Lilacs and Light

As you may know, my closest friend, Mary, returned to the States after finishing up her position here in Ukraine. There was quite the overflow of tears happening that week. Somehow through my flooded eyes I still managed to paint her a picture.

I call it Lilacs and Light.

Lilacs and Light
Lilacs and Light, acrylic

 

 

Wave Goodbye to Worry (Pt 2)

Pondering LifeYesterday I began sharing my observations from Matthew 6 on how to wave goodbye to worry.

There are three more tools I found to help get rid of our unwanted friend.

3. Consider your value (6:26)

Too often we do not recognize our value. Each of us, regardless of our heritage, race, status, etc. are valuable to God but also to the world.

I don’t know about you but I don’t always feel valuable. This morning I overslept, threw on whatever I could find in my semi-conscious state and literally ran out the door. I made it late to worship practice still semi-conscious, hungry and not exactly feeling the best about myself. It was one of those days where if I was not in a leadership position I probably would have just rolled over and gone back to sleep.

Thankfully we are not less valuable in God’s eyes when the weather or our moods change and we simply feel worthless and cruddy. If God puts so much thought, time and energy into this created universe, how much more do you think He cares for you and me who are made in His image? We are the ones that He sent His Son, Jesus, to earth for so that He could take on our sin and give us an opportunity to be reconnected with Him.

You are also immensely valuable to others.

I recently read a quote by Betty Reese that I absolutely love, “If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.”

4. Consider what is being gained by all the “what ifs” (6:27)

Many times “what if” becomes a tool that enhances our worries instead of helping solve problems. If nothing is being gained by it, don’t use it.

While working on camp projects and trying to come up with fun and innovative ideas this type of question was asked a lot. “What if we tried this…” was not an uncommon phrase in our planning sessions. This is when “what if” is actually beneficial, but this is not always the case.

“Take every thought captive…” is an active command. It requires being aware of what is going through your mind and if it is not valuable, life filled, God-centered thinking, it has to be booted out the door.

This is one of my biggest struggles and a daily, sometimes minute-by-minute battle. I have to constantly keep in check if my line of thinking is actually helping or if it is just a stumbling block.

5. Seek God first (6:33)

God already knows. He cares. So why do we usually seek His counsel last?

For irony sake I am listing this at the end. Well, that and there is hope that the last point is what is best remembered for both of us!

When I have a problem I guiltily admit that I usually run to someone else before I bring the matter before God. If no one is around it often shows up on Twitter or my Facebook status so at least someone can hear about it.

Why do we seek out others or our own solutions before consulting God? How much less time would I spend worrying if I just brought it to God to begin with?

So, if you are like me and your thinking patterns give you panic attacks because of possible impending doom two months down the road, or even two hours from now, then maybe we should both spend a little time working on trusting God with everything and remember:

  • Life is more than whatever problem you are facing.
  • Give your brain and soul a break and take in the beauty of God in creation.
  • Find out how valuable you are to God and to others.
  • Consider your thought life.
  • Take your worry to God first.

Do you have other suggestions or comments on how to get rid of worry?

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:34)

Wave Goodbye to Worry (Pt 1)

worried pridge
What if... what if... what if...

Summer camp is drawing ever closer. A few people have already started to arrive. The build crew departs for campsite Monday morning and I join them Wednesday to begin our pre-camp with all the volunteers. I’m a little stressed that I have forgotten something, will not finish something or simply will mess up something.


What if… What if… What if… 

To add to the fun, I just received notice in my inbox that Ukraine is changing their visa types in September. From the way it sounds it means another visa run, a higher visa fee, plus the cost of registering in country. I’m more than a little frustrated, and since I am already $4500 short on funds for the year, I must say I am also rather concerned that it may send me home earlier than planned.

What if… What if… What if… 

Does anyone else get tripped up by “what if” thoughts? 

As I scurried about my day, preoccupied with a long list of things to worry about, I was reminded of Matthew 6: 25-34. You know that whole don’t worry about anything ’cause God’s got it all covered passage. It’s a lot easier to “Amen” that passage when you aren’t looking at a budget in need of a miracle or when you aren’t responsible for something huge. It’s a lot easier to say, “Oh God is in control” when you still have a false sense that if he forgets or fails you can still handle the situation. 

So how do we kick our “what if” worries to the curb? 

1. Remember that life is more than your present experience, needs and desires (6:25) 

It is so easy to get caught up in the moment, at least for me it is. My senses become overwhelmed. My emotions get carried away. It is important to remember that this life is so much more than a budget,  a mountain of laundry to be done or good and bad experiences. 

In light of eternity and God’s purpose, my budget and camp plans do not really seem like a crisis any longer. I know God wants to touch student’s lives at camp and He will, regardless of what I may mess up or forget. I also know God called me to Ukraine, and the visa changes haven’t taken Him by surprise. 

A proper perspective kills our worries! 

2. Take some time to sit and notice creation. (6:26, 28-30) 

Regardless of where we reside, we are surrounded by God’s creation everyday. Take a few moments to notice the intricate design of a butterfly or consider that there are approximately 24,000 species of butterflies. Recognize the beautiful colors that God paints the sky with every day. 

Notice how God takes care of His creation and it is easier to remember that if He cares this much for them, He will also take care of you.

This leads into #3….

Click here for Wave Goodbye to Worry (Pt 2)

Row, Row, Row Your Boat: Lessons Learned

row boat
#58 my trusty transporter down the Dnieper

“Learning is like rowing upstream; not to advance is to drop back”
~Chinese proverb

I took my first trip down the Dnieper in a row boat a couple of weeks ago. It was a great afternoon with a couple of the students, and a few lessons learned along the way.

Lesson #1
To get somewhere you have to first leave the dock

THIS  can be the HARDEST part!

Natalie and I debated for a few minutes before even stepping in the boat since neither of us had any previous rowing experience. Like all good beginners we got stuck trying to just get out from among the other boats and into the open water. It was frustrating.

There are times when I have amazing ideas and carefully constructed methods of execution, but “stepping into the boat” is the first point of faith meeting my fear and it makes me hesitate. Other times I have zero motivation to move those ideas from my head/computer screen into reality because getting away from the crowd is difficult and navigating a new idea can be tricky business.

Lesson #2
You may have to change your team

Natalie and I had zero idea what we were doing, so after watching us struggle to no avail our friends came back to our rescue and we switched partners (but seriously who thought it was a good idea to put the two newbies and the two pros together?!) Now it isn’t that Natalie and I don’t work well together, because we do, but in this instance our inexperience was hindering us from accomplishing our goal.

Most likely the team you use to start undertaking a dream will not be the team that finishes the process with you.

Sometimes you need certain people to gain the momentum needed because they have the understanding or the skill set. Now maybe those skills can be learned (I figured out how to row eventually that afternoon), but it takes time and maybe it’s easier to learn it on the open water rather than trying to dodge a hundred metal boats at the dock.

Lesson #3
Getting somewhere takes work.

Obvious I know, but if you just leave it to the current you will probably NOT end up where you want to be. It’s that whole aim at nothing and that’s what you will get concept.

After Caleb and I were in the middle of the river waiting for our friends to join up, we noticed the current was actually taking us back to the dock so we had to do a little more work to get further downstream.

Sometimes I get started on things (like keeping this blog updated) and I have such lofty goals, but by the time I manage to get away from the dock I am already tired, but the danger in resting so soon is that you just end up back at the dock.

Now it is good to rest and relax, even God took a day off from creating the universe, but you have to be aware of when to rest and when to work. I get this one all mixed up because I either want to do nothing or I want to work 24/7 and conquer the world too.

Lesson #4
Don’t be afraid to go against the flow; it helps build your strength.

At the end of our time rowing I had to go against the current to get back to where we needed to be. It felt like we were going absolutely nowhere and my muscles were screaming in protest at my efforts, but it had to be done.

Going against the flow is rarely fun. People don’t understand what you are trying to do and it is irritatingly slow work, but it is essential nonetheless. I am pretty certain no one has ever tried to live out a dream or impact the world without sometime meeting opposition.

Not all resistance is bad, and even though it is a painful process it helps strengthen you for the future.

So those are my lessons from an afternoon of rowing.
Which of these most speaks to you at the moment?

  • Are you looking at the boat and deciding if it is even worth attempting a new venture?
  • Are you trying to get out of the dock? Do you have the right team to get started?
  • Maybe you are somewhere in the middle of the river trying to learn to row?
  • Have you settled for letting the current take you wherever or are you in the fight against the flow?

 

Tuesdays Will Never Be the Same Again

Thai in the Park Day with Mary
Resting in the park after a full day of excitement
Have you ever had a friend that just understood you?

Someone who knows how to make you laugh in any situation, knows when to offer a shoulder and cry with you, knows when you are thinking something even if you don’t say it?

The kind of friend that is more than a friend, someone that is like family.

I have been blessed in my life to have many close friends. Some of these friends have been part of my life for years (and will remain for years to come I hope) and others are only physically present in my life for a season, but the bond is no less real or strong.

Here in Ukraine Tuesday’s are known in my weekly calendar as “Mary Villa day”. This past semester it was my official day off during the week. Instead of hiding away, it is guaranteed that at some point point during Tuesday, if not all day, I will be hanging out with my friend Mary. She has become my closest friend in this beautiful, foreign land I currently call home.

But Mary flies home to the States on Friday morning, and I’m honestly in tears thinking about it.

She’s an amazing person and I’m so thankful to have her as part of my life. I know it isn’t forever goodbye, but life is sure going to be different without her here.

So please pray for her as she transitions back to life in America and as she discerns God’s will for her in the future.
And, selfishly, pray for me too… it’s not going to be an easy transition on this side either. Thank God for the internet 🙂

Remember and Fight

Pregnant Warrior
Photo Credit: dizznbonn (Creative Commons)

 

Do you ever feel like you’ve lost your fight?

Don’t know what you are fighting for anymore?

Sometimes I stop and think, “WHY am I here?? WHAT am I really doing??” Then God reminds me.
Recently I’ve been spending time with Nehemiah. Several things have caught my attention there, but one is “REMEMBER AND FIGHT”.

When Nehemiah heard of the walls destruction he wept, he mourned, and he interceded. His prayer in the first chapter is filled with “we” not “they”. He identified himself with those who had survived captivity.

God placed rebuilding the wall on Nehemiah’s heart, even though he was far away and in an unlikely position to do anything about it. Nehemiah could have just prayed and fasted. Nehemiah could have just turned to the King for help. And he did, but he also went to encourage them to actually rebuild.

Sometimes I lose my servant’s heart. I get wrapped up in my feelings, my situations, my _____ (fill in the blank). But God didn’t put Ukraine on my heart to just sit, weep and mourn. He sent me to help build.

And He hasn’t placed you wherever you are to just sit. Whatever your passions are, He hasn’t placed those inside of you only for dreaming.


REMEMBER AND FIGHT
“Do not be afraid of them. REMEMBER the Lord, great and awesome, AND FIGHT for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses.” Nehemiah 4:14 (emphasis mine)

“…with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon.” Nehemiah 4:17

1. REMEMBER

We must remember the Lord, who is great and awesome. With Him all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)

We must also remember the things God has placed on our hearts. For some of us it has been a while and life gets in the way. Sometimes we lose focus and sometimes we just forget. This is one reason I think journaling is so important, and I admit I’ve even been slacking on that this year.

When we remember the Lord, whom we serve and we remember the things He has laid on our heart then we forget to fear. It is then that we find the boldness to step out in faith.


2. FIGHT
We have to fight for those God has placed in our lives. It isn’t a physical fight (Ephesians 6:12), but we are most certainly in a battle and our weapons are already provided by God if we have clothed ourselves properly (Ephesians 6:10-20).

If you knew someone was planning to harm your family or your property, chances are pretty high that you would make whatever preparations necessary to ensure their safety, to protect them. Why don’t we do the same spiritually?

It is no secret that we have an adversary (1 Peter 5:8). We need to be fighting for our families, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and our nation. I know I am thankful for those in my life that fought for me.

Who has God placed in your life that you can intercede on their behalf?
What dream has God placed in your heart that needs fighting for?

God has recently reminded me of who He is, who I am in Him, and why I am here. What are you remembering and who/what are you fighting for?

For the Cat Lovers

Just for a little fun today, since I’ll be posting some more serious blogs later this week.

If you are a cat lover, and especially if you have indoor cats, I think you’ll enjoy this little video. This particular film is about a hungry cat that is trying to wake its owner to feed him.

The Simon’s Cat cartoon series is one of my favorites because it reminds me of some of my dear furry friends that I love and miss so much. This one is only a minute and half, but if you like it there are more at the Simon’s Cat web site.

 

Christine’s Tribute Blend

me with Christine and her birthday presentLast month my good friend Christine celebrated her birthday. She is a fellow coffee addict and she collects Starbucks mugs. Her favorite movie is That Thing You Do and I had an idea…

I love all things artistic, but often avoid doing anything artistic because I’m a perfectionist. God has been graciously revealing to me how I have snubbed this gift instead of growing it. So this is my baby step creation.

The background is actually stained with coffee grounds, which made the room smell wonderful while I was doing this and, of course, I drank the coffee made from the grounds. I know you shouldn’t use something acidic on canvas but I wanted to experiment.

Christine's Tribute Blend

Drumming to Beat Cancer

Katya and I at DrumStrong
Katya and me at DrumStrong

“The rhythm is in your blood.” – African Proverb

The  sound drifted through the open windows and called to me even as I walked down the street. It was a beautiful noise that could only be created by dozens of drums of varied sizes united under a single cause.

That cause was DrumStrong Ukraine, part of an international movement based out of Charlotte, NC that holds drumming events to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. This year was the first time the event was held in Kyiv and money was raised to bring hope to a little Ukrainian boy who is fighting to beat cancer.

My student friend Katya joined me for the event, which lasted five hours on a Sunday afternoon, and I loved watching her soak in the atmosphere while trying out her new skills from our previous drum lesson.

It was a very exciting afternoon as we connected with others globally for a common cause, and I look forward to taking part next year no matter which country I happen to be in.

 

DrumStrong Ukraine
Photo taken from DrumStrong Ukraine