Hello. Welcome.

I'm a very determined kind of individual. Sometimes my determination is misplaced and things get very ugly. But, sometimes my determination leads to laughter, deep thoughts, and words on paper.

I write everything. I'm not very good at filtering ... so you will see it all. Maybe there will be a little inspiration for someone else along the way. I hope so. My sister also likes to guest blog and I'm sure you will appreciate her wit and wisdom.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

last pics for awhile

Some pics from lovely chicago times

Sorry they are so small - they upload a zillion times faster this way.

working at the opportunity intern desk

yep... this is where it all happens. Okay, so the intern desk isn't the hub of action around the office, but it's where I get things done. You can be sure there is always a piece of fruit and a cup o' joe to decorate the desk, but other than that it's pretty sparse. I think I'm afraid if I get too comfortable I'll be very disoriented when I realize that it's not really "my" desk, but actually the "intern" desk and it'll see many more faces. Oh well, I love what I do.

pictures of my dear, dear friend Ania.

Here are just a few of the images that remind me of a friendship that struck so deep and true in such a very short time. I miss her tremendously and wish that it wasn't so hard to communicate across languages and things like oceans.

As you can see, we bonded... God's love is so strong that it can break anything we know - He can transcend what I accept as real and bless beyond imagination.
The rings are especially important, because Ania gave me this ring and bought one for herself to match. The instructions were to never take it off and it has been such a joy to look down and remember her sweet, smiling face! She is in my prayers and always in my heart... her dreams are higher than the sky and being with her made me want to soar.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

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!

Monday, September 18, 2006


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.

Friday, September 15, 2006

a little plug for Opportunity

As I am reading, I thought others might be interested. Here is a link to a website completely about microfinancing.


It has mounds of information and has been super helpful. Also make sure to check out Opportunity's website!


I promise pictures are forthcoming - still of Poland, Chicago, and me at my desk!


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.

Monday, September 11, 2006

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!

Sunday, September 10, 2006


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.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

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!