Leaving for Staff Conference

Yesterday was a full day of spending time with students I love and celebrating Kyiv’s birthday, but as the day came to a close it ended with an anxiety attack unlike I’ve had in a long time.

In the evening I attended an outdoor classical music concert downtown with one of my girls. The music was beautiful and the singers were amazing. However, over the course of the two hours, the swelling crowd started pressing in more and more. The combination of standing in one spot for so long, much of the day in the sun and tiredness settled in to an unwelcome inability to breathe.

I prayed the entire hour trip home to just be able to get home without getting sick and to be able to lie down. Thankfully on the crowded metro I was able to get a seat and then did something I rarely do and took a bus home from the metro. Unfortunately arriving home I discovered our elevator was broken and I had to climb six flights of stairs in the dark with hardly any breath. I’m certain God got me home last night.

I’m better today but still shaky. I don’t have very much strength and am light headed, but am about to leave for staff conference. Please pray for me as I tackle my one hour trip to the train station with luggage and then a 15 hour train journey.

With that said, I will be away from internet mostly for the next 11 days so if you send me any messages please don’t be offended if I don’t have the chance to respond quickly.



Getting Rid of the Dirt and Dust

taken from http://blog.nassauinn.com/?p=801


I hate cleaning.

So you can imagine my enthusiasm when my alarm sounded Monday morning to signal that I should remove myself from my bed’s comfort and present myself in the CCX office for Spring cleaning.

Since I am rarely in the office, except for meetings and required events, I find myself even more reluctant to spend half a day cleaning up messes that I usually had no part in.

However, today when I needed to drop into the office to turn in camp registration forms, the first thing my senses noticed was how clean the office is. It was as if the room was brighter, more cheerful, and definitely smelled better.

And it made me think.

Sometimes I find the need to come in and help clean up a mess that someone else created or that just came to be from the death and decay of time.

I am often reluctant to be involved in these situations because, let’s face it, it’s just not fun, you have to get your hands dirty, and sometimes the things you hope to save just aren’t salvageable.

There are also times when clean up needs to be done in my own life.

Relationships have become cluttered with the distractions of life or dusty from neglect. Cobwebs and creatures seem to hang in foundational areas like prayer, fasting and evangelism.

Therefore … let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress…(NLT) Hebrews 12:1

It is difficult work to thoroughly clean. It requires attention to detail and time. It means setting priorities, purging, and simplifying.

But after the work is done, we find that we can breathe easier again.  The weight seems lighter. There is joy and the grime is wiped off our lights allowing us to again shine as God has created us.

Are there areas in your heart and life that are in need of some Spring cleaning?

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.(KJV) Psalm 51:10

Girl Meets God: A Review

I became intrigued when I discovered on the free bookshelf at church Lauren F. Winner’s book girl meets GOD. It caught my eye for two reasons: my impending trip to Israel and my love of memoirs.

From the cover:

The child of a Jewish father and a lapsed Southern Baptist mother, Lauren F. Winner chose to become an Orthodox Jew. But even as she was observing Sabbath rituals and studying Jewish law, Lauren was increasingly drawn to Christianity. Courageously leaving what she loved, she eventually converted. In Girl Meets God, this appealing woman takes us through a year in her Christian life as she attempts to reconcile both sides of her religious identity.

My thoughts:

Personally I love reading about journeys, peoples memories, struggles and lives. Seeing the world through the eyes of someone else can help give perspective that one may not otherwise gain. While reading girl meets GOD one of the aspects I love so much is Winner’s honesty. For example in the beginning she is talking about visiting a Reform synagogue and writes, “The fact that it is Sukkot doesn’t seem to be part of the service at all. Why bother at playing at Judaism, I wonder, annoyed, if you don’t move by the rhythms of the Jewish calendar?” (p. 15)  Through reading Winner’s memoir you get to see Christianity from the perspective of someone who had chosen Orthodox Judaism first, and then after her conversion you are able to hear how she views Judaism from a Christian perspective.

Just like life this journey, her conversion, her questions and the answers (or non-answers sometimes) don’t all fit into a nice, neatly packaged box. Maybe that is another reason I like it. Sometimes it is difficult to follow the trajectory of where the book is going, where Winner is going, but, again, that doesn’t bother me so much because it’s the same with life.

While this isn’t a book that I would want to read again and again, it was enjoyable enough that I decided to buy another book by Winner.

Lost in Time

Life never stops flying at you. In actuality it seems that the velocity exponentially increases to the point that a month seems to be a week and a day mere minutes.

(Moms I don’t know how you do it. Let me just say that I have the utmost respect for you.)

Days when I am not connected to my computer screen are too few by far. It is rare times when I don’t wake up with a list of things to do, 9 out of 10 which require a computer program of some sort. Then it seems once the laptop cover is lifted, I glance up to find half a day gone.

How did I come to this place? Surrounded by modern conveniences that save time, yet somehow having lost time completely.

I’ve been frustrated lately. Discontent with my own laziness, self-absorption and lack of urgency. Feeling that I am too okay with life just passing swiftly by.

In the quiet moments before the hum of the computer fan starts its work and in the evening (in actuality it is early morning) darkness before sleep overtakes, God has been reminding me of a few things.

Reminders of being a child of God.
All relationships must be cultivated and that requires TIME.

Reminders of the passions He placed in my heart.
Dreams take hard work and TIME.

Reminders to live…
Fully, abundantly, making the most of the TIME that’s been given.

Maybe it’s time to make some changes.

Do you find time slipping away from you or do you have some wisdom to pass along?

Pleading for Change

Wrinkled hands reach out
Grasping at the air
Pleading for change

Her eyes piercing
His eyes averting
Yet still
Pleading for change

A softer hand reaches out
The other clutching a child
Both pleading for change

Do we remember
To take up the cause of the fatherless
And side with the widow
Pleading for change

Masses of humanity pass
Rushing to the rhythm of a city
Pleading for change

Who will call out for justice
And defend the oppressed
Pleading for change

Often my feet join with theirs
Following instead of leading
A stranger called to a foreign land
Pleading for change

Surprised by Oxford: A Book Review

Carolyn Weber’s Surprised by Oxford was a book that I simply could not put down after I first picked it up. This engaging memoir shares Weber’s journey from agnosticism to Christianity during her university studies, the struggles and joys she encountered, and she skillfully weaves in literary quotes from some of the world’s favorite writers.
I was drawn to this book because of the author’s agnostic stance before her university experience and the fact that I work with university students. I expected that since she graduated from Oxford I would certainly need to keep a dictionary handy, but was surprised to find that I only had to reference it a couple of times. In my opinion Weber’s writing is intellectual, yet on a level that isn’t out of reach but rather quite enjoyable, honest, and sometimes humorous.
All in all, I enjoyed this book immensely and feel it can help me to relate to the students I work with on a daily basis.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <[…]> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <[…]> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Residing in Legality

Recent weeks have brought many phone calls related to obtaining my legal status here in Ukraine.

After returning from Israel with my miraculous visa and hiring someone to navigate the maze of bureaucratic control, there were still a few minor hiccups in the process.

“Stephanie, there is a problem because your date of entry back into Ukraine was under your old visa not your new one and so you may need to cross the border again”

That was the phone call that interrupted one of my days shortly after returning with my visa and my first reaction was to cry. It didn’t come because I believed God couldn’t handle it, because obviously from my visa trip it was clear that He could take care of things. It just came from frustration and that helpless feeling that comes when you try to do all the right things and still something is wrong.

Thankfully that speed bump was handled and apparently even the woman who gave the final okay for the situation stated, “Yes embassy workers can sometimes be jerks”. (I’m glad someone else recognized this.) It was determined that it was indeed the embassy’s fault, not mine, and I was not required to leave and cross a border.

Aside from that there were several phone calls that were basically “Can you get here as soon as possible?” or “The price has gone up to … can you bring it as soon as possible”.

My personal favorite  was, “Steph, he cannot meet you this afternoon but thinks that you can go to OVIR alone and get the documents required.” Just for the record, I don’t even think I could have FOUND the building and certainly would have taken one look at the frighteningly stern looking lady behind the desk (if I did find her) and would have lost all ability to speak any language. I’m glad to know that people have such great faith in my ability to navigate the language and system here though.

My posvidka or registration card. I blurred out all the info and my photo since this is the internet but THIS is what lets me stay legal. Amazing how valuable a piece of paper with some ink can be.

Glitches and a few wrecked nerves aside I am OVERJOYED to announce that I AM REGISTERED IN UKRAINE and am now an official temporary resident!!!

What does this mean?
Unless the law changes again (which let’s face it is always a possibility), it means that next year instead of needing to leave the country for a visa I will just need to extend my registration. While I love traveling, I am quite excited to know that if I do it next year it will be for purposes of rest and not visa hassles.

Thank you  for your prayers and support throughout this lengthy process. Without doubt you are an integral part in the ministry that is happening here.

I’m also thankful since several of the students had circulated plans to kidnap me and keep me anyway if the legal side of things didn’t work out. Their point of view was, “It just means you can never leave the country. No problem!” I’m sure my parents, at least, will be happy that wasn’t the solution that had to be taken. 🙂