Pinterest A Grateful Life Lived: April 2016

Friday, April 22, 2016

When in Chicago: Don't forget to get lost

I first visited Chicago as a wide-eyed six year old, intent on visiting the American Girl store and dining at the Rainforest Café.  But Kit Kittredge is packed away in a box, and animal-themed dining didn't seem as appealing when I set off for Chicago last weekend.  I boarded the Megabus with anticipation of the Latino Film Festival as well plans for what I could do with my free time.  This was the first time I'd voyaged to the windy city without my family in tow, and it was somewhat liberating to set my own agenda.

While I loved previous visits to Shedd Aquarium and boat tours along the lakeside, I had more inexpensive activities in mind....namely: I would explore the city at random.

Given my type-A nature, this was both invigorating and terrifying, but here's what happened:

1. I learned my way around!
Here's the fantastic thing: When you get lost enough times, you eventually map out your surroundings.  Even better, you get to see so many different places then you would if you just followed Google Maps like every other tourist.  I can't say I didn't sheepishly peer at street signs, but I can say that I gained confidence as a navigator and adventurer.  Long live spontaneous exploration!

2. I found an awesome tea store and book store
I saw this in a gift store.
It is 100% accurate to my life.
I'm a bit quirky- no qualms with that- so while my classmates were ogling at Armani bags and $500 tank tops, I wandered into Adagio teas and fell in love.  The shelves were lined with loose leaf teas, and the saleslady encouraged me to pick up the jars of tea and smell them.  "If there are any that catch your eye, I'll make a sample for you!"  I suppressed my inner tea nerd and merely nodded, all while trying to contain my excitement.  All the prices were listed by the jars and no one pressured me to buy anything.  They were genuinely friendly and their tea was incredible.  I walked out with a sample of verbena green tea and some almond mocha oolong tea.

As if that wasn't good enough, I then made my way down to a bookstore.  I'd had enough stimulation for one day and couldn't think of anywhere I'd rather spend my time than a used bookstore called After-Words, with a basement boasting 70,000 books.  The shop owner was just as quirky as I'd hoped and the books just as eclectic.  I was overwhelmed at my option, but prudently made a selection and handed over my $4 with elation.  "This place is awesome," I raved to the shop owner.  He made some corny joke about Butler and I made some awkward smile and walked out.

3. The Latino Film Festival was amazing!
I was wary of a few of the films that we were scheduled to see.  One in particular seemed a bit more "adult" than I cared for.  Sure enough, I spent most of the movie carefully inspecting the hem of my shorts.  But the second movie more than made up for the first.   "Espejuelos Oscuros/Dark Glasses" was a thought provoking and disturbing portrayal of the secret stories we all carry.

4. I stepped out of my comfort zone
Besides literally stepping out of my comfort zone by meandering around the city, I also faced the challenge of traveling without any real friend/family member.  That brought the added testing of sitting on the bus and eating meals out at restaurants with these people-- both of which are a strong source of anxiety due as I recovery from an eating disorder.  While the weekend was not without its blunders, I was encouraged at my ability to handle the situations.  I know I would not have been able to do so at this time last year, and for that I praise God.  As my dad gingerly reminded me, these challenges are good because they help me embrace my freedom and break out of my little "safe box" of recovery.  And as difficult as aspects of the trip were, I know that the next time I come across those same struggles, it will be just a little bit easier.  That makes the effort absolutely worth it.

The greenhouse at Nay Pier

Dylan's Candy Shop on Michigan Avenue.
It's a wonderland of candy and treats!

Tapas at Café Iberico! A challenging, new
experience for me!

Adagio Tea.  Basically Heaven.

 Much like my blog, my weekend in Chicago was a series of spontaneous adventures, augmented by familiar comforts and the constant presence of the Lord's grace.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.  So then next time you're in Chicago, run along the lakeside and take in the views at Navy Pier (RELATED: Girls' Weekend in Chicago). Stop by Adagio Tea and The Chicago Tribune and Café Iberico, and- seriously- don't forget to get lost in the wonder of it all.


To read about more suggestions for your next Chicago adventure, click HERE and HERE.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Stories from Chicago

This post was supposed to be written on Thursday.  I would've opened with a description of my current surroundings on the Megabus, bound for Chicago.  Alas, you get what you pay for, and the bus was far too crowded to pull out my laptop, let alone focus.

Amidst the reverberating rap music and details on insurance claims, I stole a few minutes of sleep before a high-pitched squeal indicated that we had reached the Windy City.  The short nap would be enough for fuel me through the first evening of the Latino Film Festival, the wonderful reason for my short weekend adventure.  I had come with my Spanish class to witness the 32nd annual celebration of Latino culture through filmmaking, something I would never have pictured myself doing in the past.

Sure, I love Spanish-- emphasis on the 'love'-- but I often let caution take the reigns, and the idea of going to Chicago with classmates I didn't know that well, would've terrified my in the past.  But with an air of confidence, I descended from that Megabus, gracefully tripping on the curb as is my custom.  Since the movie was not until 9 p.m., I had a few hours to kill and I immediately took off for the Magnificent Mile with some girls from class.  We checked out a few shops, but my attention was waning due to relative disinterest and sticker shock.  I broke from the group and meandered into the more eclectic shops.  Before long, I had inevitably turned the wrong way.  And in the process of passing by four Starbucks, two cathedrals and a myriad of school children, I was stopped in my tracks by the beauty of humanity.

The city has a way of doing that, with it's crowded streets and honking horns.  It brought my heart to a stop as I thought about all the lives that stacked into those skyscrapers and hurried through the streets.  I tried to imagine their stories, the reasons for their quirky outfits or kind eyes or worried glances.

The collective mural of faces still resonated with me that evening as we settled in for the first film.  This story was one of family, one that was torn apart by vain passions and pursuits.  And even as the action played out, I found it hard to watch. I abhorred the egotistical son and couldn't stand the lackluster husband, and I grew tired of their story.

But how beautiful it is that the Lord does not grow weary of our struggles.  Unlike us, His divine grace pours out time after time, chapter after chapter.  For me, this plays out very clearly in the way He called the disciples.  One by one, He slipped into their story and took root in their lives.  And as each of them doubted Him, failed Him and betrayed Him, He remained invested in their story.

And how beautiful, indeed, that He is invested in your story as well.  Your scene might be dismal and your countenance may be worn, but Jesus has never left your side, my friend.  He never grows weary of your struggles for He is strong to save, mighty to deliver and close to your aching heart.

So whatever borough of the city you find yourself in today, remember that the Author of your story not only has a plan for good, but He is invested in you every step of the day.  And one day, every plot twist and heartbreak of your story will culminate as praise, flanked by every story of mankind.  And every story that ever was, will lift up the Lord who always is, and what a beautiful day that will be.


Ps. Stay tuned as I roll out more posts about the fun stuff from my trip, as well as what I'm up to next!  As always: I love to read your comments and suggestions :)