Puddle Jumping

The day started out windy, grey and cold. Without our building’s heat being on (four more days… four more days) and the temperatures nearing the freezing point outside, I awoke shivering and quite frankly in a foul mood.

Briskly walking to the metro I found myself behind a mother and son. Normally it would annoy me at their slow pace and the biting wind that I am trying to quickly get out of, but today was different.

The little boy looked like he was about three. He was dressed in a puffy navy blue coat and black rain boots. Good call for mom on the rain boots because when I noticed him, he was splashing in one of the many sidewalk puddles that the rest of us were trying to avoid.

He splashed. Stopped. Giggled. Splashed some more. Stopped.

And I’m pretty certain this sequence would have continued except that his mom grabbed him by the hand to encourage him to move along.

Bringing him out of the puddle she again let go of his hand. And here is the point that made me smile, laugh actually.

He did a little dance. A small three year old happy “I splashed around in the mud puddle” jig.

And it made me wonder…

At what point in life do we forget the joy of puddle jumping and rain dancing? 

I was planning to come home and do my own drawing to add to the post but, alas, it is 11:30 pm and I just arrived home from the day and for this post to actually be on “Day TWO” and for me to keep to my midnight bedtime, you’ll just have to go with the sketch from my notebook this afternoon

Remember that time I challenged my students?

I love TED talks.  Seriously. You can find so many interesting and exciting topics there from leaders in various fields. And it is way better to lose several hours over there than on YouTube (in my humble opinion).

So when I stumbled across Google engineer Matt Cutts and his inspiring 3 minute and 27 second talk about trying something new for thirty days I thought, “Hey! English club… this could be fun.”

Not everyone gets excited about setting goals so I thought maybe if we had a 30 day challenge that some students could get inspired to try something for the month. I find goal setting to be a practical way of taking steps toward the bigger dreams that we have and I really like practical. Maybe it’s a cultural thing?

What you don’t always consider when you plan these things is that it means you should also challenge yourself to something for 30 days.

There were some awesome goals in English club today: to play the harmonica every day for 30 days, to learn a new word every day, to be able to do 20 pull ups, to write poetry, etc.

A few weeks ago I gave myself the challenge of going to bed by midnight so I could be a nicer person, and after understanding that my poor body just doesn’t accept abuse and no sleep the way it once did. However, it seemed a cop out to just go with that as my challenge. I mean I cannot ask the students to undertake something I promised to be asking them about over the next month if I am not doing something. Right?

So here we go folks. Good, bad or ugly I asked the students to keep me accountable to…

:: drum roll please ::

Blogging every day.

Yes, I finally committed to that elusive goal (well for the next 30 days at least). So here’s to day one and the students of Shevchenko’s Cross Cultural Club.

Below is the Ted talk video that inspired today’s English club. Maybe it will inspire you to try something for the next thirty days and if so please share! I would also love to hear if  you have any favorite TED talks!

Enjoy and be inspired 🙂
(it may take a few minutes to load, or you can watch it here at TED.com)

Marked by fear?

Etched in jagged red lines reminiscent of the Peavey music font, “FEAR” peaked out from underneath its colored cotton hideaway.

image courtesy of padguy at deviantart.com

“Why do you have the word fear written on your arm?” a voice from nearby cut into my thoughts.

The question shocked me as I glanced over and realized my movement had unknowingly uncovered my secret.

“She noticed. No one ever notices,” I thought to myself.I fumbled for an answer, any answer, that would not make me seem like a crazy person as I slid my sleeve down past the incriminating marks on my forearm.

I don’t remember what finally tumbled out of my mouth, but I’m sure it was insufficient. I didn’t even know the answer for why I had taken a razor and marked myself with “fear”.

It’s been a long time since that moment back in college that still plays fresh in my memory, however fear is still a constant battle for me and has been for as long as I can remember.

As a child I would have panic attacks if mom was not home when I thought she should be or when I tried to wrap my head around the idea of eternity. Last week I had an anxiety attack on my cross country overnight train as I struggled to focus on God instead of the mounting fear in my chest.

Sometimes I have fear and anxiety in check, and other times they simply seem to overpower me. And honestly I think it has become so normal in life that I’ve just accepted it as something that always will be.

But I don’t think that’s okay. But that is NOT okay!

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.  1 John 4:18 (NASB)

No fear in love.

God’s love is perfect and so it reasons that if we are abiding in His constant, unfailing love then that will drive away our fear.

2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (NKJV)

But there are times when I’m not walking in love and invite fear in. I take the bait. I fall for it. And I certainly pay the price. I lose my power. I’m certainly not feeling the love and you can forget soundness of mind.

Something tells me that I’m not the only one.

So how do we walk in perfect love instead of gripping fear?

Seek God first.
“I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).

I usually want to run to someone for help, to hear me out, to hold me and calm me. When I want someone’s opinion and advice, God should be the first one I turn to. He is the one who delivers from fear, so why not run to Him to begin with?

Prayer and petition WITH thanksgiving.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

With thanksgiving seems to be a vital key to this verse, in my opinion. When we come in prayer with thanksgiving it alters our perception of the problem in the first place. Thanksgiving ushers in the peace of God because we are reminded of His faithfulness, His trutworthiness, His unfailing love and then that guards our hearts and minds against the torment of fear.

Remember that life is about more than material things.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?’” (Luke 12:22-26, NIV).

A lot of anxiety and fear comes when we start dwelling on the future and we think that we are lacking or will be. How will the loans get paid and the family still be fed? How will I ever be able to afford the rent this month? What if…?

Jesus says that all our worrying doesn’t add even a single hour to our lives, and I dare say that it subtracts hours from them. So why not entrust it all to Him?

I am tired of being marked by fear. It may not be etched into my arm any longer but it’s hold on me has been too strong for too long. 

How do you deal with fear?

Where Two or Three Are Gathered

“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18: 19-20 (NASB)

Have you ever considered what a wonderful promise this is? It only takes two or three gathered together in the name of Jesus united in prayer and He promises to be there.

Just think about it for a moment.

 

 

So it is with great excitement that I can share that last Friday one of our Shevchenko students, Marta, met with me and Terry in the university cafeteria and we prayed together. We prayed for each other. We prayed for the university. We prayed for the students.

Where two or three are gathered.

 

And we have committed to meet every Friday afternoon to pray together. Of course, we are hoping that more Christian students will show up and have a heart for their peers, their campuses.

We look forward to what God will do from this place, knowing that everything begins from a foundation of prayer.

Where two or three are gathered.
We know God is here with us.

Amazing Blessings with a Bit of Coffee on the Side

Me and Bria at the top of the hill overlooking L’viv.

There are times in life when you just need to get away, shut down the computer, and catch a train to someplace on the other side of the country.

Friday morning I arrived before the sun in L’viv, Ukraine,  what has perhaps become my favorite place in the world. Yes, I mean that statement. My friend Bria was at the train station at 5 a.m. to pick me up… that is serious friendship.

I’m not sure I’ve introduced you to the Blessings, but rest assured they live up to their family name. Originally they are from Texas, but have been serving in Ukraine since the early 90s. Mark and Rhonda pastor a church plant, Living Word Church, and are also building Bethel Ministry House. Bria, Lindsay, and Krista are their daughters and I have come to consider them all good friends (ask me the crazy story of how we met sometime). They all have so much going on that you should really just go follow their blog to find out more about them and all that God is doing through them!

I cannot begin to tell you how much I love just spending time with this family. My excuse for traveling this weekend was the L’viv Coffee Festival, which believe me I drank my share of that beautiful black liquid, but what really made the weekend was conversations and life with the Blessings.

Living as a single missionary far from home means that for my timid little self a lot of days it simply takes courage just to walk out my door. I miss family and all the quirkiness that comes with it. I miss the kind of friendships where you can talk about anything and sometimes you laugh and sometimes you cry, and it’s okay, because you don’t have to pretend or be cool but you just get to be yourself. That’s how I feel with the Blessings.

Oh village life… the cows heading home for the day. Why, oh why, do I live in a city?!?! I LOVE THIS!!

It’s not that life is perfect in L’viv by any means or that they have all the answers. But time and again I found us discussing the deep and the meaningful, the confusing and the frustrating, the beautiful and the amazing that comes with trying to walk in obedience to Christ. Then a few minutes later we would be laughing away at some silly 80s video (oh Cyndi Lauper) or random bursts of songs or quotes.  And I was certain Jesus loves me when Rhonda asked me Monday morning how I felt about eggs and grits for breakfast… yes, I’m sure I heard the Hallelujah chorus being sung.

Please pray for the Blessing family. This week they are moving from the old part of their home into the newer part so that the roof can be redone on the older side. Lindsay is recovering from bacterial pneumonia and Krista had to leave the country last week because of visa issues and is on her way to the States for the next three months and Bria is finishing up an album that should be released soon (can’t wait!!!). So they have a lot happening and are trusting God for strength and provision as they seek to walk out what they sense God is leading them in. They are truly amazing and I’m so thankful for each of them.