Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"Baby It's Cold Outside..."

This is the best Christmas present I could ever get.
51 + years and going strong, side by side.
Love you so much mom and dad.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"These are a few of my favorite things..."

Over the past 10 years living in Ukraine I have had to become a "city girl" (I actually flew back into America this year on the exact date that 10 years ago I first flew into Kyiv to start living there!). Taking the metro, hailing taxis, living in a city of
millions of people has become my daily routine. But in my heart I am still a hick from Grants Pass, Oregon. :)

There are certain things that when I see them they just make me feel good. They remind me of home, of my parents, of the things that make up who I am so much more than I realize. They are not particularly beautiful things, in maybe the traditional sense...but they are beautiful to me.

My parents surprised me with an early Christmas present this year of a camera to replace the one that was lost along with my purse a year ago. It's so nice to be blogging with photos again! :)

So these are just shots that are probably no big deal to anyone else, but they capture a little of what is so familiar to me about my parent's home and so are dear to me, if to no one else. :)

"It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!"...

This is the first of hopefully a few dispatches from Oregon. I am here in "God's Country" enjoying my family for the holidays.

We got a light dusting of snow recently and here's how it looked at the pond in my folk's backyard.

I've seen plenty of snow for the past 9+ winters in Kyiv, but "city snow" is so much different than "country snow". It makes a simple thing like the driveway down to the barn look so picturesque, (at least to me!)

And what about this cute guy? How can you resist a mug like that? Ok, I can hear some of my friends saying "Resist that mug? Easily!" :) But I think a face like that just makes you want to say "Hi guy!" :)

And this stylish if Kyiv "devushki" were the only ones that made sure their winter "coats" stylishly match the weather?! :)

Ok, yes, having a great time here. :)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ukraine, Beautifully Yours

I haven't blogged for ages...and will remedy that soon. But for now, I want to share with you all something really cool. :) Click here to see a video being aired on CNN that a friend of mine helped produce. I think you'll love it!

The most common question I get from Ukrainians when they hear that I have lived here for nearly 10 years is "Why? Everyone here wants to go to America!"

So, since they say that "a picture is worth a thousand words" this video clip are just some of the reasons why I live in Ukraine. Just a reminder to all Ukrainians that may have forgotten how wonderful their country is, and some new information for anyone that hasn't ever been here. Welcome to a little piece of Ukraine!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Greg's Great Hot Sauce Recipe

Ok, all my friends have great blogs, I just haven't had time to read everyone's lately so right now - ok - the Silva's blog is getting a little more "air time", shall we say. But the deal is, they have the killer hot sauce recipe. I am not a Californian. That will be a shameful thing to some, and a relief to others. :) But the result is after many years living in CA (before coming to Kyiv), I miss good hot sauce. Because Californians definitely know their hot sauce. And Greg surprised us all at the recent conference in Chernigov by whipping out a bottle of homemade hot sauce at breakfast. It was just the spice needed for the boiled potates and sort of breaded, fried, cutlet things we had at breakfast. YUM! Way to go, Greg! Click here to go to Edna and his blog to get the recipe.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Why Ukrainian Language?

In the midst of trying to get all my pictures from Kyrgistan posted here I took a break and caught up on some of my friends' blogs. They all have wonderful blogs, but I have lately really enjoyed getting to know the Silva's better via their blog.

From time to time I have written here about the issue of languages here in Ukraine - namely Ukrainian or Russian. Greg has written a really great post about that issue here, and although I am a Russian speaker, I really respect and agree with what he has written. Check it out, I think you'll find it very interesting.

"We're Not in Kansas Anymore, Toto"**

Wow, Kyrgistan.

I just got back from a trip to Kyrgistan with a team from our church here in Kyiv, and I am still thinking about things from there!

(This is the Kyrgiz flag on a hillside and some yurts selling honey and other things on the road between Bishkek and Issyk-Kul, Kyrgistan).

Our team from Kyiv included friends who have grown very dear to me over the years. Most of the Bishkek team I knew from their time in Ukraine, too, so it was a really great visit connecting with old friends and getting to know others more. Here we are with some of the Bishkek team.

The Kyiv team came to help the Bishkek team with their first church conference. If you would like to know more about what God is doing there through these great folks click on any of these names to check out their blogs: the Billings’, the Doubs, Tracey Groves and Michelle Drewe

We had a great time and there is a lot to tell so I’ll try to get more pictures posted here to tell the whole story eventually. But our connection is slow for some reason so it took so long to get these loaded already that this is gonna be it for now!

**(But Toto will be in concert in Kyiv soon...just a random trivia fact for ya. Man, is Eastern Europe THE tour location for used-to-be groups, or what?)

Just a Reminder...

That i also blog at

There I post essays that I have either written for publication (or would like to have published!) or just for my own enjoyment. These are fiction and non-fiction. I don't post there as often as here, but feel free to check it out.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Welcome to the Faces of Bishkek, Kyrgistan

I love people's faces. I wish I could be one of those National Geographic photographers and go around just taking awesome close-ups with an amazingly huge telephoto lense camera.

Using the church camera on our recent trip to Kyrgistan was the closest I've gotten so far. :)

We went to help out with the church conference there and God did amazing things...and I will post about all that soon.

But first here are some of my favorite photos of people that I saw in Bishkek.

These aren't all of them, and yes, they are predominantly ethnic Kyrgiz, even though there are many ethnic Russians, etc living in Bishkek as well. But being somewhat of a wide-eyed tourist on this trip, these faces were most exotic and foreign to me and for one reason or another caught my eye.

I especially like old folks and kids, so here are some of my favorites.

This is Zheengiz (as far as I remember the pronounciation of his name), he became my buddy at the church there in Bishkek. Bummer I cut Jackie Chan's head off at the top of the poster. But I couldn't get Zheengiz to hold still for another photo shoot, so this is it!

I thought the people there were just beautiful.

I thought I saw a lot more women with children on the streets than in Kyiv. But maybe that is because of the smaller population (Kyrgistan has as many
citizens in the entire country as a recent estimate I heard for the greater Kyiv metropolitan area - 5 million!)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Growing Old in Bishkek :)

***I am posting this from Bishkek, Kyrgistan from a wi-fi location in the food court at a mall. I couldn’t at the house I’m staying at because the power is on scheduled black outs throughout the capital…what a contrast! Back in Kyiv tomorrow and will start posting all the cool photos that I was able to take with the church camera while here. But for now here is another epic-length Cara “anti-blog” post. J***

So I turned 45 in Bishkek, Kyrgistan just a few days ago. I am old.
:) Well. Ok, maybe not “old”. But I am definitely middle-aged. Whatever you call it, I am not young any more. (I am not whining. Just stating facts. I always say that since we don’t get YOUNGER every year, we need to embrace our age and feel good about it. And for the most part, I do! Because if getting older is something bad then every year it only gets worse, not better. So I am ok with this, it is just an interesting fact to consider the ramifications of from time to time).

So…I am not young. I have, if I am lucky, as many years ahead of me as behind me. But the next 45 years will probably not be able to be as productive, or active as the last 45 years….or will they? Time will tell. I do know that physically I don’t have what I used to. The first evening of our conference here I found myself sitting with the littlest ones in the nursery and I was quickly reminded that I am not young.

I saw 20-something missionary Katy sitting with three or four little ones crawling over her and she was a veritable three-ring circus for them. Laughing, tossing balloons, singing, bouncing them on her knees while they crawled and pulled and drooled all over her. I, on the other hand, sat on the bench nearby. I was like the “lifeguard” for this swirling pool of infant activity. “No one drowning? Ok. Great. Let me know if they do, otherwise I will just sit coolly behind my mirrored shades and work on my tan. Don’t bother me, ok? I'm doing MY job.” Well, no tan to work on in the far end of the upstairs “stolovaya” (cafeteria) of an old Soviet children’s camp where our conference was held, but you get the idea. At first I wasn’t exactly hands on. :}

But I used to be, really! :) I distinctly remember sitting with 6 crying little ones, two on each leg and one in each arm, singing as they cried. It was the nursery at Calvary Church in Grants Pass, OR and I must have been all of 17 or 18. It didn’t even occur to me to get their moms. I didn’t even doubt that I could calm these little screaming meemies. And believe it or not, after about two verses of “The Horse and Rider Thrown Into the Sea” (a little ditty about Moses and the Egyptian Army at the Red Sea) they had all stopped crying. From my memory (which can’t really be trusted when you get to be MY age, ha!) I often served in nursery, Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, etc. It wasn’t a big deal…then. Then I was full of energy. Then I was ready to play tiger on the floor, growling and searching for prey. Then I was ready to give an unprotected belly a good full-on, loud slobbery “foozberry”. Then was when I discovered my secret weapon for helping to distract a crying baby long enough for him/her to calm down. When all hands are full, there is always your tongue. My particularly wiggly tongue has been known to sufficiently distract even the most distraught little one. The trick is keeping it fully visible but out of reach from sticky little hands.

But this first night at our conference in Bishkek, I just didn’t have it in me. Or maybe I had just forgotten where it was stored. Sometimes when I am back in the states I forget where things are located….like shops and schools and the homes of good friends and family…even though they have been at the same addresses for years! I joke that “American addresses have been deleted to download Russian grammar”. And although it usually gets a good laugh, just ask my roommates Katya and Dasha all the grammar mistakes I continue to make on a regular basis and they might suggest that nothing much was gained in my forgetting where the Farmer’s Co-op is in my hometown! :} But back to nursery skills…after that first day I realized that I just didn’t have the energy to interact that I used to. Things were running fine on their own, so I was happy to sit and watch. But then I remembered that these little ankle-biters were people…and they really deserved some interaction, they didn’t care about my age or stamina.

So I sat on the floor. I bounced the balloons. I wiped snotty noses and guess what? The wiggly tongue still stops them in their tracks. (yeah, yeah, hold your wisecrack comments…I know this one is wide open, but ne nada, horosho?) It was fun. Really. Exhausting, but fun. Moms. Dads. You are my heroes once again. You always have been, but this was a reminder. My Mom and Dad… thank you again. In honor of my birthday (a little late, but what the hey) thank you for having me. Thank you for keeping me. Thank you for loving me. Still. And parents, teachers, Sunday School volunteers, etc. WAY TO GO! Thank you so much for all you do. So that was a good a reminder of all the effort that those that work with kids are called to do, but you know what else it made me think of? How often I can get that same “lifeguard in the tower” attitude in life and in my part I play in the church, and really this world.

I remember when I first came to Ukraine I would jump to do whatever I could. Even stuff I really wasn’t that good at or didn’t know what I was doing. But through different experiences I guess I got a little …hmm…what would be the word? Hesitant? Earlier in my missions experience, I just wanted to help. I was like the 18 year old me working in the nursery all those years ago…or better yet, like the kids in the nursery themselves! “Let me help! I wanna do it!” And you are SO sure that you CAN help! That what you have to offer is needed. And then over time you make mistakes…of course. Things don’t turn out like you thought. Someone can do it better than you (and believe me, someone can ALWAYS do it better than you, whether you realize it or not). It gets pointed out a few times and somehow after awhile the results, or maybe rather the estimation of others concerning those results, begin to seem more important than just the simple act of obedience in love for whatever the Lord calls me to from moment to moment.

People are not God, and God is not a Master who orders us to do things just so they can be crossed off a list and then is disappointed and critical when we don’t perform up to snuff. Although God desires to have Lordship in every area of our lives (and in that sense is our Master) and there is definitely something to be said for mastery in our service (that is another blog!)… God Himself has said that “…now no longer call me Master, but Husband…I will promise you to me forever in righteousness and mercy; …in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord..”* The things He asks us to do are to draw us closer to Him, for us to see His hand of help when we struggle, to experience His grace when we falter, and ultimately to bring joy to Him- the One we love and who first loved us - in the process and the desire that motivated the process even more so than the ultimate result.

I still remember a lop-sided, sloppy egg-shaped Easter cake my sister made for our parents (and if I remember right my brothers and I helped decorate). It was a scary jumble of cake and food coloring and LOTS of frosting to hold the whole mess together. It looked quite comical and maybe even a bit scary. (And I know I’m remembering at least that part correctly because we took pictures for posterity!) If you compared my sister’s cake with the photo in the cookbook, you could say she failed. But if you took into consideration the love and care with which she offered this gift, the smiles on my parents face AND the speed with which we nonetheless ate this sugary treat, you could only conclude that it was a roaring success! We all remember that cake (and even the colossal nightmare left in the kitchen) to this day with a smile.

So this conference I was in the nursery a lot, and once with the little older kids, too. I passed my time at the first Calvary Chapel Central Asia Conference “swimming in the deep end”…doing something that really isn’t my gift…something I haven’t done in a long time…something that many people can do better than me. And you know what? It was great! :) Hudson Taylor once said that “God’s work done God’s way never lacks God’s resources”. And I was reminded once again that when I step out into something a little uncomfortable, something that really isn’t my strongest area, but that where there is a need and I am available and willing to do with a willing heart, God does amazing things! I do not serve man, but God and over and over again I am reminded that although man looks on the outside – towards performance, skill, etc. – God looks on the inside, at our humble hearts that KNOW we are weak but who look to Him to be strong in us in the midst of whatever He calls us to.

Will I volunteer to lead up the children’s ministry? Probably not. But will I put my name on the list to help out when needed ? Yup! So whatever need God has opened your eyes to right now…could you be the one to help out for a time? Don’t be hesitant. Not because “the work” needs you, but because we need “the work”. :) We need to see God fill in where we lack. We need to stretch beyond our comfort zones and see that it really is true that “when we are weak He is strong”!

To keep our boundaries so tight that we only do those things that are comfortable, within our expertise and control cuts out the “God space” in our lives – the empty space where we can do nothing, but where God can do everything! So, dive in to the deep end and give it a try! “Come on in, the water’s fine!” :)

“I delight to your will, oh Lord”.

* (Yes, I know that in context this verse that I quoted from Hosea was said to the nation of Israel in a time of unfaithfulness to God. But I believe with the references in the NT about us being the "bride of Christ", etc. and countless verses as to the overall relationship God wants to have with us ["I speak a mystery concnerning marriage, of Christ and the Church", etc.] I don't think that this application is off the mark.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

This I Believe: I Believe in Redemption

For those of you that don't know, I have another blog where I post just my writing...essays, etc. There's a new post today with an essay that I recently submitted to the program "This I Believe" that is broadcast on NPR. If you haven't ever checked it out, I totally recommend it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Paul McCartney in Kyiv.....WOW!

Ok...I have a friend that used to call me her "all or nothing" friend...and I guess that's true. Either these whopping long serious posts, or...ones like this one!

Paul McCartney was in concert tonight on Kyiv's Independence Square - in the heart of downtown Kyiv. It was AWESOME! It rained and poured throughout the day (even hailed!) and was really pouring when the concert actually began. It was crazy trying to get through the crowds with umbrellas, etc. We actually (Danny and Annaliese Foote and I) sought refuge in a Scottish pub and were watching it on TV to see if the concert was actually going to take place or be rained out.

But when the whole pub, Ukrainians and expats alike, all started singing "Love, Love Me Do" off-key and with interesting accents all around, it was more than we could take to be that close to the concert and be hearing all of them instead of HIM. Paul.

So, we braved the rain, made our way to the "non-alcohol" area that was guarded by police and eventually the rain let up! It was GREAT! The crowd there was pretty mellow and it was just great.

I haven't yet replaced my camera that I unfortunately lost not long ago so this post is sadly devoid of pictures, but Danny took some and as soon as he sends them I will post them.

The funniest highlights to me were when Paul took out a mandolin people around me remarked that he was playing a balalaika (sp?). :) That was funny. And when he was trying to speak Ukrainian he said only the last word in a phrase so that it was understandable and everyone around me turned to look at each other and said "Oh! Pesnu!" because they recognized the word "song" that he had just was funny. :)

The whole evening was great. Danny and Liese are my new vote for "coolest missionaries in Ukraine"...nothing personal to everyone else, its just that if they wouldn't have wanted to go I probably wouldn't have gone by myself, but they did - and I did...and it was GREAT! Even if he didn't sing Helter Skelter. Manson affiliations aside, it is really a great song that has nothing to do with all the things Charlie wanted to connect it to. BUT all the others were great, too..

Ok...enough gushing, have to pack and then hit the hay before I get up early to go to Hungary for the CC Eastern European Missions Conference. I wasn't going to go (not in the budget!) and the church here wanted me to go so are covering me for now. Very cool.

Oh, final word...not many guys can rock like that at 25, LET ALONE 65, so - WAY TO GO , PAUL! :)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Aaaaaahhhhh, The SLO Life...

Without a camera my blog has gotten pretty text heavy....I suppose writing marathon posts like my last one doesn't help it much either. :)

So I figured I'd give you all a break from my hot air and link you to someone else's long winded post! Not really.. this isn't ranting or anything, this is just the coolest post about one of my former "home towns" - San Luis Obispo, CA . (Lots of very cool photos, too!)

I have many home towns: Emmett, Idaho; Grants Pass, OR; Ventura, CA; for the main ones. But SLO is the last place I really lived in the states before coming to Ukraine and has a special place in my heart.

I always tell people here in Ukraine that I miss a lot of people and things about America but SLO is one place where I actually really miss the town, as well as friends, etc. Such a cool town. Sigh... Check it out.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

PASSION in Kyiv and life...( or "She's Venting About the Meaning of Love and the Value of Relationship Again") :)

No, this is not about something steamy :)...although the Kyiv Sport's Palace did get pretty hot as we were energetically enjoying the concert last night. :) (How did such a great word like "passion" gain such a limited usage?)

Well, this "night of passion" was referring to passion for God - in general, and a ministry from Atlanta, Georgia - in specific. When I heard about an evening of worship and praise with Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman, naturally I wanted to go. The fact that the posters clearly stated "for youth 18 -28", didn't deter me. Young at heart, I say. :)

There is a lot to say about the evening... To it is interesting that Kyiv has - in the last 15 or so years - gone from a place with very few Protestant churches even, to one that in the past few years has hosted Christian music groups and speakers ranging from Delirious, (two years in a row at the Mi Chas youth festival) to Josh MacDowell (he spoke in Kyiv at a different gathering the night before the Passion concert)and now to the speakers and musicians at this gathering (Louie Giggolio, Charlie Hall, etc.). This is worth a whole post time.

Other highlights, of course, were the great music and the message encouraging youth to live their life for God and "burn" for His matter what specifically that works out to be...teaching, art, or selling shoes! Hats off to Tomlin, Redman, and Hall who even learned a few lines of their songs in Russian to sing with the crowd. (Maybe in Ukrainian next time?) :)

The best part for me, honestly though, was seeing all the people I know from all over the country. There were youth and leaders, Ukrainians and foreigners, dear dear friends and simply familiar faces from basically 9 years of living in this country. It was great to see those I hadn't seen for a long time, and even if we didn't get a chance to talk it was great to just watch them worshiping God, their faces turned heavenward, their hearts clearly focused on things beyond simply the lights and music.

In one group I saw a girl that I was sure was an old friend of mine. The way she raised her hands, the way she held her head as she was singing...I had prayed, cried, laughed, fought, worshiped with her so many years that I was sure that it was.."Sveta" (not her real name). I walked over closer to see for sure and saw that it wasn't her. This girl looked so much like her I kept staring and staring. Then I realized this girl looked like "Sveta" did quite a few years ago. Not only was she younger than "Sveta" is now, she had that uncluttered and earnest expression that I used to see on "Sveta's" face more often than lately, and she lifted her voice and hands to God in such abandon just as I always remember "Sveta" doing in the many gatherings in my living room where we gathered to worship.

I know "Sveta" still believes and I know she still loves God and maybe I don't know the whole picture, but it seems that her hands are much more full with other things now. I love "Sveta" and so will leave that conclusion up to God and simply pray for opportunities to love her and enjoy her friendship.

But seeing that young version of "Sveta" made me think about a conversation I had earlier in the day with some friends. We were talking about how sad it was that we had two friends, ministry leaders, who were at odds with each other...well, how to say that? "At odds"? Let's just say that once they fellowshipped and ministered together and since a disagreement they haven't even spoken. We discussed the both sides as limited as we knew them and as they affected us, guessed at the bigger picture, reasoned at what could be done...not just in this situation, but in general in the many unfortunate times this occurs between believers. (In fact, I have absolutely no fear of writing this publicly because I know too many situations that fit this vague description that this could unfortunately be one of many such conflicts.)

Finally, one friend lamented that "why didn't one of them just pick up the phone and call the other?". And say what? I can just imagine that if they honestly didn't feel they had anything to apologize for, what then? Where to start? (This is me trying to imagine what they are thinking. Not how I would handle it myself).

I was thinking about all this as I went about the city that day before the concert and I came to a conclusion: LOVE. These two people involved in ministry have no love for each other. No real love. Maybe that is unfair of me to say that. Maybe I am wrong. But I have to say, having gone through some very painful miscommunications with other believers, I believe that the issue is not who is right or wrong...the issue is love. I am learning that if I love someone I want the relationship reconciled more than I want to "resolve" everything. I have a dear friend who once named me the "Closure Queen". :) An apt title, for sure. It used to KILL me to not have closure on things. But now I realize that sometimes the other person is not ready to have closure. Sometimes you will never find closure because you can't find what we call in Russian "Obshe Yazik"..."common language". More than our English version of "common ground", common language speaks to me of two people that maybe agree on the major points but because of different ways of expressing themselves, different filters through which they see and experience life, etc. they just can't seem to find a common language with which to communicate. No matter how much they talk, debate, reason, they just never seem to "get" each other. And for me, that is finally ok.

Maybe I am wrong...(feel free to write and correct me! ha!)...but we are not called to always agree with one another. We are not called to always understand each other even. We are not called to prove our point (despite the many years I wasted trying to do just that...and some may say I am still trying to do just that through this blog! ha!) What we are called is to love each other. What does that mean? Just "warm fuzzies"? I don't know, honestly. I am just trying to figure that out. I know it doesn't mean I say "everything is rosy" when its not. I don't whitewash things or excuse things. But somehow I say, as the Bible says, that "love covers a multitude of sins"...mine and yours. It says I can at least speak with you kindly. It means I want the best for you. It means I care about you as a person and the possibility of reconciliation more than any wrong that I perceive having been either the recipient of or the source.

Honestly, I still do not understand it when people do not want to resolve something. When they would rather have mis-communications hanging out there and don't want to hear the other person out or be heard out and try to work through to an understanding. When they are ok with having broken relationships with a brother or sister and not wanting to sit down and try to understand things or to give or receive an apology. Or knowing that someone has been hurt by them (whether it was their "fault" or not) and not wanting to acknowledge that hurt and figure out how it happened and how to avoid it in the future, but rather just (what appears to me as) brushing it under the carpet. I don't get that at all. Its not the way I'm wired. No matter how awkward, difficult, etc. it seems to me that this is how we grow in love is by working through these things and I simply don't "get" those who don't want to (and by saying "don't want to" I mean they don't initiate reconciliation, mediation, communication, whatever)...BUT LOVE...But love has given me the peace to not have to "get it", to not have to understand it or even like it, but to just give it over to God and say "Is this person my brother or sister in Christ? Was it their evil intention to misunderstand me? To hurt me? To do something to cause me pain?" If I determine this person to be part of the family of God then the answer 9 times out of 10 has to be "NO". As my mother says, their actions are more than likely the result of ignorance not malice. And I would add, more likely the fruit of their own wounds than any desire to wound me. Furthermore, if I determine, by their actions, they aren't a believer, well, guess what, the bible says love them too! ha! But that's another topic. :)I know for myself, rarely, do I really WANT to hurt the other person. More than likely I am so wrapped up in myself that I either simply don't care about how my words and actions affect the other person, or I simply haven't thought that far. Selfish - yes, purposefully hateful - no. And maybe I'm naive, but I choose to believe that this is the case with most others, too. Particularly those who claim the name of Christ. To think otherwise is to pervert what it means to be a Christian for myself and others and then I have to really I really want to judge the intents and motives of that persons heart? Ok, I did something wrong. They did something wrong. But the "whys" and "wherefores" are a jumbled mixed bag that unless there is love and communication we will most likely hit very far from the mark in judging the whole picture.

I know for my parents and I (a great example of people who don't always agree, don't always understand each other but who have taught me so much about loving people) we joke that "well, we haven't changed the locks". Translation: "No matter what happens, the door of relationship is always open". I live far away, only come home every so often, and so we also joke that maybe that's why we get along so well these days! :) ...but regardless, the door of relationship is open. We can have as much interaction as each side wants. And we do. Sometimes they initiate, sometimes I do. Its not perfect. We aren't perfect. But we keep going. Learning. Loving.

But its not always that way. Some relationships where there has been hurt, miscommunication, side or the other determines that it would be better to have less contact and so they do. BUT the love for each other has been confirmed, nonetheless. The locks haven't been changed. For now contact is less, but the door is open for more should either side choose, or should God sovereignly ordain.

WHAT'S THE POINT? yadda yadda yadda...what is the point here? Sometimes you just don't get along with someone. True. And nothing in the bible says you have to be "friends" with everyone. But what does it say is the true mark that we are His disciples? "When we have love one for another". Sometimes I have shown my love in asking for forgiveness from someone, and then backing off. Maybe they think my remorse was not real. It was. I mourn the loss of relationship. Would I say what I said and do what I did again? Maybe. Sometimes. Do I still hold the same opinions? Some. But if there was a way to hold those opinions and yet love those with whom I disagreed, was offeneded by or was the offender, was misunderstood by or whom I misunderstood....I would grab hold of that bridge of love with all I had. Why? Because it was what Jesus did. He loved. God is love. "All these things shall pass away, but love remains".

But enough about me and back to my ministry acquaintances...So...there they are, both working towards the kingdom...and refusing to speak to each other. Sigh. "Not refusing" they might say...but face it, the locks have been changed. There is no access offered to each other. "But I tried". Try again. Life is not always uncomplicated. Usually, in my opinion, it is messy. It is when we strive to control the messy cirucumstances rather than asking God to give us peace and grace in the midst of the mess that our lives become narrow, thin, limited. "I speak to them, but not to them. I go to these situations and not those. I'm comfortable with this group and avoid that one."

Yes, I realize there is a place for boundaries. I am not the one to lecture on that because I sometimes have pretty weak ones. But look at Jesus...his life seemed pretty messy. People always needing from Him. People following Him around when He just wanted some time with His closest friends. Getting woke up when He needed to sleep. Hanging around with people who did inappropriate things at inappropriate times. Yes, He did get away by Himself to be with the Father and re-charge and we should too. I do. Although I am an extrovert and love being with people there are the times when the emails are not returned, calls not answered, when I sit in the coffee shop alone, when I take the longer way home to sit "by myself" in the middle of a crowded van or subway car....but I don't see this as the model of daily life from Jesus, I see this as the exception from time to time. The rest of the time He was in people's lives. Healing, feeding, speaking, listening, encouragin, rebuking...loving. People are messy. Life is messy. Love is messy. It is not from making more rules or higher walls that order is found but from having His love flow more freely through us. "Perfect love cast out all fear". "We are perfected in love".

Recently at our national conference John Chubik touched on this when he taught on the structure of the church. He said that if your idea of the church was that it was a "holy corporation" with presidents and vice presidents, profit margins, intake and outflow, spreadsheets and production charts then you will form your church accordingly and that's how it will look. Or to others the church is a fortress with sturdy walls and strong towers that keep Christians in, clean and pure, and keep sin out. He went on to say that the church, according to the Bible, is the Body of Christ. And that as His life flows through us the "fruit" of loving one another, finding eternal life in the redemptive blood of Christ, receiving forgiveness from God and forgiving one another, encouraging one another, helping one another - all this and more - will abound naturally.

As I listened I thought -"if I had to choose a 'form' what would I say the church should be compared to"? I guess I would have to say that along with the Biblical model of a body, I most closely relate to the (also Biblical model) of the church as a family. Yes, our bodies sometimes "act up" and do things we don't like, don't understand, don't want. But with excercise, vitamins, doctors, surgeries, etc. etc. we have the illusion of being able to control all those things. Some of us have unfortunately, sometimes painfully, found out that this just isn't true. Cancer sometimes comes without our "permission", either by acts of commission or omission. There are illnesses, diseases and accidents that rudely remind us that we are not in control of even this thing so close to us as our own body.

But if you have been blessed with good genes and good health, as I have been, then the idea of a family is the closer example of what the church looks like. Sometimes messy (whether it be actual sin or simply babies spitting up, teenage hormones or Alzheimers), unpredictable, frustrating and yet at other times - at its best - the most amazing source of encouragement, kindness, belonging, love. In a family you disagree, maybe argue, you hurt one another and forgive one another, you keep trying to figure out a better way of getting along while you keep savoring over and over the good times and planning for new ones...birthdays, graduations, anniversaries. But whatever, you keep going and you don't change the locks. (Issues of abuse, etc. are another subject all together, so for now I am just talking about your garden variety sinful-dysfunctional-wonderful-messy-"trying to do our best" type families, ok?)

At that Passion Concert there was one particular moment, though, that was like a snapshot of my life here and maybe one final word on what I am trying to say. (Believe it or not, I do have a point! ha!) So there we were, 4,000 of us they said, gathered in this Soviet Sports Palace in Kyiv, Ukraine. We were singing one of my favorite songs. This was one that I knew by heart and so could close my eyes and focus on the words, the meaning behind them, and even greater - the One to whom I was singing. "When the sun's shining down on me, when the world's all as it should be - blessed be the Lord. When the road's marked with suffering and there's pain in the offering - blessed be the Lord. Every blessing You pour out I'll turn back to praise. When the darkness closes in Lord, still I will say - Blessed be the name of the Lord! Blessed be His glorious Name! He gives and takes away. He gives and takes away. My heart will choose to say - Lord, blessed be Your Name!". Glorious. Powerful. True.

But here's the rub. I learned that song, and was singing it, in Ukrainian. But Matt Redman (who I think wrote it) was singing in English - my native language. And the words on the screen suspended on the stage behind him were in English and Russian. Now maybe for other less-distracted personalities that wouldn't be a problem...but it was for me. So I had a choice...I could get frustrated that after 17 years after independance from Russia foreigners are still translating things into Russian and not Ukrainian (this too is a topic for another time, and for the record I know that this is not an issue to all those in Ukraine, but especially pertinent here in the capital)... worry what others will think if they (Ukrainians standing around me) are singing in Russian and I'm singing in Ukrainian ("what's she trying to prove?" language is a big issue here) and Americans around me are singing in English....berate myself for not being able to focus on just one language despite the presence of the others...OR laugh and realize that this was just a snapshot of my life here in Ukraine! (Don't you feel better already? You can't be nearly as neurotically analytical as me! ha!) But this is life my life in Ukraine... Messy! Complicated! Un-expected! Multi-lingual! Everyone around me worshipping God in the way that they know best, the way they are used to, in the place they are at right now. I laughed, sang some words in Ukrainian, some in English, tried out the Russian translation that was new to me and just kept going.

Brothers, sisters...keep going. Don't give up. On God. On each other. On yourselves. Actually....wait! Maybe you should give up on each other and yourselves and just not give up on God! Realize you're going to fail. Realize others are going to fail. Love them anyway. Give God one more chance. With you. With them. With those broken relationships and with love. We mess it up all the time but God is still on the throne. He is still in control. I don't "get it" all the time, but I get His love and hope you do, too. It is the ONLY thing that matters. He loves you. I love you.

**(No actual coffee beans were killed in the process of this posting but many were ground and imbibed. Ok, so maybe they were dead.)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

My 6 Words

I heard an interesting broadcast about a magazine contest asking people to sum up their life stories in 6 words. I was inspired so here's mine. :)

Jesus loves me, this I know.

Check out the NPR broadcast if you want to hear the whole story. I think you'll like it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

" the UKR"

Ok, bad attempted pun on the Beatles "Back in the USSR", but I was at a loss for what to title this post since it is so terribly overdue!

I am indeed back in Ukraine and it is strange to me how familiar it all seems, even though MANY things have changed here in Kyiv in the less than 10 months that I have been gone.

My first day back I was at the little market on my street near my home and bought a roast chicken and some drinking water (the water in our flat is quite yellow at times). Then I bought some home-canned "Adzhika" (like salsa) and marinated mushrooms from a babushka on the street.

I chatted with the babushka a bit and then climbed the five flights of stairs (no elevator) to my new place here in Kyiv. I remember thinking that I felt like I had come home. This wasn't some excited thrilled feeling...just as a matter of a fact. It was comforting, though.

Within a few days I got a phone call from a friend from church asking if I would travel to the town of Cherkassy to teach a girl's bible study soon. A girl who had come to Prague with the Kyiv drama team (but who actually lives in Cherkassy) invited me. I am really excited to go although at this point I have no idea what I have to share with these girls. I know that by the time I need to, I will know...or as often the words come out of my mouth! ha!

Pastor Alosha said that there is a great need to meet with the college age gals in our church, too, to encourage them and help counsel, etc. It was such a surprise to me to see girls that I remember as being "so young" are actually now in that age group! The others that I remember as "students" are many of them now married and with children! How time flies! I haven't been gone that long, but I guess they have just been growing up without me noticing.

It was crazy, too, to look at the new church photo album and see all the faces that I have seen go through so many things and grow in so many ways! And now to see them with their spouses, kids, with new jobs, certainly marches on...

I really don't know what else to say right now...I am filled with a lot of emotion (what a surprise for me! ha!). :) One thing I have learned over the last couple years is that no matter what the specific circumstances of your life are - married, single, children, vocational ministry or 9 to 5 job - life seems to be all about letting go...adjusting...moving to the basics over and over again....strengthening the foundations...forgiving, being forgiven,...dreaming new dreams after mourning old ones....etc. In the last couple of years I have seen people lose dear spouses, fathers and friends (on both continents that I call home), ministries subtracted from and added to, re-grouped and re-arranged or completely put on hold, etc. I have seen people called to stay when they wanted to go and go when they wanted to stay, family relationships changed irreversibly - both happily and sadly....and I have to agree that the only thing constant is change...and God. Aaaahhhhhh... :) He is a mystery, but He is so constant and His love never changes. I wish I could say I was better at the letting go to things of this earth than I am, but my only consolation is that I am better at letting God hold on to me than I have been. :} Make sense? :)

So...sermon over :) I have a TON of emails to catch up on (my advance apologies if you are one of them......before I left Prague I was completely swamped, packing, getting rid of things, etc. all over AGAIN! And then when I got to Kyiv it was a bit before I got the internet up and running, then setting up the apartment, and helping a friend with her daughter's, bear with me and I hope to be caught up on correspondences soon.)

Love you all...