Sunday, November 18, 2007

..."and the envelope, please"

Ok, so maybe waiting for news on my blog is not exactly like waiting to hear the winners of - say - the Academy Awards, but many of you have been asking for a little "what's up?" info. So here it is. :)

God is good...all the time
I don't know when I'll learn that it's really only "faith" when I don't see what's ahead! ("So faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen". Hebrews 11:1) So the last few months have been an awesome journey of faith! :)

After determining about two months ago that my time in Prague was through, the next question was "what (or where?) next"? :) Although I have many options and invitations for ministry there in Prague and in other countries, including the US, the pastors and elders at my sending church in CA encouraged me to take some time to simply wait on the Lord and hear His voice. When they asked me where I thought was the best place for me to do this, I was a little embarassed to say anyplace other than with them, since they have been so very supportive ever since they first sent me out as a missionary 9 years ago.

But honestly, the first place that came to mind was Ukraine! Thankfully, they agreed and said they had actually "figured as much". :) When I met with Pastor Alosha and some of the leaders of the church in Kyiv, thankfully they said they were glad to have me for as long as the Lord would direct! When I said that I didn't want to make the mistake of rushing in and committing to anything long term until I was sure of God's leading, Alosha encouraged me with the example that if he were to "leave home and go somewhere and then when it was time to leave there, how could it be a mistake to simply come home, if only for awhile?" :) It was great to hear that they, too, saw Kyiv as my "home away from home".

It's weird being so far from family and native culture, etc., and to truly miss them so much, but to be blessed with a place that feels so much like home to me, too.

So What's Next?
Recently in my transition, I had the privilige of hearing Pam Markey share at a discussion on Practical Mission Life at the Bible College in Vajta, Hungary. She reminded us that sometimes we get so caught up in the What and How of ministry that we forget the Why. She encouraged us to keep the goal of loving God, loving one another, and seeking to glorify God and make Him known paramount and let the Whys, Whats and Hows fall into place accordingly.

I heartily agree! This simple "ministry plan" (love God, love others) :) has been leading me for many years.., first to Ukraine, then to Prague and back to Ukraine and now - surprisingly - a very interesting "What" has fallen into place! Unbeknownst to me, John Chubik and his family arrived in Hungary at the College just a day after myself. John and I went to Bible School eons ago (literally!) and he and his family served in Kyiv, and then in Zaporizha, Ukraine. John and Karen are dear friends that I'm priviliged to know. John is going to be working on a book about Pastor George's life and when he heard that I would be in Ukraine for a time, asked if I would help with some of the research for the book! What a privilige! I am blessed to be helping the church in Kyiv gather the stories of those whom George's life and ministry touched over the years. (George Markey was our dear pastor in Kyiv that passed away nearly a year ago).

Keep Praying...
So that's the latest. :) "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain they that try to do anything not according to His plan". I don't want to labor in vain, so although I have lots of other thoughts and options for the future, I am simply putting them before the Lord to see what will come of them. So as always, I appreciate your prayers!

Monday, November 12, 2007

I have a new blog, along with this one... about that for getting to the point? :)

I have started a new blog just for my "writing thoughts"...meaning specifically articles I have written, poetry, etc. With all this time on my hands here in the Budapest airport (see that previous post here) it seemed like the time to do it, finally. :)

So check out It needs a lot of work, but I just wanted to get going on it. Danny, I may be asking you for graphic help since it seems like everyone else in the Ukraine missionary blogging world already has...I wanna jump on the bandwagon! :)

"I'm good enough, smart enough, and darn it people like me"

Ok....this is for Danny and Liese....Raise your hand if you know where that phrase that I titled this post is from? A few of you, ok. It is a quote from a regular feature on Saturday Night Live ages was from "Stuart Smalley's Daily Affirmations". :) It was a rare, usually clean, really funny skit poking fun at America's obsession with counseling, therapy and self-help groups. The host, Stuart Smalley, used to start the show by saying the phrase that I titled this blog. And then throughout the show he would sometimes start criticizing himself and then he would say "...but that's ok, because I'm good enough, smart enough, and darn it - people like me".

So this is the story...its a three- parter. Hang in there...I really think its worth it.

Quite a few years ago God did a really amazing thing in my life. I was reconciled with someone who had really greivously wronged me. I say I was reconciled because rather than me just forgiving them (which I had been doing for years) they actually repented and asked for my forgiveness. It was amazing and a statistical anomoly.

At a church New Year's Eve concert (Janie Collup Band, yeah!) I was telling someone the great news and they said "You need to share that with the whole church!" I said I would love to but there wasn't really an appropriate forum for that. The next day, New Year's Day, very uncharacteristically, our Pastor - Steve Carr - announced at the beginning of the service that instead of the sermon he had prepared he was just going to open the mike and let people share what God had done in their lives that past year. My friend whipped around and looked at me where I sat in the back row and I knew that I was supposed to tell what had happened.

When everyone had shared and they had asked a second time if there was anyone else, I knew it was my turn. I stood up and - even though I was sharing pretty generally without getting into details - I got very choked up and started to cry a little. I knew that would happen. And I said so...and after I said so, I thought "but that's ok". :) And as soon as I said that, I had to laugh, because I thought of Stuart Smalley's oft-said line and I quoted him. "I'm good enough, smart enough, and darn it - people like me". Everyone laughed, that was that. I thought.

A month or so later I am hanging around after Sunday night service talking to the worship leader (Folkrod) and asst. pastor (Bill) and a couple from the church (anonymous) and in the course of laughing and joking around I said that again. The wife looked at me oddly, looked at her husband quizzically, and then asked me "Why do you always say that?" I was caught off guard because I didn't think I "always" said that...but maybe quoting an often off-color show like SNL in church was too often enough!

I explained that it was a quote from SNL, and I supposed I should quit saying it. She looked relieved, looked at her husband and then back at me and said...and I'm not kidding here...she said "Oh! We just thought you were being arrogant!" I laughed and then was mortified! How many other people didn't get the joke and thought the same thing! (Ok, moral of the story here, don't get too loose joking in church!)

Ok...part forward a couple of years later. I am living in Ukraine and come home that first year to attend the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) convention in Anaheim, CA. At a private luncheon for my former workplace (Parable Christian Stores) Jennifer Knapp is invited to give an exclusive concert. It will be just her and two other acoustic musicians playing to a roomful of about 200 Christian bookstore owners...the most successful in the country at the time.

Before the concert I see her sitting in an adjoining room to the banquet hall and so I go and introduce myself and start talking to her. It was just her, the two musicians and her manager. They were great. She had performed at some festivals in Estonia and we were talking about the possibility of doing something in Ukraine. She was very nice.

In the course of the conversation I somehow mentioned SNL. She said "Oh! I can't even watch it anymore, it has gotten so bad". I agreed, but said worse than watching it was probably quoting it in church. She looked agahst and said "you didn't!". I had and I quickly told her the story. She laughed and then her manager told her it was time for her to start the show. I said my goodbyes and slipped in the back door to the banquet room as she went in the "stage" door.

Once in the hall I found a place next to the sound booth guys (they are always the most fun to hang out with at concerts, right, Danny?). Jennifer is sitting up on the stage warming up and just chatting with these bookstore owners that can really make or break her career by promoting her album. She is sharing her heart for why she does ministry and what not. She is speaking slowly and deliberately as she tunes her guitar. Then, in what I was learning, was her characteristic wry sense of humor, she says "yeah, because if it weren't for all that [her ministry philosophy she had just shared]... it would just be about me sitting up here looking pretty".

Funny, right? Only hardly anybody laughed! "Hey, I'm joking!" she said quickly and then more people laughed, but still not that many! Then she says "Oh, I know, someone in the back is elbowing their husband saying 'Oh! We just thought you were arrogant!' My joke! My story! Jennifer Knapp used my joke on stage! :) I turned and told the sound guy and he didn't believe me...then - whether he believed me or not - he got me again by saying "Oh you're just so arrogant!" :) Ooo! Zinged again! :) hahaha!

So there ya go...probably best not to even watch SNL these days...but if you do...definitely don't quote it in church. In blogs? Well, that's up to you. :)

"Vso Budet Horosho"

That's Ukraine's version of the surfer tag line of "it's all good". :) Literally it translates as "Everything will be good". It is a common phrase in Ukraine, sometimes so much so that it drives me crazy. You have a real, honest-to-goodness problem and someone tells you "no, vso budet horosho". "But, everything will be good". Aaaaagggghhh! Sometimes you just want someone to comiserate with you and say..."Man that stinks!" But then optimism is a very under-rated quality, and I am learning that - you know what - sooner or later, in this life or the next, "Vso budet horosho!" :)

I haven't blogged in a long time, and lots of things have happened, and I will try to go back and catch you up on all of those in time. Unfortunately, recently I left my purse in a taxi in Kyiv and in it my wonderful camera that made blogging so fun (along with my Bible and other things that I will miss), so these posts may be a little lacking in photos for awhile. :(

I was bummed that this happened, but glad that after all the thousands (millions?!?) of busses, trams, trains, mini-vans, subways and taxis that I have ridden in the past 9 years, that this is the FIRST time I have forgotten a wallet or purse or anything. Not bad, really. I had one mobile phone stolen years ago, one wallet pick-pocketed on the street almost as long ago, too, and one mobile phone fell from my purse also on the street...not bad for 10 years of constant public transport. You who live in the states and have your car or that of a friend's to usually ride in just don't realize how many opporutunities there are to lose or have things stolen when you are on public transport, to where that you are actually glad it doesn't happen more often!

Anyway, in light of that kind of cynical optimism, I have to tell you where I am right now. :) I am sitting in the Budapest airport at the Sbarro pizza place that, thankfully, is open around the clock. I say that because my flight from Kyiv (I was there for a long awaited wedding as I returned from the US) was delayed due to a snow storm, so much so that I missed the last train from Budapest to Vajta (where I was headed) and have to wait until the next morning to catch the next train at 7 am.

Now, there are options....I could go into Budapest and get a room at a hostel, or hotel. But I am a little short on cash right now because in my purse that was lost was also my ATM card. Fun, huh? :) Thanks to some friends in Kyiv, I was able to borrow some cash and have my dad send a check to their account in the states. Not too bad a deal, huh? So I don't want to waste money on a hotel when - hey - Sbarro is open all night, there is a table in the corner with an outlet, and most importantly - they have free wifi! :)

So I can catch up on blogging, emails, etc., not spend extra money, and have good reason to rest and relax once I get to the Bible School in Vajta. Life is interesting, huh?

Well, the next interesting point is that my bags didn't make it on the flight. :) Even though we waited on the tarmack nearly 2 hours (I stopped noticing after awhile) before we could take off, they decided there was too much snow to get to the plane with the second load of luggage so only half made it to Budapest with us. (Ya think that in the two hours we sat there they could have cleared the road to the plane for the luggage truck...whatever.) :}

BUT...this is a good thing! :) Now when I leave the airport in the city bus, get on the metro, go to the train stations, change trains before I get to Vajta (I'm guessing, that's how it usually is) I don't have to carry my big heavy bag! I only have my carry on luggage! They will deliver my bag to the Bible school. Sweet, huh? :) And the girl at the lost baggage counter knew about the school because her brother had gone there. Small world, huh? :)

OH! And I almost forgot! Evidently they had overbooked the flight out of Kyiv, but since I had pre-bought my ticket, but was near the last to check in and get my seat assignment (what a surprise!) they put me in first class! Ha! So I never realized that in first class you get a linen table cloth, china, crystal (well, stemware) and flatware (not plasticware) and warm rolls...nice. I guess that's why they keep the curtain closed so the riff-raff in economy don't see how you are stylin' and get jealous. heheh. :)

Anyway...that was plane was full, late, and lost my luggage and the result is I flew first class, have hours of free uniterupted internet time, and don't have to hassle with my big bag on the train but rather it will be delivered to the door at the Bible School...not bad. :) Makes me remember one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite pastors, George Markey..."If you want to take care of yourself, God will let you. But if you want to let God take care of you, He stands waiting and ready to do so". And another great quote from another great saint, my grandma Irene Denney... "God watches out for fools and little children". :) Thank God! :)