What IF We Were Real?

Thank you Jesus
Expressing thankfulness. Photo by Helen Wolf

What if we were real?

That was the question posed to more than 70 women this past weekend out in a tiny Ukrainian village. Just what might happen if we stopped the charades and just became fantastically, ridiculously, good, bad, ugly, beautifully real?

As we listened to testimonies of the leadership team that recounted events of each of their lives, it was a powerful reminder that Jesus is the One who saves, delivers, heals, and brings hope, life and freedom to those who call on His name.

We worshiped, ate, laughed, cried, created, thanked, discussed and played games together. New memories were created and friendships were formed. Vulnerability was expected and accountability offered. Grace and mercy were extended and maybe a little tough love was also doled out.

I am incredibly thankful for the leadership team that put together this past weekend. They served and poured out and I know that many lives were touched, including mine. I came home exhausted, but the good kind of exhausted where you know that God was certainly present and, though your brain feels like mush and the introvert is screaming for some alone time, you wouldn’t trade a moment of that precious time you experienced with your sisters in Christ.

And that is what would happen if we were real. We’d know that God is above all and He can use our failures, faults, sins and weaknesses, and that there is no condemnation for those who are in Him and that our sisters don’t condemn us either. We’d walk away feeling refreshed, renewed, hopeful, loved, cherished, healed and empowered not just to become more like Christ ourselves but to share God’s love with a hurting, searching, dying world.

moments of being real
Moments of Being Real. Photo by Helen Wolf
ICA Women's Retreat Group 2012 Photo
ICA Women’s Retreat Group 2012. Photo by Andrew Kelly.

Silly Expectations?

taken from allthingsd.com

Silly me. I thought that walking up to the door and turning the handle would mean the door would open.

Wrong. Apparently I still need to work on my expectations.

No matter how I tried, the latch remained firmly in place. Of course I was also already ten minutes late in leaving for a meeting.

“Ummmm, Nadia… I can’t get out of the door.”

There is something you should know here. My roommate and I approach 99.9% of life differently. While I am concerned about doing everything right and not messing anything up, Nadia just jumps in and starts doing something.

Sometimes it means that we don’t have electricity for a few hours because she tackles the sparking wires in the wall since our electrician doesn’t have a cell phone to call. But most of the time, it works out okay and it drives me crazy that I’m too timid to react this way. Honestly it also makes me angry at times because I want to be able to say, “See, that is why I didn’t try to do it myself.”

So Nadia appears with screwdrivers to remove the door handle. But even once it was removed, the latch refused to budge. I was mentally calculating the chances that another fire would start in the apartment while we were locked inside with no way out, quickly coming to the conclusion that with my luck in 2012 the odds were too high.

While mentally preparing a “what to do if…” list and sending a message to my lunch meeting, Nadia just kept at trying to open the door. She is a persistent one and somehow she opened it as I ran out in a flurry to accomplish my now delayed schedule of the day.

I left frustrated, once more, with my home here that seems to me extremely unreliable in the safety department. I’m sure Nadia probably went about the rest of her day and didn’t give it a second thought.

I’d like to blame it on the fact that, being Ukrainian, Nadia expects nothing to work as it is meant to and, being American, I expect that it will work.

But then I wonder, do I hold too tightly to this expectation of safety as I perceive it instead of trusting that God is in control and will protect me? Why don’t I jump in and attack the problem head on instead of being concerned about  all of the “what ifs”? Is it bad that I approach things this way?

Or am I really just beating my head against a cultural wall here and for my own sanity should just move out of the apartment?

So many questions I have. But one thing is certain, my silly expectation of feeling safe and totally in control… shattered completely.



When Thank You Seems Too Small

There are so many thoughts swirling around in this little head of mine today. Words about politics and legalized marijuana and other things I cannot understand so I will refrain from commenting about them.

Creative Commons via davidvanderwekke.com

Then there are shouts of thankfulness and the moments of today that have left me speechless in a different way, a humbled, overwhelmed, and amazed way. I choose to focus on and share one of these moments.

I will begin by saying that it is very difficult for me to receive from others. It isn’t that I don’t like gifts. I love them actually. It’s that I’ve never come to terms with the expectations that come with gifts. And appropriate responses always elude me. “Thank you” seems to simple, but elaborate sentences seem like you’re trying to hard.

Maybe I just over think the entire process.

So how do you respond when someone blesses you with a trip? Not like a flight somewhere that is necessary because you have to get home or are being forced to leave a country and someone covers you so you don’t get thrown in prison or something, but the kind of trip that is simply for rest and to spend time with others that you consider family and have not seen in way too long.

My response was staring at the gmail screen on my cell phone with a slack jaw and bugged out eyes,  as I tried to regain my wit enough to finish preparing for my upcoming Bible study time, and fumbled with the touchscreen in an effort to send at least some kind of acknowledging response.

To me this is no small thing, and I am so incredibly humbled and thankful for the upcoming opportunity to rest for a few days. It shouts, “You are loved and cared for,” in the midst of all the internal and external noise that often shouts a completely different message. 

One of my first thoughts on the matter was, “How will I ever repay this kindness?”
And, again, I was reminded of God’s gift to us that can never be repaid because it is so above and beyond our ability to repay. He didn’t offer us the gift of salvation and life eternal so that we would feel enslaved to somehow pay Him back, but to express His lavish love for you and me.

So I thought, maybe it isn’t meant to have a monetary value attached to it that requires me to mentally calculate my debt with interest. Maybe, just maybe, I should view it simply as an expression of love and simply say “Thank You.”

Have you ever received a kindness so big in your eyes that you were left speechless? How did you express your gratitude?

From Villainry to Photography and All the in Between

Last week was the kind of week that seemed to never end and, yet, breezed by all too quickly. Time is such a funny thing.

Just to keep you up-to-date with life on this side, here are the highlights:

The week always begins at 5:15 a.m. as I drag myself from a cozy couch and head out to church for practice. We had a guest speaker, Jim Anderson, author of Unmasked: Exposing the Cultural Sexual Assault. He is very passionate about restoring women and challenging men and calling the church back to purity. After our Sunday services, I met up with my friend and director of A21, an anti-trafficking organization that has a base here in Kyiv and we talked about the ways God is moving here and around the world. Such an encouraging afternoon. Then I spent time with two of my friends and CCX alumni and talked about life over a cup of tea.

Hours and hours of meetings. Planning and planning and planning.

CCX joined with the Student Ministry at ICA church and put on a Heroes vs. Villains Costume Party. Many hours of Pinterest exploring and creating props paid off as we enjoyed a fun-filled evening. *whew* So much pressure!! I went as a villain – The Butterfly Effect. I should probably send some apologies to the upper eastern US, but villains don’t apologize.

I love that moments like this are just part of normal life for me.

English club at Shevchenko and a discussion on politics (ick!!)… it was the most frightening topic I could think of for Halloween and, thankfully, one of our guys on the team was a political science major.

Spent the morning creating a brochure for our Winter Camp in January called “Signs”. We will be studying passages from the book of Romans  and talking about what are some of the signs of a life in Christ. Then jetted off to English club at Linguistics university and more political discussions. Finished off the day with sushi with my dear sister Inna.

The afternoon was filled with conversations with students at Shevchenko and followed by movie club in the evening. I was in charge this week so I introduced Spielberg’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial to our students. Some loved it. Some weren’t so impressed. Can’t please everyone, right?

E.T. … how could you not love the little guy?!?

We held our Interpreter’s Seminar, hosting 18 of our students from different universities (though 1/3 were from Shevchenko… woohooo my club rocks!!), we gave them lots of advice and tips and then the practical chance to interpret for some native speakers. For many students this was their first time attempting to interpret for a native English speaker. It is always a great day, but long and exhausting. I was, of course, one of the speakers, but also the photographer for the day. I borrowed my friend Christine’s Nikon D90 and could barely lift my hand 8 hours and 4 gb of photos later.

Interpreter’s Seminar participants

After the seminar, I rushed over to ICA for our monthly prayer night and thanked God for the couple of hours to sit in His presence, focused on listening and praising Him.

Then came Sunday morning and the 5:15 alarm again…