to the newly made bed for me.

grace and peace

today was sunshine in chicago

What is it about life - about living the day from start to finish - that entices us to forget the Source? Of all the things that glitter and sparkle, distract and intrigue - what could possibly be strong enough to make me forget that beautiful, pure spring bubbling up from my soul's core?
Even just today, I noticed myself being swept away with the Chicago River, right out to that big expanse of Michigan sea - given to the whims of the currents. Although this may sound dramatic, at the end of the night I realized how blessed my day was, but how little I gave back to the Lord.
I recently listened to a speaker who had presented at Challenge (national E. Free youth gathering). He challenged the students and adults listening to open their eyes to the lost souls around them. He talked about sharing the gospel with such urgency, because we (as born-again believers) have a responsibility to share. How selfish would we be if we kept salvation for ourselves?

He asked the question "Did you witness to someone today?"
I spoke with a friend about what we'd heard..and to think that the Lord's greatest gift and treasure could be sitting stagnant in my heart - waiting to be shared - that's too much.
yikes.

Today, as I walked around, I felt my energy and my spirit grasp for the courage and boldness to regain the giving heart. No, not the heart that gives change to every beggar and smiles to ever passer-by. The giving heart my spirit longs for is one that takes the joy of salvation and literally gives it away at every turn.

My interview with the Field Museum went unbelievably well... they even called my coordinator to show their excitement for my interest in the position. But, I appreciated it for a different reason - I saw where my passion lies. Even though I've been told that it's not the best idea to be extremely open about one's faith in an interview, I was able to explain why everything I'm passionate about is directly related to my faith. everything. I feel most alive when I am using my passion with the skills I've been given to make an impact on the world. Not that this job wouldn't be a great opportunity - and God still might want me to be there - but I felt heavy in my spirit... Why?

Why scour the papers every morning to find new corporations coming to town? Why read up on who is giving what money where? Why know off the top of my head who has the biggest capacity to donate in the city of Chicago?
If I was going to be that deeply involved in an organization so big, I would need to be as deeply rooted in its mission and vision. I know I'm getting ahead of myself, but I can't explain what happened in my spirit when I felt the difference between working for the Lord and working for man.

I'm not saying that working for secular organizations is wrong (definitely not saying this). This just happens to be how the Lord is teaching me that my first interview, internship, and job is with Him. By His grace I'm a part of this!

I've rambled enough...and I have three more interviews tomorrow that I'm very excited about!
World Vision, Chicago Community Trust, and People's Energy.
grace and peace,

first impressions of the windy city

So, I've been in Chicago since Saturday evening, when my parents sacrificed their day to drive the 7 hours. It was really by God's grace that we made it safely - ask my parents if they want to tell the story..:)

The program started on Monday and I almost feel like I've been on a buzz since then. "Business casual" was the debate of the day, but we soon became accustomed to the loose dress descriptions. I've already met so many great people and I can see the beginnings of new friendships! Actually, I can see the beginnings of many things - first time living in the city, first time staying in a hotel that looks like Home Alone 2, first time looking at an apartment, first time SIGNING for an apartment and paying first month with CASH, first time interviewing... the list continues.

I'm trying to quiet my nerves, but the pot of coffee I drank this morning has my blood zinging to my fingertips. I'm hoping it'll wear off in the next couple hours - before I need to start impressing people.
I'll be interviewing with the Field Museum of Natural History, which currently has the renowned King Tut exhibit on display. I am excited to get a peek and walk around after my interview.

I also turned in an application today at Starbucks, which I could almost throw a o rock at from my apartment. Great! Convenient! Too true - which is why it's good that I'm hoping to make money there instead of spend it. I've already become quite thrifty - a trait one acquires rather quickly when there are no other options.

Sadly, I cannot say much about the people here, because I've been around mostly other students and people from my program. Although, I took a liking to the bus driver that drove us to the apartment this morning, and a man named Jose that is the building engineer at the apartment building. I also noticed that the manager who showed us the rooms wore a cross and fish necklace and had a beautiful smile.

There are grocery stores within walking distance and I spotted a bookstore a block away. My new plan is to buy fresh bread, fruits, and veggies every couple days and store little in the apartment. I think this will be cheaper and I will waste little food. ..I've started to enjoy different fruits - grapefruit juice has become something I crave... I just thought this was so random, because I always puckered my face at the fruit when my grandpa would eat it with crackers, but now I like it.

I enjoy the little nuances and quirks about my days so far... the Lord has kept surprising me and I continue to be grateful. I am continuing to read in Kings and right now I'm wrestling with Solomon. Who was this man and where did his wisdom end and foolishness begin? I'm getting to know him a little better and filling in some wide gaps in stories from my childhood.

I am completely trusting the Lord's direction and wisdom for the next three days of interviews. I have 5 different interviews and they are hard to compare because they are so different, so I'm counting on the Lord's direction, because that's all I've got!

More of a reminder for me than anyone else, but I've got to keep the main thing the MAIN thing... no matter what I am breathing, walking, talking, interviewing, and smiling for the Lord and His glory. ...and with that - God showed me in Poland and through the summer that people are people are people - and they are beautifully formed and created in His image and for His plan.

amazing. truly beautiful.

the home tour

Where do I even begin? God is so good! Truly, more than these words can explain... I am blown away by His glory revealed through His blessings!

So, I called this last week my home tour - which was basically a whirwind or people, stories, memories, and wonderful reunions. I had so many people I wanted to meet with and talk to... Thank the Lord he gave me the energy and to meet late into the night and early in the morning - every day was jam-packed and I only started to feel it (the getting less than 3-4 hours of sleep) the last day.

More than anything, I felt that sharing what the Lord did in Poland was HIS story. I merely got to experience it in a different way than the prayer warriors that most certainly went faithfully to the Lord. I wanted to share how God used all of us to fulfill His kingdom purpose! I hope the taste of this overflowing joy remains on my tongue long after the warm feelings wear off.

My family was already busy with school getting started, but I was able to spend some time with them... and when they went to bed I would meet up with some kindred spirits from high school and talked into the morning:) God also blessed me with some surprises - I never expected to recapture and begin beautiful relationships, but the Lord is gracious!

Even as I write this, it seems so vague...because the Lord is so specific in how He works and blesses, but I'm so overwhelmed that I can only speak in vague terms! Words can be so frustrating at times!

Right now I am at my friend's house in Chicago, getting ready to begin my program tomorrow. I am getting excited about all the possibilities for this semester. It almost feels like I'm a freshman again, because everything is so new. One thing that I've been learning (for years, it seems) is that my plans are so small. The things I can think in my human mind are nothing compared to the Lord's plans - He is so much bigger. So, making plans and mapping my future have become much less important, and making my heart willing has become my focus. To many, this comes as a shock, because I've had my life planned out since I was in 8th grade. Yet, there is so much freedom in trusting the Lord to guide.

I'll have to sit down and write more this week, as we get into orientation, but for now I'm so scattered I think I'll not make sense!

grace and peace.

final farewell

So, the last few days have been absolutely amazing. The city is growing on me, but my friend Ania reminded me that I've only been in Old Town, which is not really Krakow - it's tourist central basically. Anyway - I have so many reasons to count blessings!

The hospitality I've experienced from Christians here is too wonderful to explain. My new friend Ania stayed with me all week in the flat and was the most beautiful tour guide! I've still not had time to process everything that's happened... But, I've made a point to journal and I think a couple days ago I just sat at a coffee shop and read, thought, and wrote (my favorite things). Going to Auschwitz on Monday seems so long ago and already is unreal. I didn't have but 20 minutes from the time we left Birkenau to when we showed up at the doorstep of a family from camp. They had invited us over when they heard we were in Os'wieciem (the Polish way to say this town - which is really so much more than the remains of the camps). I couldn't help but smile and laugh with the mom and her two beautiful girls. They are seeking and tomorrow I think Carol will take them to a Protestant church near them. PTL!

Last night Joe and Becca (new missionaries from States with two wonderful children) invited us for dinner and we had a great time! There are so many stories, but I have little time!!

I'll just end with once again my realization that God is SO big! His heart and creativity is found in each unique face. Yet, the longer I stay, the more I see sad, calloused eyes staring back at me on the streets. My Christian Polish friends say this is how it is all the time - people are only putting one foot in front of the other to do the next thing. They stare straight ahead and are always burdened with something in their hands. I guess there is some comparison with cities in the States, but it's different when there are smiles and greetings every once in a while. Even one of my Christian friends here struggles with motivation and purpose.

As I leave, I know this is in God's hands, as He knows best these creations in the city and land situated around so much history and mystery.

Please lift up in prayer the people of Poland, who are obviously searching, but have been helplessly sidetracked down a dead-end road.

Also- please bless the Name of the LORD. Praise Him today, because He is faithful. He has blessed my time and answered the prayers of His people. I'm living this day so thankful.

Last time from Poland,
Caroline

day 2 in Krakow

Where do I begin? I feel like I barely got started explaining stories and a whole new bunch fills my spirit. Today was bittersweet. I experienced a Polish Protestant worship service, which took place in a vacant room of a youth center. I cannot explain how different this was - it could have been a couple families gathering for a bible study, so different than the magnificent Catholic structures here and the modern masterpieces back home. I watched the communion, given with one glass and crackers and thought about all the churches that have been torn apart by arguments over how often to have communion. Yet, this little church stands, a beacon of light among a confused people, humbling remembering our Savior. I guess I was struck by the irony and simplicity of it.

Another blessing of the church service was that people from camp came! One family, who I adored, came from an hour and a half away. Their daughter and I became very close during camp and she is a believer, but her family does not go to church, nor does anyone in her village of 800. So, for them to come to a Protestant church was so touching. There were others too, and the Lord blessed us with this one last meeting.

We explored the Ryneck, Main Market area in Old Town. It was so much to take in - I kept going in circles and finding new things to watch, admire, and smile at. I set off on my own determined to master some of the streets and had wonderful excursions, but always found my way back to the square. We went to Wawel Castle and I had to make sure my mouth didn't just drop constantly. How beautiful - and what history! To think of who walked there so long before me was crazy. This was the third castle I have seen so far. I went to Slovakia with some of the people from the camp one afternoon last week. And we also took a field trip as a camp to a famous castle in Poland. Both experiences were amazing and I don't have enough pictures to capture how beautiful everything was.

Okay, the bitter mostly came when I had to say goodbye to my new, wonderful friend Ania. I miss her already. This past week has been like a lovely story - we shared bits of our hearts and spirits. She taught me Polish, slowly, VERY slowly. But she was so patient and always encouraging my efforts. More and more I have a desire to learn to speak this language. I want to tell people my heart in a way that speaks to their heart. I never, ever expected such a friendship to come from this. Of course, in my idealistic mind, I am planning a trip already to return and renew these relationships, maybe with a little more Polish. When I said goodbye, it was kind of unreal, like I would meet back up with her later on... but after she left I just set off walking and let the tears go.

How does that happen? God made us such vulnerable people, whether we admit it or fight it, we just are. And, no matter how hard I fought, I couldn't win against the prevailing love that Jesus put in me to share. Anyway, with that said, I don't know how to explain my growing awareness and desire to know about this place. Is it because it's the only place I've ever been? Maybe. Or is it God's leading? I'll let the Lord direct that one.

I have arranged to meet with some people here, in Krakow this week, but tomorrow I am headed to Auschwitz.

Hmm. I've been saying this a lot, but words escape me (I know, not apparent from the above). I have been thinking so much and English doesn't fit. So, I guess with that I'll end.

Blessings.
Caroline

a heavy heart, joyful news, and a ring

No, not a wedding ring... my grandfather's would be worried if I came home with a wedding ring from Poland, not to mention my father.

Anyway. I am now at the hostel in Krakow - it is such a nice facility! I have my own room and it is maybe the cutest thing I've ever seen. I can see now why people set up camp in hostels for awhile - they are quite endearing. With that said...

Today was the day of leaving... the goodbyes, tears, sad faces. I can't begin to explain what an impact this week has made. With each day, i just asked, "God, is there really THIS much more of you?" Each person, story, and smile held something so special because I saw the mystery of His creation a bit more fully.

We just had a kind-of "de-briefing" session for our group here at the hostel (good thing, huh Al?). And we talked about what characteristics of God we saw more clearly. I realized so many things about who God is because I got to know more of His creation. The people here are easy to love, but hard to leave. I saw that, though we are different, we are people just the same and we all need Jesus and redemption every day.

I had some experiences that have forced me to look more introspectively at my life... I'll try to share some stories:
When we ate meals, we would go into the cafeteria and scramble for seats. Many families ate together, but there was often one or two seats open at tables. I became accustomed to sitting with new people. There were few Polish people at the camp who could speak English really well, so dinner conversation was a bit halting. .. I admire them so much for struggling with English to include me in the conversation. As the days went on, it was less important to me that they speak in English. Polish is a beautiful language, albeit one of the most difficult things I've ever attempted, and I was more willing to just listen to their conversations. I realized that I tend to talk to cover up my own insecurities or attract attention - both of these things are impossible when I cannot speak the language. There is SO much more I could say about this!

Another lesson in language is God's ability to overcome my own shortcomings. I love children - their thirst for adventure and that bit of mischief in their eyes. Well, Polish children are incredible... Most could speak only broken English, and some none at all. There was one little girl, Ula, who I connected with right away. she knew absolutely not a word of English, but we had the most amazing time all week playing, laughing, dancing, singing. I praise God for these moments when I understand that His language is above any words i could say.

the REALLY joyful news is that yesterday... I wish I could tell it all, but time is running short. Yesterday, Beata, a young girl in the teen conversation class, came to me and wanted to talk. The only problem was, she spoke very little English and our communication had consisted of smiling and my trying to learn Polish words. Well, she looked pretty emotional and we ended up in my room. I tried to figure out what was wrong and finally I asked her if it was about Jesus and she nodded. I kept trying to get somewhere, but she could not understand me. There was almost literally a wall in between us, even though I started to realize what she wanted to do - no matter how emotionally attached I became, nothing else could happen. I ran out to the hallway and asked someone for a translator, and five minutes later Agnieszka came. I slowly found out about Beata's life, her struggles, and her desire to belong. I told her, through Aga, that when we are part of God's family we belong to Him! I cannot express how humbling it was to be completely dependent on someone else for this process. I can truly say it was nothing I did, but God that pulled Beata to Himself, and allowed her to understand and trust Him as her Savior. Praise the LORD. Rejoice in the work He has done.

And lastly, the ring. Real quick: I have met a beautiful woman and her name is Ania. She is 19 and I think I already wrote about her. She speaks English well enough for us to connect and we've become great friends, sharing and encouraging each other all week. I can't explain how fast our friendship came, but I am so grateful for her smiling face and wonderful spirit. Last night, she gave me a ring to match one she also had. I was completely blessed by the gift. my heart is so full of love for the people here!

Rejoice and again I say REJOICE!

from Krakow with love,
Caroline

broken

So, I am here again writing - very quickly as I need to get back. But, I wanted to write while the feelings were still fresh. My heart is broken for the beautiful people that live in this land. Everywhere I look I see picturesque beauty, but the people are even more wonderful. Last night we had a campfire and I could feel the Holy Spirit in the place. But, Polish Catholicism is so strange! I still do not understand it, even though Gubi and Ania tried to explain it to me.

I am struggling with communication - there are so many things I want to say. I have learned to be silent - out of necessity... but the Lord has used this to make me understand how to listen - even when words don't make sense.

I have no more time, but have so much more to say.

I will write again when I get to Krakow. God Bless and keep yoU!

Karolina

loving on piwnicej zdroj

Wow.

My time here has been amazing so far. The people are so easy to love and have so many stories to share. I have made many, many friends with children, adults, and a college student, Ania. Even if the friendship is broken English with many hand signs, it is wonderful all the same. THe children have taken to teaching me Polish and I am learning - very slowly, but it makes them laugh.

It is too beautiful to describe. I went to a castle with some of the students a couple days ago - it was almost 400 years old. Can you imagine?

Tomorrow the camp is taking a field trip to another castle and waterfall...to practice English, of course! The teaching is going well, even if I was uncomfortable at first. God has used the team in many ways - how wonderful that I can be a part of this! I have so many more stories, but I have to catch the bus back to Beskid and can't be late.

OH! ANd the Lord provided a place for me to stay in Cracow for four days! Praise God it is free and in a good place!

Please pray for open hearts as we try to show these beautiful people the difference between salvation as a free gift and doing good works.

i must go!

holland on a thursday

I'm sitting in a coffeeshop in Main Street Holland, where street performers, walkers, consumers, and just about anyone comes to enjoy the summer night air. I just got back from a stellar weekend with family in Iowa. A little north of my roots, but the weekend on the lake did far more good than I expected. There's something about being around people who love so intensely.

Well, I took it to the max with kayaking, boating, tubing, wakeboarding, waverunning, biking, walking, you NAME IT. I didn't want to stop because it was all my built up hunger for the outdoors at once. Well, it wasn't so cool when I got a cold, bruises, and cramps from my over-exertion but I could tell you it was certainly worth it!:)

I'm chipping away at my English lessons for the upcoming Poland mission trip. Ever so slowly, but my anticipation is building! The closer it gets the stronger my prayer becomes "Lord, whatever brings you glory!"

I'm reading two books right now - Thr3e by Ted Dekker and The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis. Both are hitting me in different ways. I can't get through Dekker's fast enough - you know how novels go. But, that Clive Staples. I wish I could just sit next to him for a bit. I think wisdom would just seep out from his suit with the lingering smell of cigar and paper. I guess I'll have to write about both of those later, because right now what'sw on my mind is 2 Samuel.
I've been working my way through the Old Testament and am unmistakably aware of God's providence in giving us His Word completely - Old and New both.

I was talking to my mom about 2 Samuel 7 and she immediately volunteered me to share it with the fam at our own little church service last Sunday. I told her the day before that I could have a 3 or 5 part sermon on it, but she said 5 minutes, so I know I fell dreadfully short of doing the passage justice. God promised David that He will always be with him and his name will be great. God promised to always have a place for David's people and rest from oppression. He also promised to establish a house for David, raising up his offspring and establishing his kingdom. He promised to never take away his love.... and there's so much more! Read it in vs. 1-16.

The promises are amazing, almost absurd as David's reply shows. God would make such promises to a man?

David says WHO AM I, LORD? and what is my family? He wonders out loud why God would choose him to speak to in such an unusual and intimate way.
The verses that follow show David's gratefulness for these promises and his desire to turn it around So that the Lord would be glorified by blessing David's house.

Isn't that our task? To take these absolutely (absurd, really)amazing blessings and turn them back to God so that His name would be great and praised all over the earth. Bless the Lord! David gives God all the praise in verse 22. To GOD be the glory, for David knows that it is nothing he has done, but out of grace that God has chosen.

David gives us an example of how we are to know and believe God's promises. How are we to live into the promises in the Word if we do not know them? A missionary once said - go ahead and challenge God to fulfill his promises! He wants to bless his children as he promised, but do we not need to know what they are and have bold faith, then that He IS faithful?

Inheritance - oh how great and undeserved David's inheritance. Did he live to see the temple built? No, but his family and offspring lived on and Solomon brought the Lord's promise to light and David basked in the Lord's eternal glory in the most brilliant inheritance of all.

And praise God for his grace to include us, even today in such a bright, undeserved inheritance! We are part of that kingdom that lasts forever!

And who am I? I am a brilliant star glittering only in the reflection of a most brilliant Sun.

Praise the Lord. Bless His Name.

whew!

I feel as though my summer has only started, but one look at a calendar says it all - it's over half way done!

I haven't written in awhile, so I'll first write of my mom's visit. It was wonderful - from beginning to end. We read books and sat on the deck, drank summer drinks like lemonade and raspberry tea, went out to eat, my mom and sister-in-law SURPRISED me at Ruby's and were wonderful customers!, we went to the beach for a sunset, went on many walks, and I went through a pile that much needed some mom-attention (it included things like loan consolidation papers, next semester plans, internships, newspapers from the National Arabic Festival...). Of course all these things accompanied an abundance of stories from yours truly - a trait I sometimes regret.

Something I have realized about my mom is that try as I might to be drastically different, we think in the same rhymes. The things that frustrate me about myself, well, I can see her getting frustrated over the same. I guess it's good to know that someone can be so understanding - God surely planned that.

Well, on to our next visitors, merely days apart from each other, but just as welcome! My grandparents were here last weekend and over the 4th. I had anticipated their coming for so, so long! Despite my resentment at having to work on Saturday, God proved that He is good and I was blessed in 3 ways that night: 1. a beautiful family with two sons of the best manners I have ever seen - I made sure to compliment them and they just beamed. .. 2. a family who was wonderful and complimented me on my waitressing skills, and then we started talking and their boys actually went to a lacrosse camp at Northwestern in Evanston and my friend Chelsea was their coach! smile and 3. my grandparents came right to the restaurant from Iowa, fresh off the road and walked in to find their granddaughter positively beaming with love!

We had a most delightful time! Sunday morning we got to eat out at the Curragh, the local Irish pub (except for Sundays when Holland doesn't allow them to sell liquor) that puts on a traditional Irish breakfast every Sunday, complete with live music. The music was wonderful and our conversation great. Gramps went right to work with Sam, deconstructing some ill carpentry job in the garage, while Gram and I tended to flowers, took walks and read books. On Monday we decided to go the beach, just here and I, but we happened upon a fireworks show...so the rest of the fam came and we all enjoyed the display, which is by far the closest I've ever been to fireworks. At times I thought they would fall into my lap.

I took Gram to Windmill Island, which came highly recommended by the mum. I felt like less of a tourist, it being my second time in weeks, and wondered if the people recognized me.:) Then on Tuesday afternoon we took a newly acquired canoe and headed to a lake for fishing and relaxing.

I had to work Tuesday night, so I had to fend off the bitter bug that was creeping toward the end of my shift. The day had been so wonderful, and then, 5 minutes before I was supposed to get cut, someone sat a family in my section, which meant another 30-40 minutes. I guess I realized the real point of anger. I tried to keep up my attitude, but inside I was just mad. But what is being mad if no one knows about it? Right, I mean think of a time when you were really mad about something. But if you don't tell anyone then what's the point of being mad - no one can give you a reaction and my silent anger was never going to reach the person who sat me, so I gave up.

I, of course, relayed this to my grandparents who laughed and said much wiser things.

Skipping to the present, last night I had my first wine and cheese. Well, I guess I've had wine before, but it's never been pleasant, or tasty, or anything that I expected it to be when I thought I would someday be "one of those types who just has a glass of wine with dinner." I never thought I wouldn't actually like the taste. And, of course, to acquire the taste, you have to actually drink it often, which doesn't fit into my budget or taste. So, back to last night. I was meeting up with a friend I hadn't seen in awhile and she had wine and cheese set out .. and this was the cheese that comes in the waxy cover. Well, it was Merlot and I didn't enjoy it again, but I pretended and finished the glass she poured me with a slice of cheese.
I'm going to have to work on something that seems just as elegant without tasting so bitter.

just a list of randoms:
-I'm going to start a book list, so I can try to keep track of all the books I've read and how good they've been...don't know how soon this will happen.
-I love biking. love it. I biked about 10 miles a couple days ago and it was so great - especially by the water. but I don't think you get respect as a biker unless you have tight clothes and a helmet. My friend says I need a road bike with special pedals, but I just say it's the attire.
-Family reunion next weekend and I CAN'T HARDLY WAIT!! Of all the memories of my childhood, family reunions hit top and always bring smiles.
-The farmer's market here in Holland rivals one of my favorite things about summer. I go every Saturday and took gram and gramps on Wednesday. All the people, vendors, freshness, and the street performers - I want to see and buy everything every time... especially because blueberries and raspberries are ripe!
-I'm trying to grasp that I am a senior in college. Everyone who's been there says, "It only gets better... " With a sigh that makes me think graduation can stall for awhile.
-POLAND...It's getting closer and I'm starting to work on my English lessons. I will need so much prayer for this trip!

I guess that's all for now.

and it came upon me wave on wave

that was just the song in my head... i think the Eagles sing it.

Anyway, so I've been thinking about my top ten waitress 'things I never knew or expected' and here's the rundown:

1. Computers are smart - sometimes too smart... with the touch of my fingers someone's order can be a grilled chicken dinner instead of a grilled chicken wrap. And, of course the description on the screen is GRD CHCK, which is delightfully ambiguous.
2. I learned quickly to never expect anything by way of tips. It's always so much more exciting to be wonderfully surprised, regardless of percentages. It works out that I don't do math very well in my head, so percentages aren't all that important to me anyway.
3. The customer is always different. I don't think I've had two tables that I've served alike. I found quickly that I have to gauge my conversation, when I check up on them, how often I ask for refills, etc. Because I'm always surprised by their expectations.
4. Some couples come in to the restaurant just to be around other bodies. They don't necessarily enjoy the person sitting across from them, which is why their eyes wander to the silent TVs in the corners. So, for these tables, I try to provide extra social interaction, because they're obviously struggling to create it on their own.
5. I LOVE serving grandparent age people... they are by far my favorite. I really try to wiggle my way into their conversation because they always have some advice, wisdom, or joke they'd love to share. I end up telling them that it's great to talk, because my grandparents live miles away. Even though they are a bit stingy on tips, I just remember that my gram and gramps used to share a cheeseburger for 25 cents and think, "Golly that waitress was happy to get a nickel!"
6. NEVER let your co-workers know that you frighten easily. I suppose this is not a good idea in any job, but I've been in a crowd of wait staff in the kitchen, heard a pan clang and screamed, ducking for cover. Once they caught on I was a goner. I figure it'll happen at least a couple times every time I work.
7. I have realized the challenge in showing Jesus through my actions at Ruby's. I see people who are better servers than me, better smilers, better at being happy, quicker, smarter, well better everything. So - I tried to figure out just what it was that could make me different. After meeting a beautiful friend from Texas, I realized that it's not me that makes me different, but Jesus in me. I started praying on my way to work and God is already giving me joy beyond happiness and open doors to share about Him. WOW!
8. The restaurant crowd is different, but I've learned that the crude conversation and behind the swinging door gestures give me no reason to judge. This is another lesson learned from my Texan kindred spirit - I can love them through changes in the conversation, questions about their life, high fives, and crazy dance moves.
9. I've gotten used to the deep rose color that creeps up into my cheeks when: I bring out food to the wrong table, bring out the wrong food to the right table, have to run back and ask, "Now, I'm sorry, how did you want your steak cooked?" and apologizing profusely for the long wait on their dinner.
10. I learned that people are people are people. Hmmm, another way to say that I'm encouraged, challenged, sharpened, sad, angry, depressed, and joyful when I spend a night just being around people. I think that's beautiful.

okay, so I know this isn't near as funny (if the other one was at all) as the paint crew :)

BUT I also have to say that my wonderful mother is here this weekend. We've had the most amazing time just hanging out, reading (Just finished Frank Peretti's The Oath), walking, hiking, beaching, changing my oil (everything's fine dad), and enjoying each other's company.

Now if I could just get a hold of my brother William...
well, I'm off to Ruby's for the lunch shift. grace and peace!