Grace, Love, and Joy

As sleep seems to be eluding me once again, I have decided to finally make myself write again.  So many ideas of topics and posts have swirled through my head in the last couple of weeks, but I didn’t write any of them down.  So as my state continues to be mostly closed due to the ridiculously cold weather (-14 F (-25 C)) and very heavy snow, I’m finally ready to write at least a couple of my thoughts down and share them with you.

Transitioning to college has been an interesting things.  At first I was on a crazy high of new excitements and adventures, then it lowered to a more realistic picture of my new reality which had its ups and downs.  And now that I’ve been home for Christmas break, I’ve gone into a more reflective mood.  I was told by wise people in my life to enjoy my time at home (in highschool) because once I moved out I would never have a time like this again.  It’s so true.  I love college, but it’s become my new home.

Being back in my room reminds me of why I loved it so much.  On sunny days I was surrounded by a cheerful natural yellow light as I lay on my bed reading.  My bookshelves covered half of one wall and I could find any book I owned instantly although they weren’t ordered in a fashion that would make sense to most people.  My little brother slept on the other side of the room and during the day he would play legos on his train table.  The fish tank made a cheerful noise in the background which helped block out some of the crazy sounds that naturally arise from being part of a large family.

Now the room has been reverted to the boys’ room.  Both of my brothers sleep side by side and almost all of my 400+ books are packed away in boxes in the attic.

After sleeping on the floor a couple of nights and then on the sofa, my littlest brother (14 years younger than me) graciously offered to let me sleep in his bed (my old bed) and he would sleep on his old bed on the floor next to his brothers big bed.  So that is where I’ve finally landed until I return ‘home’ in a couple of days.

Every night I’ve been home for the past week or so my little brother has come to sleep with me in the middle of the night.  One time he woke up screaming, the poor guy.  You can’t really refuse when your little brother is upset and is asking you to comfort him.  But inevitably a couple of hours after falling asleep with him curled against me, I’d find myself on the very edge of the bed with him moving against me almost pushing me off.  He moves a lot in his sleep and likes to use up a lot of bed space.  A twin sized mattress (or even smaller, the sofa!!) can be challenging when one of the two people moves a lot in his sleep.  :p

Last night I had finally decided that I would simply carry my brother back to his bed if he came over again because I needed to sleep and not stay awake worrying about him falling out of bed.  But then I heard him say, “I can’t fall asleep” (around 1 am) and he climbed out of his big brothers bed into mine.  It was so sweet.  Of course, later, the same thing happened that always happened.  But before that I had time to think.

I was trying to figure out what exactly to write in my next blog post.  Somehow I jumped to thinking about a comment one of my closest friends made to me recently in a really good 3+ hour conversation.  I don’t remember the specific comments before it, but we were talking about my reaction to forgetting things.

I hate to forget anything, and I told her (when asked) that I get upset with myself when I can’t remember or I forget something.  “Why?” she asked.  “Do people typically have perfect memory?  Is it a common trait to be perfect in that area?”  After about a half second of reflection I replied, “No.”  She then asked me why I expected such a high perfection of myself when no one else expected it.  I said I didn’t know.  I simply did.

My next thought (last night) went to how I view myself and God.  We are called to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).  We are not called to walk perfectly and then walk around in shame when we fail.  God wants to walk with us through life, not just in the ‘perfect’ parts (as if there are any of those anyway).  He calls us to a relationship with Him.  Even when that means sharing with Him that you don’t even want to give up parts of your life, He’ll take that.  He’ll walk with you and gently guide and discipline you.  He’s not sitting up in heaven with a ruler smacking His fist demanding to know why you failed yet again.

Instead, like a Father, He is right beside you to pick you up, comfort you, and hold your hand as you persevere towards godliness and holiness.  He gives you grace even when you can’t give it to yourself.  One reason I think so many of us struggle with accepting and giving grace and love is because we don’t truly understand how much grace and love God has given us.  If we did, our lives would be radically different.

Little by little God has been revealing Himself to me over the past couple of months.  His grace is so beyond anything I could ever imagine or deserve!  And yet He keeps giving it!  And the joy that comes from truly knowing God (instead of knowing about Him) is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.  One reason I haven’t written is because I don’t even know quite how to put into words all the things God has been revealing to me about Himself and about me.  It’s a challenge to explain my experiences to you, but I’ll try as I start my second semester.

Although I’m learning about grace and love my outward actions have not changed much.  It has to affect a heart change before I can expect my attitudes to have a lasting change.  So, if you wouldn’t mind praying for me I wold be very grateful.  I will be praying for you that God would open your eyes to the relationship (or a deeper relationship) you can have with Him.  It’s the only thing that will truly give your life meaning and it’s what you were made for–to know and worship God!  🙂

Prayer requests:
~For God’s grace and love to penetrate deeply into my heart–so much that I would be able to extend grace and love to myself and others.

~For everyone here at Moody to be growing in their relationship with Christ Jesus–that we would be overflowing with Christ’s love, joy, and grace that it would naturally flow into the lives of those around us–believers and unbelievers.

~For a realization day to day, hour to hour, that I’m in constant communication with God.  Wow!  How awesome is that??!  That I would remember and worship Him all day every day.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18~

Ukraine Prayer Letter

Dear Family and Friends,
        I wanted to let you know about an upcoming opportunity God has given me.  On Monday, June 24, I will travel to Ukraine.  I’ll return on July 22 (4 weeks later).  Last September, I traveled to Ukraine for 9 days with a missionary friend of mine.  This year, I will again be staying with her parents in the town of Tulchin.  My friend cannot travel with me, so I will be going over alone.  During the four weeks I will be working with the mission organization Building Hope.  They serve orphans and special needs families.  For two weeks this summer, they will offer a children’s VBS.  Last year they had so many kids that they decided to expand to two weeks this year for the first time.  They started doing VBS two years ago.  On Sunday afternoons I will get to visit a nearby orphanage which holds over 200 kids.
        Last year I was only in Ukraine for one Sunday.  At the end of the afternoon a couple of the girls asked if I would be coming back next week.  With a heavy heart I told them I would not be back next week.  I am so excited to see the kids again (at least three more times).  I don’t know specifically what jobs I will have during the weeks.  I will help with the VBS in whatever areas I can.  Building Hope also visits families with special need children to encourage them and help out wherever they can.  So, I will be visiting different families and villages.The family I’m staying with and the staff of Building Hope have asked me to teach them English.  When I’m not working on other things, I will be figuring out what to teach and how to teach it.  I look forward to the challenge of putting last summer’s 1 month of TESOL training to good use!  I also plan on helping around the home(s) that I stay at (I.e. Hand wash dishes, help fold laundry/hang it to dry, etc.).
        You’re probably asking yourself why I’m writing to you.  No, I’m not writing to ask for money.  I’m asking for your prayers.  More specifically, for:
~ For God to be glorified by everything I say and do.
~ Safe travels & that I don’t get sick like I did last fall.
~ That all my luggage/carry-on bags make it through without complications.
~ Easy customs/airport checkpoints.
~ Safety in Ukraine.
~ Ability to understand and learn lots of new words in Ukrainian and Russian.  For my brain to quickly adjust to the complete switch in languages.
~ Wisdom to know what/when to help (with).
~ Love for the people of Ukraine.
~ The Salvation of the family I’ll be staying with (my friend’s parents).
~ The Building Hope team to have the right words to teach the children at the VBS, and the families they minister to, and the orphans.
~ Good health.
~ Me, as I work on my first ‘real’ English lessons (both informal and formal).  That I would know exactly what to teach.  I know some basics on how, but figuring out the what is much more challenging.
        Thank you for reading my letter and praying for me.  Oh, I almost forgot!  I will be posting updates during my trip on a special travel blog (along with my regular blog).  You can keep up with me there.  Please comment with any/all questions/thoughts/comments you have!  I’d love to answer them.
Travel blog:    Sent2Serve.wordpress.com
Regular blog:   LanguagEnthusiast17.wordpress.com
Твой друг в Христос,
Элизабет
Your friend in Christ,
Elizabeth

My Life After Ukraine

What parts of my life have changed since my nine day drip to Ukraine back in September?  It has been about three months since I left for Ukraine.

I miss seeing all the people who I met and served with/to.  Especially Игор and Албина and their three year old daughter, Тина.  I spent an entire day with their family (without a translator) and absolutely loved it (aside from the toilet without toilet paper).

I miss the orphans in Неміров–especially several of the girls.

I also miss Маша’s cooking and Валера’s constant teasing, energy and lightheartedness.  They were very hospitable to me and I have sort of adopted them as my second or third parents (depending on who else you call my adopted parents, haha, I certainly have no lack of them). 😀

Please pray with me that Maria and Valyera would come to know Jesus as their savior and best friend.

Now that I have told you about a handful of people I miss I’ll tell you how they—and their country—have changed my life.

In Ukraine, you do not sleep with sheets.  Instead, you use a comforter type blanket (plus other blankets if it is colder).  When I returned to the US, I rid my bed of it’s sheet and only left the comforter (+ another thin throw blanket) on the bed.  I have slept that way since, and I’m quite used to it. 🙂

A dishwasher—who’d have thought it a luxury?  I certainly didn’t.  But, in Ukraine, dishwashers are rare and you hand wash all your dishes.  I can not say that I have totally stopped complaining about hand washing dishes that don’t fit inside our dishwasher (because that would be lying), BUT the trip has certainly changed my general attitude towards the chore.

Another appliance they go without is a dryer (and in many cases, a washer as well).  Their apartments actually have a special room/hallway where you can hang your wet clothes.  Can you imagine how much longer laundry would take??  Can you picture how many drying racks my family would need???!  (At least 4!)

Whenever a prayer is offered up in church (in Ukraine), everyone stands.  I don’t know about your church, but mine does not (currently) do this.  So, I found it a bit odd, but I quickly became used to it.  Then, last week, our church changed one part of the service to have us stand for a specific Bible reading portion.  It did not strike me as odd, because now that I have seen other churches do different things I’m more open to minor changes.  After all, the Bible does not tell us exactly how each service should be run, and I need to be willing to adapt to non-vital changes in the order/type of service.  The focus should be on God and His Word.  As long as that is the focal point, the other things are not important. (note: I don’t usually like changes—especially not at church).

Tomatoes—I have never liked this fruit (and yes, I’m one of those people who will argue against science and say it’s a vegetable) and the only time I will willingly consume them is in soups (especially borsch—an amazing Russian beet soup).  It seemed as though this strongly disliked food was served in *every* single meal.  My resolve soon gave out and I had my first tomatoes on a slide of their brown bread on top of slices of thinly sliced meat, slices of cheese and the ever present mayonnaise/miracle whip type spread.  The story that goes with this sandwich is rather funny, so I’ll share it with you.

I was at the pastor’s home in the back room playing with his five year old daughter and three year old granddaughter.  The pastor’s mother-in-law brought in the open sandwich as a sort of snack since they were sill preparing supper.  She then left.  I did not know how to say the word ‘like’ in Russian (I only knew ‘love’).  I ‘generously’ offered the tomato slices to both girls.  They refused.  I tried to explain that I did not like tomatoes.  After only a minute I stopped trying and took a bite.  It was delicious!  Halfway through, the kind blue-eyed kindred spirited grandma looked in and attempted to take back the tomatoes.  Apparently, the five year old had understood my dislike of tomatoes.  To my horror, she had relayed this information to my hosts.  I was embarrassed and I quickly shook my head and tried to explain through my gestures and limited Russian vocabulary that the sandwich was fine and I liked it.  At dinner, a bowl full of tomatoes was sitting right next to my plate.  I laughed then. 🙂  I had totally confused my hosts.  First, though Emma, they believed I hated tomatoes, and then they thought I loved them.  All I meant to infer was that I dislike tomatoes in general—but enjoy them in, on, and with certain other foods.

There are a couple of other things I have changed, but I’ll just leave you with these examples.  I hope these have given you a small taste of life in Ukraine.  I will be adding my oral and pictorial report on my trip to youtube in the upcoming week.  I’ll add the links to this post and also in a post of their own.

Пока!

{P.S. From now on I will be posting something new every week on either Tuesday or Wednesday.}

Day 1 ~ Flying, flying, and more flying!

I traveled on three planes to get to Kiev.  On my first flight (about 2 hours total) I felt wonderful and I really enjoyed being able to fly again.  I have only flown 3 or 4 times before.  My favorite part of the flight is when the airplane revs up its motor and we zoom into the air (take off).  😀  It makes me feel all excited.

Flight 1: On my first flight (about 2 hours total) I felt wonderful and I really enjoyed being able to fly again.  I saw a beautiful winding river.  The sunlight was hitting it in just the right way to make it look like a rainbow river. 🙂  I also loved seeing clouds from the top instead of from underneath.  I sat next to a lady who was going to Minnesota to visit with her two sons.  I got to show/teach her the Russian alphabet and we talked the entire trip.  It was my quickest flight because of her companionship.

Flight 2: My second flight was 8 hours long.  It was the trip that took me from Minneapolis, MN to Amsterdam, The Netherlands.  While waiting in the airport I sat next to a Swedish lady named Kajsa.  She was kind (but also very tired, like I was) and we talked about her visit to the US and a little about her homeland, Sweden.  I heard a TON of German being spoken in the waiting room for the airplane.  Then we boarded the plane.  She sat several rows back from me, so we didn’t get to talk again.  I sat in seat 7J.  It was right next to the window in a 2 seat row!  🙂  The rows are set up like this:  2 seats then an aisle, then 5 seats then another aisle, and then 2 more seats.

After I sat down, Francie (I don’t know the correct spelling, sorry!), my airplane neighbor, joined me.  She is from Germany, but lives in the US and works as an ecologist.  She was also very kind, and I greatly enjoyed talking with her on a multitude of subjects.

We flew over Canada, and Ireland, and England!!  I took pictures of England. 🙂  It was a very cloudy flight and I was hoping to be able to see the land, but I could not because of the clouds.  So I prayed about it.  And when we began traveling over England the clouds broke and I could see the beautiful landscapes!!  🙂  England is covered in a patchwork of browns and greens.  It was stunning.  Also, it was cool watching the shadows that the larger clouds made on the land.

For my first airplane meal (‘dinner’) I had:  a chicken, rice, and veggie (quite spicy) dish along with a bun and a piece of cheese.  They also served a small dish of cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettice, but… I didn’t eat it.  I was not very hungry on the trip, and I don’t really like cucumbers or tomatoes plain.  For breakfast (towards the end of the flight) they served a banana, a small cup of orange juice and an egg biscuit sandwhich.  I did not eat any of it, and I was beginning to feel somewhat sick, and my temperature kept switching from hot to cold.

I did not realize that on long over-sea flights they provide a TV/computer for each passenger.  So, I listened to some music and watched the movie Brave.  And after that I did the Berlitz language practice and games for Russian and German.  (numbers, basic phrases, days of the week, months, etc.)  It was really fun!  I was not bored at all.  I tried to sleep, but I was unable to sleep in such a position.

Flight 3: From Amsterdam to Kiev, we boarded a very small (in comparison) plane.  It had a row of 3 seats, an aisle, and another row of 3 seats.  The aisle was very thin, and my carry-on bag barely allowed the overhead compartment to shut (after much shoving, the compartment finally closed).  In the Amsterdam airport, my German friend helped me find the correct gate and she encouraged me because I was feeling sicker at that point.  I found the gate and then sat down on the floor to wait for my friend Lienna and also to rest because they would not check us through customs until a half hour before the flight (so I had to wait one or two hours).  When Lienna walked up I was so happy to see her!!  I felt happier for a few moments.  We decided to go and find a seat (there weren’t any near the gate) because I was not feeling good and she wanted to use her computer.  She even let me use her computer for a few minutes to update my family and FB (Facebook) friends.  I drank a lot of cold water, but none of the food we had sounded good to me at all.  My stomach told me it did not want anything, even though I knew I was lacking sleep and needed energy I could not eat anything.  Lienna offered me some string cheese (one of my favorite foods!) but even then I could not eat.  I ended up eating several bites of banana (the one from my last flight) and one bite of the cheese.  All of the stores in the airport used Euros.

We did not have the same seats in the plane, and I sat down next to a middle-aged Russian couple who spoke no English.  The lady who sat accross the aisle spoke Russian and English, and she was amazing.  I was so exhausted by this point that as soon as I sat down I laid my head against the seat ahead of mine and closed my eyes (trying to sleep).  I’m not sure if I slept or not… it’s sort of hazy and I definitely wasn’t myself.  The lady next to me was kind enough to save me a sandwhich (‘lunch’) and some water and she gently woke me up 2 or 3 times.  The lady accross the aisle encouraged me to eat close to the end of the trip, when she saw I was feeling sick and tired.  She also informed me that lying hunched over on the next seat is bad for your neck and back, so I stopped doing it because it bothered her.  I felt sick, and sort of coughed once or twice.  After I took a bit of the sandwhich I threw up.  (right after we landed)  We had quite a bumpy landing and I really enjoyed it.  And right after then… well, you know. :p  The people next to me took my sandwhich and cup and helped me leave the plane.  They were very sweet, and the one lady kept telling me it would be all right.  She even (somewhat jokingly) called me a baby, haha, because of how sick I was acting, and unable to be myself.

We went through the Kiev passport check and customs in about 10 minutes total (that is very quick) and then we went outside to find Lienna’s parents.

[Lienna’s computer is almost out of power, so I will write more later.  I am no longer sick, and after I went to the apartment that evening I felt find (only super tired).  Oh, and another funny thing was that all of my gate numbers had 8 in them.  (8, 8, and 18) 😀 ]

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