Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Lovely View

Sometimes I forget to say thanks for the most basic of things. Like breath and sight, and the ability to move freely... without pain.

Today I am especially thankful for the ability to walk. freely. without pain. A small thing until it is taken away. Last Friday the picture above comprised my view for the first part of the day. The ceiling of my bedroom. Lovely isn't it.

My back decided to stage a protest. The strike was loud and painful and to be honest, I don't really know what caused it. I wasn't sure how to react at first and moved almost seamlessly from laughter to tears to laughter to the confusion of those around me.

My husband stepped up to the challenge and truly saved the day giving me a bright side which included an opportunity to read all of Ted Dekker's Green.

So today I am giving thanks for a small thing, that is really a big thing: pain-free mobility.

I'm also giving thanks for small things like frozen bags of vegetables that soothed my sore back, my new, darling heating pad, which faithfully emitted pain-lessening heat when I needed it most, and the creative writing of Mr. Dekker.

But most of all, I'm giving thanks for my Man who took care of all the things I couldn't, including me!

Monday, September 21, 2009

My Whole Face

It is far to easy to be swept away in the to-dos of living. The details that carry us downstream so fast we hardly take time to enjoy the view.

Things like housekeeping, cooking, writing, and schooling fill the time, occupy thoughts, and distract from the LIFE that is streaming by. Not that we can't LIVE while doing these things, its just sometimes we don't. We methodically get things done, paying little attention to the people around us. Suddenly another month is gone in a blur leaving behind the lingering questions of where did it go and what actually happened?

Lately I've found myself carried away in the to-dos.

Lucky for me, I have two 4-year olds who call me out and force me to focus on, well, them.

It sounds something like this: "Listen to me with your whole face mom."

So I look up, observe, listen, take in the scenery and unwrap the moment.

I participate in the lives around me, if only for a minute.

And even though the current doesn't slow down and the to-dos still need to be done, the ride becomes more enjoyable because two little boys take turns reminding me to relish the view.

Visiting Ukraine - Transition Homes

In Ukraine, kids age out of the orphanage around 16 or 17 years old. The government will typically provide the opportunity to go to school (depending on grades) and a place to live in state-run dorms.
On the surface this sounds good, but in reality...
  • The dorms are not nice places to live and

  • The kids are released into the world with little if nothing to catch them when they fall.

So Lifesong started building transition homes (to see pictures and learn more go here).

The transition homes provide a wonderful environment along with CCP staff who live in the homes with the kids. To grab a hold of this opportunity, the kids need to be serious about their lives. They need to commit to staying away from drugs, alcohol and prostitution. They need to commit to going to school and becoming productive members of society.

And the kids who live there are absolutely AMAZING!

You could see the pride in their eyes as they showed us their rooms. We got to hear about their goals and what they are becoming: gardeners, mechanics, contractors, teachers.

They are breaking the cycle of hopelessness. The cycle in which orphans create orphans.

Instead they are becoming orphans who mentor orphans.

Take Ruslana. Ruslana grew up in orphanage #4 (one of the tougher ones in the area). Today she is a Christian who is on Lifesong's staff. She lives in Transition Home #1 as a mentor and she works at Loubetein coaching the kids in various sporting activities with the ultimate goal of winning them for Christ.

The afternoon we spent at Loubetein was special. We did a craft project with the kids and then got to play basketball and volleyball with them. While we were playing in the gym Kolya showed up. Kolya stays in Transition home #2, he came to volunteer his time, to mentor those who were coming behind him.

I am telling you, these kids blew me away. Their amazing smiles and gentle spirits. I so wish you could have been there, to see them. They are the fruit of this ministry. A wonderful, fragrant site to behold!

Don't let this little girls face fool you. She was a sweetie with a mischevious grin. She will most likely be adopted by a family in Ukraine. Her brother lives at Loubetein with her. You could tell right away he was also her protector. Pray that the family who wants to adopt her will want to adopt him as well.

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

2 Corinthians 3:2-3

Friday, September 18, 2009

Haggai's Story

Ukraine is not the only place Lifesong is making a difference.

Please watch the following video. It touched my heart and I hope it touches yours as well. It is the body of Christ in action.

If you'd like to find out more about Lifesong Zambia, go here.

You can make a difference too. Lifesong has created a catalog of needed items at the school in Zambia. Items range in price from $21 - $2,000.

It doesn't take much to make a difference in the world around us, but we need to be looking and more importantly acting on the opportunities as they come our way. The opportunities come in many different shapes, they don't have to be monetary (read this great post on Lysa's blog for an example!), but if you look for them, take advantage of them, and act you will be blessed!

My faith demands--this is not optional--my faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.

--Jimmy Carter

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Listening In

Scene: Everyone is sleeping soundly... including me!

3:30 am Mommy is awaken to the pitter patter of little feet. Twin A appears at her bedside.

Mommy: What do you need buddy?

Twin A: Mommy, I love you.

Mommy: Okay, thanks I love you too, now go to bed!!

Sleep overtakes the household again until...

5:30 am Mommy is awaken to the pitter patter of little feet AGAIN. This time Twin B appears.

Mommy: Buddy, what do you want?

Twin B: Have a good quiet time mommy!

Oh the irony and joys of motherhood!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Because it Makes Me Laugh

This post deserves just a few words. We were walking around Vienna and I looked back to see this: my dad, on a street corner, in the rain, texting - it makes me laugh. :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Visiting Ukraine - part 1

We were given a tour of an orphanage near the city of Zap. An orphanage administrator took us around the building to see where the kids sleep and where they go to school.

They took us to see the little kids (I'm guessing ages 3 - 5) who were playing together in a small room.

One little girl (pictured right) caught my eye. I tried to get her name, but every time I asked she would bring me a toy car with missing wheels to play with.

I wanted to play with her, but before I knew it the orphanage administrator was hurrying us along to see another part of the building.

She took us through the bedrooms where we saw 15-20 beds crammed together.

The older kids are a little more spread out, with an average of 6 staying in one room.

As we were walking through the halls of that building, being stared at by teenage kids with hard faces, I tried not to think about what we were seeing. I tried not to think about what it would be like for my little friend as she grew up, day in and day out, in a place like this.

But when you are staring reality in the face, it is hard not to think about it.

It was hard to leave. When you see kids, interact with them, hug them, they become more than a picture or an idea. It is one thing to hear about kids in an orphanage, it is another thing to see them face to face. It is heartbreaking.

But, there is hope. God is using volunteers and the staff of Lifesong for Orphans to reach these kids. They can't change their living conditions, but they can love on them and teach them about Jesus. They can mentor them and pray for them.

And they are making a difference. I saw that more on this trip than ever before.

Visiting the orphanage near Zap (where Lifesong has been involved for a little over one year) and then visiting Loubetein (where Lifesong has been for over 6 years) I could see a difference in the kids and how they interacted with us and each other.

In case you are curious, here is how Lifesong is making a difference. The goal of Lifesong in Ukraine is to bring CCP (constant Christian presence) into the orphanages who are willing to work with them. The CCP work at the orphanages on a daily basis, teaching classes, hosting after-school activities, running camps in the summer, and basically just being there. They also raise money to help renovate and improve the orphanages. A few projects include playgrounds, computer labs and refurbished gym floors.

If you want to hear more or watch a few short videos about this program, go here.

The second part of Lifesong's work in Ukraine are the transition homes, but that will be a blog post for another day!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Thousand Words

I'm not sure how to begin telling you about my trip to Ukraine. I've been thinking about it all week, processing...

There is so much I want to share. I feel compelled to write about the special kids I met in the hopes that maybe your heart will be pricked and you will get involved.

But it is so hard to know where to start.

Thank you for your prayers is probably the place to begin. I felt them and God answered them.

To start with, the day we arrived I was reunited with Varya AND Valya. I truly believe our meeting was a miracle, orchestrated by God. I will tell you more about that later. Like I said, I'm still processing.

For now I am not going to write much, just show you pictures (with captions). As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so hopefully these pictures will make up for my current lack of words!

Me and my girls, Valya and Varya!

Dad interacting with the kids at an orphanage near Zap. His favorite phrase that day: Yabba Dabba Do. If you ever hear a young Ukrainian child repeating that phrase, you'll know where they learned it!

Me and Corinna - One of the kids I was drawn to immediately.

Misha - our driver for the week. An amazing man who knows first hand what it is like to be persecuted for your faith.

Sept 1 is the first day of school in Ukraine and involves a big celebration. All the children dress in black and white. Programs with "important people" are held at schools across the country. We saw a very abbreviated program at the orphanage in Zap. Abbreviated because of rain. They asked my dad to say a few words.

He said, "Thank you for inviting us. I will talk long while you get rained on," just as it started to pour. They laughed nervously and were glad when he ended his speech one line later.

I stayed at one of the transition homes. These are homes Lifesong for Orphans has built for kids once they graduate out of the orphanage. To live there, they must commit to certain rules of conduct. The alternative is state-run dorms which are nasty places.

The kids I stayed with are amazing. More on them later too! Here I am with Galya and Natasha.

Playing Phase 10 in Transition Home #2

Denis (president of Lifesong for Orphans, Ukraine) has a vision of creating a camp for kids from the surrounding orphanages to visit. The site is beautiful. You can see the house in the background of the picture below.

An older couple will live there. The ideas is giving the kids a chance to visit "Grandpa and Grandma's house." To give the kids a chance to experience a piece of family.

Our last day in Ukraine we took a tour of a botanical garden with some of the kids from Loubetein.

And then we went to spend a day in Vienna Austria.

Talk about culture shock!

We went on a tour of the Schoenberg Palace. You can tell how excited everyone was from the picture below!

That's all for now.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but these pictures seem inadequate leaving so much to tell!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Book Review: Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear

Fears, we all face them: fear of our children getting hurt, fear of financial difficulties, fear of terrorism, fear of being left behind, …

In his newest release, Fearless: Imagine your Life without Fear, Max Lucado tackles these fears and many more. Breathing a fresh perspective into stories from the Bible, mixed in with personal narratives and stories from the world we live in, Max encourages readers to trust more and fear less. He gives practical tips and reminds readers of the truth: God is bigger than our fears and he doesn’t want us to live life dominated by them.

As I read through this book I found new insight into old stories. I love when an author can help me glean new wisdom from stories I have heard hundreds of times. Max Lucado has a knack for this. I also found encouragement as I read. Encouragement that I am not alone in my fears and encouragement to fear the Lord more, as Max call is, “the one healthy terror!” He goes on to say, “When Christ is great, our fears are not.”

If you want some practical help on how to fear less, are looking for an encouraging read or are simply a fan of Max Lucado’s I think you will enjoy this latest release.