Tuesday, August 5, 2014

More Talking - Less Updating

When I first deactivated my Facebook account - I breathed a sigh of relief. I was excited about all the great things I was making room in my life for.  

Yet, if you are anything like me - you know how fast the initial excitement wears off.  Not even two days after pulling the plug I found myself wondering about something and feeling at a loss without my usual go-to "ask the Facebook world" function.

It's been maybe a week when I was driving down the road from work thinking of all the many fun things that happened that day.  My initial thought was I should just share it on Facebook.  When I realized that I had cut that option off I felt at a loss once again.  It felt weird calling or emailing someone just to tell them a funny story.  It felt strange not to get the likes and responses to something that I knew a Facebook world would appreciate.  

That short moment in my car made me realize how little genuine human interaction we're having these days.  We are programmed by the society to be "How are you doing? - Fine. What about yourself? - Doing ok." kind of a person.  We ask a question but are we really expecting to hear a genuine answer?  Do we really want to know what the other person is dealing with?  Would we be compelled to help?  Are we afraid that we might not know what to say?  And what about sharing your story?  What would the other person think of us if we tell them what's going on?  Will they judge us?  Will they look down on us?  Will the conversation make them feel awkward?

Posting things on Facebook about our lives is much easier and safer than speaking it out loud.  When Facebook got taken out of my life I could see just exactly who really cared to know what was going on in my life.  It was quite an adjustment going from almost a thousand "friends" to just a handful (what a popularity drop!) - yet the interactions I am experiencing right now are much more fulfilling.  There is so much power in asking the person how they are doing... and waiting for an answer :)

I am learning to talk.
I am learning to ask open questions.
I am learning to formulate intelligent answers.
I am learning to connect.
I am learning to laugh together.
I am learning to offer help.
I am learning to rejoice with others.
I am learning to be there for others.

And this has been so much more rewarding than getting hundreds of likes on Facebook.  And so my resolve has strengthened.

So guess what?  When I was in the car that day driving down the road and wishing I could share my day with someone... I prayed and thanked God for all the great things that happened that day... I sent a text message to my husband... I called my grandma... and it all was well.  

Sharing a status update is not the same as sharing life.  Just saying :)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* I am not suggesting everyone should deactivate Facebook.  I am simply sharing my personal experience of making room for things in my life that really matter to me.  I believe everyone should take a hard look at their life and clean it out of time wasters so there's more room for things that matter.  If you have done so - I would love to know about your journey.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

More Social - Less Network

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.

"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” 


All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.  Isn't that the truth?  Lately, my life has become a non stop whirlwind of busy.  I have 2 kids, 2 jobs, a ministry and a home to run.  On top of all that I am trying to get into grad school so I've been doing a lot of studying for that.  I do not have much spare time - yet, I still have control over what I do with the time that I have.

Earlier in the year a sweet friend had mentioned that she is trying to not be on her phone unless the kids are sleeping and no one is around.  I have tried to follow her suit (some days I did better than others) and I realized how difficult it really is. 

Someone asked me a few days ago what my hobbies were. "Ain't nobody got time for that" was the first thing that popped in my head.  Yet this got me thinking what it is that I really enjoy doing, what it is that sets my heart ablaze... and whether there is ample time in my life for that.

See what I wanted to do is to identify my biggest time wasters and rid myself of those so I can make more room for the things I really enjoy.

Here's my list of the things that make me happy and the things that I enjoy doing or having:
*** spending time with God (when I do dedicate even a little focused time on a devotion or prayer, I feel significantly better)
*** spending time with my loved ones and friends (I am powered by human connection - my "love language" is quality time for sure)
*** eating healthy (yes, I do indeed enjoy it most of the time - and most of the times when I eat junk is because I have failed to prep a meal ahead)
*** blogging (I missed it but couldn't seem to find time for it)
*** keeping a simple home (I am naturally quite messy but a clean simple home brings peace to my soul so I want to purge my home of clutter and simplify our lifestyle)
*** enjoying nature and reading (oh how I miss both)

All of the above are the things that make me happy, content and willing to live life to the fullest.  I have not had time for those recently so I needed to identify where my time goes and find a solution.

As a result of my contemplation I have announced last week that I will be deactivating my Facebook account. 

Before I proceed - disclaimer - I know that Facebook helps many people stay connected and that it has been very helpful and encouraging to many people.  I get it.  The reasons why I will go off are my personal reasons and may not apply to everyone reading this so please don't you all get offended with me now.

I am choosing to deactivate because:

I believe Facebook is not what "keeping in touch" should be all about.  I want to remember your birthdays and not simply be reminded of it when I log in.  I want to ask you how your trip went and hear all about it with the excitement in your voice.  I want to learn how to ask questions and remember the details of your life.  I want to email you, text you, call you, write to you personally - so you know you're important to me.  On Facebook we throw things out there in hope that someone will notice.  Think about it - when your birthday comes around - which would you prefer: a Facebook message or a personal text?  or even better - a congratulation in person?  I want my children to learn to love other people and be good citizens of the world.  In order for them to learn that - I must set the example they can follow.  Do I want my children to remember me as constantly staring at the screen or as someone who was always present 100% in their lives?

But Facebook is not the only time waster in my life and there are definitely other things that need to happen so I can free up some time for the things I enjoy.  Here's my master plan to complete by Friday.
1. Try to get the contact info of some people to keep in touch while my social network life is down. 
2. Temporarily deactivate Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, VK, and possibly (I am still debating on this last one) Instagram.
3. Remove all those apps from my phone.
4. Remove all games (leaving a few kiddie ones just in case I need to create a diversion for my 3 year old). It all has to go - Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Frozen, Candy Crush, Mahjong - all has to go.

Here's what I will miss.
I will miss the updates of dear friends around the world who are surrendering their lives daily to better the lives of those around them.  I will miss their pictures and their posts. - Solution: I will subscribe to as many newsletters as I possibly can, I will follow their blogs if they write them, I will make an effort to keep in touch.

I am intending to stay network-free until the end of the year when I will come back and re-evaluate.  Simplifying life is a process of trial and error.  Some things will work.  Others won't.  But I am refuse to be weighed down by the expectations of the world around me and spend time on things that are not beneficial to myself or my family.  I want to enjoy life to the fullest.

So that's that... on Friday if you try to find me on Facebook I won't be there... but hopefully I'll blog more... hopefully I'll play with my kids more... hopefully I'll go out for coffee more... hopefully I'll pray more... hopefully I'll clean more...

I do want to hear from you.  What are your thoughts?

They say I'm old-fashioned, and live in the past, 
but sometimes I think progress progresses too fast!” 
― Dr. Seuss

Monday, May 5, 2014

If you are the salt of the earth - do not shake over open wounds...

As many of you know - I did not grow up in a church.  As a matter of fact I was raised in a very atheist household in a very atheist culture in a very atheist country.  When I had learned about God - I had no preconceived ideas or expectations of what following Him might mean.

Today, I have lived more years as a Christian than an atheist and I have become well-versed in church culture (both Western & Eastern European).  And I have noticed that most human interactions within the organized church structure are often quite superficial.  

In order to become followers of Christ, most people must first come to a place where all of themselves, everything they believe in, everything they hold true must become undone.  They must be confronted with their need of a Savior, confronted with the weight of their sin and the distance it has placed between them and God. When that happens, and people choose the way of Christ over the way of the world, they begin looking for a local church where they can learn more about God and experience the true fellowship.

And that's where we fail each other.

Right there - where we look at our brother and sister in Christ - and judge them.  Where we look at what they said, what they did (or didn't do) and feel the freedom to have an opinion about it.  Where we develop the idea that we always know better than the pastor, or the ministry leader.  Where we cultivate the spirit of entitlement because of how much we do or how much we give.

What happens then?

We begin to mask our true feelings because we're afraid that expressing them will cause judgement.  We're afraid that the truth will stain us forever, that we'll never be seen in a good light again.  It becomes even worse with servants in positions of leadership.  For instance, how can a children pastor admit to a parent that they're going through a dry season?  What would make them look like? That somehow God was not enough for us. 

And so it often becomes futile - the Christian fellowship that is.  We come and smile and feel good for a while.  But when the event is over, when the church closes the doors - we are left all alone with our thoughts and the real healing has not happened.

Have you ever wondered why pastors fall, why ministry leaders quit, and why there is often so much strife  and division among church members?  I am not saying this is the main reason but I strongly believe it is one of them.

So where does that leave us?

We need to remember that we are all human.  We all struggle.  We all make mistakes.  We all - ALL - fall short of the glory.

And we need to love. LOVE our neighbor.  Like He commanded.  Like He did.

A few weeks ago something bad escaped my mouth in a church parking lot and I believe there was a person who heard it.  It haunted me for weeks as to what this person might have thought of me.

We become skillful liars, you see.  We put on our Sunday's best appearances - even when we're dying on the inside.  But beware, my friends, when you keep something bottled in - it starts rotting.  Rotting on the inside of you.

Today I came to church empty - but instead of bottling it up and holding it in until it rots - I told someone.  When a sweet sister asked me how I was doing - I told her the truth - that I was tired, that I didn't feel like coming to church even though I knew I should, that I felt I could never make everyone in my life happy.  When the words poured out - and no judgement followed - healing poured in.

This is what church should be like - a safe place to be yourself.  A safe place where you'll be confronted when you're making the wrong choices - but confronted out of love and not out of judgement.  A safe place where nothing that you say or do will alienate you from others.  A safe place where correction happens when necessary but it always benefits us rather than punishes. 

This is a church I want to be part of.  How about you?

So I decide today:

1) to try and see the other person's perspective before I form an opinion
2) to do my best to not utter negative things about other people in my life (this includes work, church, and family members)
3) this is a hard one - but still - I choose to remember who I am and Whose I am and remember that my worth is based in His grace & forgiveness - not in what others may think of me.
4) to speak the truth (with discernment of course) - to rather say nothing at all than a superficial half-truth

Friday, January 3, 2014

My 2014 Maxim

The "manifesto" posts are popping up all over the web these days.

man·i·fes·to

  [man-uh-fes-toh]
noun, plural man·i·fes·toes.
a public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives, as one issued by a government, sovereign, or organization.

Now I am not government, sovereign, or organization.  I am just me - but I love the concept of sorting through things you know and setting up a plan that should govern your year.  Some principle that one intends to follow and re-evaluate at the end of the year - a maxim.

max·im

  [mak-sim]
noun
1.
an expression of a general truth or principle, especially an aphoristic or sententious one: the maxims of La Rochefoucauld.
2.
a principle or rule of conduct.

I've been thinking what I want my 2014 to look like.  So I have sought my heart.  I realized how hurt I had been by people who spoke of grace but refused to show it to me. So I decided this year I will focus on extending GRACE to those who may not necessarily always show it to me.  

Will I be 100% successful at this?  Most assuredly not.  I make mistakes and have feelings.  I need grace myself more often than I am willing to admit.  And yet... I want to give grace, extend forgiveness, lower my expectations - and as a result - enjoy life more!

So here is my manifesto / maxim (call yours whatever you want as long as you do it) for 2014.

Give Grace !

What's yours?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Victor or Victim?

My husband and I had a conversation today.  The essence of what we were discussing could boil down to the question of how much in someone's behavior can be or should be excused due to their past (abuse, neglect, addiction, etc.).

A few years ago I was helping mentor a young lady who was dealing with some dark things in her life.  I remember telling her that some of the thoughts she's struggling with may never go away.  I kept pressing her to tell me what she was going to do when those thoughts came again.  She felt that as long as those thoughts were still coming - she could not have complete victory.

You and I are daily dealing with hurt people.  Some of them have been through things neither you nor I can even imagine.  But they don't all act the same, do they?  Some have moved on, using their experience to bring healing to others (sure enough, they still got their monsters poking on them from time to time, but they don't use this as an excuse to be a jerk).  Such people are a joy to be around.  Others are holding on to their hurt so tightly that it penetrates their entire being, makes them focus on gaining acceptance rather than giving it.  

The VICTIM mentality is weeping on the inside, "This is what had been done to me.  This is why I am the way I am.  This is why I react the way I react.  This is why I can't trust.  This is why I can't be vulnerable."  Victims have a very hard time extending grace to anyone who (in their eyes) struggles less than they do.

And then there are VICTORS.  Those who rise above their pain.  Those who shout from the rooftops, "This is what had been done to me.  But I am the way I am because I have received healing from the hand of the Almighty.  And there is no pain He can't redeem."

I think where we had got it wrong is in telling people that when God redeems our pain - all will be well and all will go away.  I am not so sure this is true.  There is no way to undo what had been done.  Only to redeem it.  Only to flood those memories of the past with grace and forgiveness.  And it is through grace and forgiveness when true freedom is found. 

I am not here to bash those who are still struggling with victim mentality for I had also been one of those (and still feel tempted to be at times).  I am writing this post to encourage you to become a victor rather than a victim - for it is truly possible.

So before the year runs out - ask yourself, "Am I a victor or a victim?"
Be willing to be honest with yourself.

And if there is a single New Year's resolution that you should make - it should be to overcome your painful past :)

I believe you can.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Staring at Oasis in the Desert

It has been a while and it is time to catch you all up on what's been happening to us.

Our family relocated from Brooklyn, NY to Chandler, AZ.  We believed then and still believe now that it was the right decision for our family.  We have spent time resting, settling into our new jobs, figuring out this different way of life, asking God for direction for our life and ministry.

We have also found out that we brought a little unexpected souvenir from NYC - a little baby boy who will be born some time in October.  That turned some of our plans around a bit - but we are truly grateful for this little gift.

We are now settling into a local church and finally finding time to dream of ministry. There is a big project coming up in December - and I am thrilled to tell you about it.  For years we have been hoping to put more meaning into our Christmas, to do things that would really reflect what this season is all about.  And this year we found exactly what we wanted to do.  This Christmas we will be traveling to Mexico to spend time with our dear friend who is taking care of 8 orphans there.  The cost for the entire trip is $5,000 (that would cover everything - from our airfare to all the Christmas presents for the kids at the orphanage and the fun Christmas-y things we want to do with the kids while we are there).  It is quite a bit of money that we don't have but I trust God to provide for us.  If you would like more info - feel free to comment here or contact me through facebook.

I'll write more soon :)


Friday, March 15, 2013

My Heart on Youtube (video #2)

If I am truly honest with myself I am realizing that one of my fears has always been having a child with special needs.  This video has relieved every single one of my unfounded fears.  Here's another gem on the heart of adoption.





Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My Heart on Youtube

My wonderful friend shared this video with me on facebook and I couldn't resist sharing it with you.



Please watch this with me.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

It Is Never What It Might Have Been

It has been a while, hasn't it?  I have so many ideas for some cool blog posts but I simply cannot find time to sit down and write them all down... and then I forget (terrible, I know).  But I hope this one blesses your heart because this post comes from the other side of the bridge (I wrote about that here and most recently here).  

So I've done it.  I've crossed to the other side.  I closed my eyes to the fear of the unknown, held my breath and ran over before I could change my mind (for the 400th time). My family has relocated to Arizona leaving behind everything we had known as a family for the sake of a dream.  It has been over a month now since our plane touched ground in Phoenix.

And as we are transitioning to a different lifestyle, taking time to rest from organized ministry for the sake of regaining our focus - some things are becoming very clear to me.

1)  It is never as tough on the other side as you are afraid of.
and
2) It is never as easy on the other side as you may hope.

That's it.  Maybe you were already aware of those two things (as have I) but somehow shaping them together in 2 sentences side by side helped me make sense out of everything that was happening to me.  See, it is always so scary to jump into the unknown because of all of our fears: fear of failure, fear of loneliness, fear of making a mistake, fear of disillusionment.  That is exactly why so often people settle - for a mediocre job, for a socially acceptable existence, for the safe, for the known. Those are also the people who often look back at their life with regret, wishing they could have accomplished more and seen more of their dreams come to pass.  Dreamers afraid to take a risk to make their dream happen. I refuse to be that person.  My biggest fear (ok, one of them) is that I look back at my life and wish I had lived it differently.  I raise my proverbial glass to those who are not afraid to live life.  Yet, even among the risk takers one may often find foolish people - those who having not counted the cost are willing to jump into anything that comes their way, anything that sounds exciting.  Those people often hurt their loved ones and may become disillusioned when seeing their dream happen comes at a great cost.  I am realizing that nothing about what we want to do in ministry is going to be handed to us on a silver plate.  Starting over, pursuing dreams requires hard work, planning, commitment, stick-to-it-ness.

Don't sit at the bank of the river afraid to cross the bridge - but don't expect that by crossing you'll avoid having to work for your dream.  

If you have any further thoughts - feel free to chat in comments :)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Back to the Bridge

I feel like I am revisiting a familiar place.  The same emotions are flooding my soul.  The same excitement mixed with fear mixed with sorrow and sprinkled with ecstatic joy.  I am a mess.

I am sure, my friend, you have been here before as well.  You stood at the edge of the known trying to see ahead into the fog of the future.  You know as well as I do that no matter how hard you look you can never be certain of what exactly awaits you on the other side.

Luckily, I have learned - just as you have, I am sure, - that no matter how intimidating that fog may be - crossing over is always better than sitting at the bridge full of fear in your heart.

This blog post is an announcement that we have decided to cross yet another bridge in our lives and in our ministry.

I remember my first day in NYC as if it were yesterday.  I was coming from Belarus for 4 months to do internship with Metro Ministries.  I knew no one, I was not sure what to expect.  As our van drove through the streets of Queens and Brooklyn I was surprised by how dirty the city was.  I wondered what I was getting myself into.  I felt like I would never be able to live in such a dirty city.

I remember making a choice to stay on staff with Metro Ministries.  I remember falling in love with this city and her people more and more with each passing month.  This city - in all her craziness - has become my home.  I have lived here my whole adult life, I have made friends here, I got married here, I had my child here, I grew in my understanding of ministry here.  I felt like I would never be able to give it up.

But the time has come when once again I am staring into the fog of the unknown.  There are so many things that we want to do as a family - adoption and foster care advocacy, becoming foster parents and expanding our family through adoption in the future, getting more involved in global orphan care.  In order to accommodate that - we must cross another bridge.

This week our family will get on the plane and we will not be holding return tickets in our hands.  This week we will be moving from NY and making our new home in Arizona.

We will miss the wonderful children and their families that we have met and got to know over these years.    We will miss pulling the side of that yellow truck down and seeing kids run up to it bombarding us with hugs and questions.  We will miss our friends and sharing our lives and passion with them.  We will miss knowing our neighbors and living on the same block as our church.  We will miss the many faces of New York City - the culture, the food, the art, the markets, the subway, the uniqueness, the hustle and bustle of the big city.  But that does not change the fact that we must go.

Please pray for us in this time of transition.  Pray for us to have favor with our job transitions, with making new friends.  Pray for God's guidance and provision.


Some people believe holding on and hanging in there 
are signs of great strength.
However, there are times when it takes much more strength 
to know when to let go and then do it.” 
(Ann Landers)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Different Resolution

Are we well enough into the new year for me to ask if any of you have broken your new year's resolutions yet?  I sure have broken some of them by now... 2 out of 3 to be exact.

I wonder how that happens.  How is it that so many of us are so hopeful on the 31st of December and so shattered by the end of January?  Is it simply that we don't have enough self-control?  Or are we making our goals too vague or too unattainable?  Are we setting a goal without thinking through the action steps that will get us there?

I don't know... and this is NOT what this post is about.

This post is about a DIFFERENT kind of a resolution.

See, one thing I noticed about the new year's resolutions - they are all about ourselves.  This year I will lose weight, I will exercise more, I will eat healthier, I will read my Bible every day, I will get out of debt, I will be a better parent - and even though all those are honorable goals - they are all "I... I... I... I..."

So this year I am choosing something different.  This year I resolve not to seek my own gain, not to focus on how I can better myself.  This year I want my resolutions to be about others.

So here's my UPDATED new year's resolution:

In 2013 I resolve:

*to make my birthday more meaningful by raising funds for the orphans in need instead of hoping for presents*

*to do one random act of kindness each month to a person who is not family or friend (a small and manageable and therefore realistic goal)*

*to stick with my resolution #3 (was not about me but about obeying God in a certain area of my life so it made the list)*

What can you resolve to do this year to make this world just a tiny bit better?
(You may chat in comments if you'd like)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

"My Grown Up Christmas List"

Christmas is only a few days away.  Have you purchased all your presents yet?

Just asking you to consider making a difference this year with your Christmas giving...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

I Wonder What Is Worse...

It is easy to jump into something when you know the outcome... but what if the future is a bit... hazy... unclear... uncertain?  Making changes is never easy.  Making life changes is plain terrifying.

As I am standing at the edge of my life as I know it looking onto the other side is not easy.  How will everything work out?  What if something goes wrong?  What if it is not how I imagined it?

(a quick glance back)... maybe I should not attempt this?.. maybe I should get back to the life I know?..  At the very least I know what to expect from my life...

(a quick glance forward)... but how will I ever know?  What if the other side is not terrifying at all?  What if it is indeed as I had imagined?  What if crossing over will truly help me make my dreams come true?

I wonder what is worse - the fear of the unknown that fills your heart at the first step?.. or the ever-increasing fear that you had missed your chance?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Give This Christmas Away

Once again it is December and we're approaching Christmas. 

In the hassle of shopping and looking for that perfect gift for someone - be reminded today that you can bring joy not only to your family and friends but also to those who so desperately need it.

I found this song by Matthew West and Amy Grant on Bryan's Pandora station and I loved the message of the song.  Please take a moment to watch it.



This Christmas let's be intentional in our faith and in our giving. Ask yourself what can you and your family do to make this Christmas meaningful?

Sponsor a missionary?
   Bake cookies, make hot cocoa and find some homeless people to share them with?
         Volunteer at a local soup kitchen?
                  Share Christmas by inviting someone over who would otherwise be lonely?

Whatever you choose to do - do not get so caught up in decorating, baking, and shopping that you miss an opportunity to share hope... bring life... be the light... show the world how different Christmas really is.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

There Is So Much Good In The Worst Of Us

I'm listening to this song today

It is playing as a background to my facebook surfing... to tell you the truth, I can't even tell you what the song is really about (I enjoy the tune of it so I let it play)... and then... this line... "There is so much good in the worst of us, so much bad in the best of us".

And it hits me with truth... I can't shake this sentence off my mind... and I don't even know what the rest of the song says.

The neighborhood I work in is full of homeless people, meth addicts, and people I would have previously labeled as "strange".  Over the course of my few months there I have met and gotten to know some of these people... and I've grown to miss them when I don't see them often.  As Christians, we are quick to offer help to those we consider "needy" and "broken" but so often this help only extends to those we're comfortable with.  It's so easy to close our eyes to those we consider "undeserving", those who (in our not so humble opinion) have brought this suffering upon themselves, those who may take our "hard-earned" money and use it on drugs or alcohol.

I beg you today to be different from those who are rushing past with a disgusted look on their faces.  I beg you to see (even if just for a moment) past the addiction, past the smell, past all those exterior things - and try to see the good in those people.  I promise you - your life will be enriched by their stories and their friendship.
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