Tuesday, December 21, 2010

One Turn of Head

Buried in blankets... hiding myself from the world on the other side.
One word, one decision, one turn of head... changes everything.
Ever wished you could take something back?
Something you had said, or had done?
Or simply a careless look, a facial expression?
Ever wished you could take it back?

As you look upon those you love today - choose your words carefully.
To build... up!
To esteem... highly!
To cherish... greatly!
To honor... always!

As you look upon those you love today -
My prayer for you is
that you will live without regrets.

Monday, December 20, 2010

One Thousand Gifts - #72-77

Patty with some kids at her Sidewalk Sunday School site

 Many of us have heroes, people we want to be like.  We read about their qualities in books, admire them.  Allow me to ask you today, have you ever wanted to be like someone you personally met?  Have you ever desperately desired to develop the qualities you see someone execute daily in front of your very own eyes?  I could never say that before.  Now I can.

I am grateful that God has given me an opportunity to work with this woman over the course of 2010.  That was probably the biggest unexpected blessing in my life.  I have watched her respond with grace always.  I have watched her have positive attitude always.  I have watched her show gratitude always.  I have watched her serve... selflessly... always.  I have seen Christ in her attitude and her actions.  I desire that people can say the same about me one day.

Her journey continues.  Next  month she will be packing her things and going back to her home country of Mexico.  Please pray for her.

I am grateful for:

72 - Patty and the time I had to spend with her
73 - finding the last jar of my mom's homemade raspberry jam to help me fight sickness
74 - having a bed
75 - friends who brought medicine, shared the burden of cleaning, covered my work load, and called to check up on me
76 - friends who prayed for me
77 - orange juice

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The End

I woke up this morning   afternoon   evening to a strange realization.

Fall Semester 2010 has come to an end.

Spending last two days of it in bed with fever definitely made my finish line somewhat anticlimactic.  I did not get a chance to say a proper good-bye to the interns or enjoy the grandeur of the last Christmas sessions in Sunday School.

But despite my sickness, despite the struggles we faced this semester - it has all been worth it.

Metro Internship - Graduating Class Fall 2010
Happy kids after our Christmas Stocking Give-Away

Many came to hear the story of Jesus on the last day of Sunday School

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Change of Plans

On Saturday, January 8th, Change of Plans is premiering on Fox.  It is a story of a young family who is faced with a choice to take in four children whose parents died. If you would like to read a review - you can find one here. Also if you have a minute hop over to check out the homepage for Change of Plans.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Are We There Yet?

Are we there yet?

Impatiently, I look at the clock of my life, ticking away... quietly... steadily...

When will I finally arrive?

When will I finally learn the easy way?

When will I be everything that You have created me?

Are we there yet?

I often wish I were perfect.  I wish I could know everything, do everything right, always say the right things, and always be in tune with the Holy Spirit.  I see the years of my life slipping by... almost unnoticed in the general rush of life... and I wonder how long it will take me to get to that place.

As a little child to whom an hour's trip feels like eternity... I grow impatient.

And you, my friend?

Are you growing impatient also?

One truth we must remember as we grow uneasy in our passenger seats... He knows where He is taking us...  and He knows exactly how to get there.

Monday, December 13, 2010

One Thousand Gifts - #60-71

I am sorry we have not kept you up to date on our ministry adventures.  Thanksgiving and Christmas season  are so busy here.  Soon and very soon many of you will receive a newsletter from us in your inbox (and if you're not getting one and would like one - just leave me a comment with your email address).

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the last week of Fall Semester 2010.  Only one more week of Sidewalk Sunday School left.  I am grateful for the team I've worked with this semester.  These wonderful people have great hearts.

Kat (Germany), Susi (Germany), Janelle (Canada), Ken (USA), Helen (Belarus), Bryan (USA)
Patricia (Mexico), Hayley (UK)

My list of gratitude continues...
- free customized Christmas stations at pandora.com
- resolved disagreements
- smell of evergreen filling my living room
- cancellations that give me a few extra hours to catch up on things
- anticipation of family coming to visit for the holidays
- that my husband is still my knight in shining armor
- ingenious idea to use earl grey in cookies
- Christmas markets where such cookies are sold
- people who inspire me to be better
- that I am not very technical and gadget-y
- and that I am totally cool with it

Monday, December 6, 2010

One Thousand Gifts - #56-59

They asked Jesus, 
“Do you hear what these children are saying?”
   “Yes,” Jesus replied. 
“Haven’t you ever read the Scriptures? 
For they say, ‘You have taught children and infants 
to give you praise.’”

(Matthew 21:16)

This video was taken 2 days ago in our Preschool Class.  We had over 400 preschoolers (ages 3-6) singing to the Lord.

Today I am grateful for:
- raised hands
- and lifted voices in praise to our God
- warm flannel PJ's
- hearing my husband open the front door

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

She Asked "WHY?"

I had a conversation with a childhood friend the other day.

I mentioned to her that we want to adopt.

She asked, "WHY?"

I have no answer that I feel would be suffice.  How can I explain that longing?

And as I try... awkwardly... I am realizing that the concept of adoption is radically counter-cultural for Belarus.  Seen as the absolute last resort even after the option of simply not having any children adoption is a foreign concept to many Belarusians (especially those not of the household of faith).

And yet I know that tides turn and a few committed people can make all the difference.  Please watch this video of the adoption explosion in a small Ukrainian town of Slavyansk.

If it can happen there - I know the time for Belarus is coming!!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Others Are Re-Thinking Too

I am encouraged today by finding these two posts (here and here) by precious dear women who are also doing Christmas differently.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

In Search of a Perfect Gift

A lot of Christmas season stress and anxiety comes from the pressure of having to find great gifts for family and friends without having to empty out your bank account or plunging into credit card debt.

A gift giving tradition on Christmas comes from the 3 wise men who brought gifts to Jesus, comes from the understanding that Jesus Himself was a gift to our fallen humankind.  Today however it has become a heavy burden to many.

One thing that we have done in our family to make Christmas more meaningful is... my husband and I will not be buying each other Christmas gifts this year... [gasp].  There I've said it! No Christmas gifts between us! And oh the freedom that comes with it!  On Thanksgiving Day we (as a family) have picked a missionary who will receive a Christmas blessing from us instead.  And this Christmas instead of running around in search for the biggest discount - we will pray and be at peace.

What will you do this Christmas to simplify and de-stress?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Our Christmas Tree

Yesterday we bought our Christmas tree.  We do not have many ornaments or pretty decorations (and I am quite happy about it this year).  In our quest to make this Christmas stress-free and more about Christ we will only put 2 types of decorations on the tree this year.

1) Ornaments for the Jesse Tree.  Our Christmas tree is our Jesse Tree this year.  We are using a Ann Voskamp's Advent devotional to prepare us to celebrate our Savior's birthday (you can get a free downloadable devotion book with ornament print outs included here).
Christmas tree @ Sweeneys house in AZ

2) Our yearly meaningful ornaments.  Each year we get an ornament from Bryan's mom that represents that particular year in our lives.  The Christmas tree at their house may not be color coordinated and matched with the rest of the decor... but every little ornament tells a story, carries a special memory, reminds of the moments past.  I could stand by that tree for hours and just listen to the stories of what these ornaments represent.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Is For CHRIST

This will be the third year that my husband and I will be celebrating Christmas as a family.  It is taking us a while to sort through many practices and traditions, and expectations of the season to finally figure out one simple unchangeable truth... Christmas is for CHRIST.

Today is the first day of Advent.  The word "advent" means "coming" or "arrival".  The focus of this entire season should be to celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus on his very first Advent many years ago and to anticipate the return of Christ the King.

So this season we are walking away from the craziness, from the pressure, from the expectations... to focus on Christ.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Freedom to Worship

As American families get ready for Thanksgiving and Facebook statuses abound with thankful updates - I take a minute to ponder what I am really thankful for.

I came to the United States over 8 years ago... and one of the main things that I am grateful for today is the freedom that this country is giving me to worship God.

Below is a short video about the history of one of the biggest protestant churches in Belarus.  It's worth the watch to help you understand what the situation is like over there.

May your heart overflow with gratitude today.  Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Starting and Growing a Church-Based Orphan Ministry

God has given the Church a mandate - to care for widows and orphans (James 1:27)
For those interested in orphan ministry - this is the recording of a webinar by Christian Alliance for Orphans

Starting and Growing a Church-Based Orphan Ministry from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

Resources mentioned in the recording:

Monday, November 22, 2010

One Thousand Gifts - #45-55

Today I am thankful for...

45. good laughter
46. Jamaican curry chicken
47. pumpkin chai
48. heat
49. taking a week off from doing outreaches to refresh and refocus
50. Thanksgiving - a time forcing people to focus on how much they really do have
51. a microwave (#47 got cold)
52. real books with real pages
53. unexpected no-pressure gatherings of friends
54. being surrounded with people who love the Lord
55. visitors (I love having people come visit us and see what we do in ministry)

holy experience

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Forgotten Sinners

I posted this video yesterday.  And I couldn't stop thinking about it.

It is easy for those of us in ministry to focus on the group that we feel "called to".  It is easy for me to extend love and forgiveness to hurting children, victimized by their environment, hurt by those who are often closest to them, caught up in the never-ending cycle of family problems, addictions, secrets, and pain.

But today I am throwing this out there - for all of you to think about...

What about those who victimize those hurting children?  What about the murderers, the adulterers, the liars and the gossipers, pedophiles and rapists, drug dealers and gang members?

How do I treat those who have fallen?

Am I extending God's grace to those who slipped?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Grace Is For Sinners

Amazing testimony, isn't it?

For those of you who are interested in checking out Serena's blog - she blogs here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

One Thousand Gifts - #31-44

Today I am grateful...

for finding boots that fit for the price you can afford
for "I think of you" gifts from far away friends
for peppermint hot chocolate that is less of a drink and more of a "hug"
for seasons in nature (they don't have those everywhere you know)
for crisp air
for the gift of joy and laughter
and for those who bring it into my life

for the best chocolate chip cookies in the world made with love in our own home
for moments of refreshing when I feel like I can't go on
for challenges at Women Living Well which inspire me to pay more attention to my family and home
for finding cheap candles (why are they such a luxury item, does anyone know?)
for getting my vacation dates approved by the leadership
for hope
for seconds of time and inches of space that make all the difference between life and death

holy experience

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Just wanted to give a little update for those of you who are praying for our situation.  Our Sidewalk Sunday School looks a little bit different these days.  No truck.  No sound system.

At first it felt very strange... strange and quiet...

... and then kids started coming... and the quiet area became filled with voices and laughter and songs.  We had a great time on Friday with our kids (even without the truck and the sound).

I am reminded once again how little one really needs to make a difference in a life of a child.

Please keep praying for favor with authorities as we are still trying to sort everything out.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Prayer Request

This holiday season our ministry is facing a challenge of great proportions.
Please pray for favor with the housing authorities, housing managers, police officers and all those involved in the decision-making.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Give What You Have

"He who gives to the poor will not lack, 
but he who hides his eyes 
will have many curses."  
(Proverbs 28:27 NKJV)

I live in one of the biggest cities in the world - New York City.  Millions of people... so busy... rushing to their daily activities, meetings, functions... overwhelmed with the responsibilities of life.

There are so many beggars in New York that one almost must become immune to them to keep their paycheck.  Every time I take a train to the city it's almost a definite that several people would approach me and ask for money.  When I drive our Sidewalk Sunday School truck to one of our sites there's always a lady in a wheel chair asking for money at the red light.  And then there's another lady who lives close to our parking lot.  I see her daily.  She is one of the most beautifully spirited homeless people I've ever met.  It is easy to hide our eyes from these people... because then we're not confronted with their need... and if we're not confronted with their need - we don't have to do anything about it.  Right?

Or how about this one?  They're probably asking money for drugs or alcohol.  I can't support them in their addiction.  This is not good for them.  Right?


God never made a difference in His Word that our giving can depend on the amount of people who ask.  He never gave us a right to judge their motives.  He simply says, "Give to him who asks of you" (Matthew 5:42a).

And for those of you (myself included) who can't afford to give money every time someone asks, I want to share with you what we taught the children a couple of weeks ago in Sunday School.  We taught on the story of Peter and John healing a lame man from Acts 3.  This is what Peter says to the man when he asked him for money, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you" (Acts 3:6).  Then Peter proceeded to minister to the man and he got healed.  Last time I was in the city I gave the man my coffee.  And the woman who lives by our parking lot often just wants to talk.  I gave her some cookies when I saw her last and she was happy.

So be encouraged, dear friend.  Give what you have and amazing things will happen.

Another wonderful thing in that passage is that Peter fixed his eyes on the beggar (v.4.).  He did not turn away, or pretend to be busy in the conversation with John - Peter gave the man his attention. May I dare suggest that many of these people just want to be noticed.  They need someone to connect with their pain, to understand that even if their situation is brought about by their own choices - it still is no easier dealing with it.

I want to challenge you today not to hide your eyes from the people in need.


There's still time to give for Blessie's surgery (story here).  We have not been able to raise a full amount needed yet.

Monday, November 1, 2010

One Thousand Gifts - #30

Today I am grateful...

... for random and unexpected dinner parties where fridges and cupboards get rampaged through in search of various ingredients that have nothing in common but their purpose - to make an unexpectedly great meal

holy experience

Make time to connect with good friends this week!

Making Home A Haven: Fall Favorites

Today is the last day for Making Home A Haven challenge over at Women Living Well and we're talking about cooking.

My mother is an amazing and incredible cook.  All those who ever sat at our table can testify to that.  But she never taught me to cook.  She could not stand anyone in the kitchen and felt like things would go wrong.  I found relief in knowing that my grandmother was the same way.  My mother became and exceptional cook learning from the cookbooks... my hope is that one day I can measure up too.

Oh do not get me wrong.  I love cooking.  I wish I had all day to do menu planning, grocery shopping, and cooking from scratch.  Life in ministry does not give me such luxury.

My challenge this week was not so much in getting to the business of cooking.  It was finding the time to do so.

And I loved it.  My husband and I ate a homemade meal each day this week.  It tasted much better than take out and saved us quite a few pennies too.

What made it a success?

Making it a priority I guess.

1) I did not cook EVERY night.  Instead I cooked more than my husband and I could it and arranged the leftovers in small plastic containers in the fridge.  Next time we wanted a homemade meal we just turned the container over onto a plate and heated it up in the microwave.  At times I freeze the containers for longer keeping.

2) I stuck with EASY recipes.  A simple homemade dish may not always stand up to a gourmet dinner at a fancy restaurant but sure beats McDonald's every time.

Here are 3 of my favorite easy recipes this week:

Pumpkin Pancakes (recipe from Raising Homemakers website)
Easy Morning Breakfast Casserole (recipe from Parents Connect website)
and one of my favorite Vegetarian recipes of all times:  Squash Creole


1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced, optional
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp flour
2 cups canned or cooked tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups diced butternut squash

1) Saute onion, garlic, and pepper in oil until tender.
2) Blend in flour. Gradually add tomatoes, mixing well.  Cook over low heat.
3) Add sugar and seasoning. Stir until thickened.
4). Place squash in greased 1 1/2 quart casserole.  Cover with sauce and bake 60 minutes at 350.

Serve on a bed of white rice. Enjoy :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Seeing the Light

The girl on the picture above is Blessie. She is 10 years old, lives in the Philippines and is involved in our Sunday School program over there.

Her mother tried to have her aborted and as a result she was born with several birth defects, including brain damage, problems moving her limbs and major problems with her vision.

Right now Blessie is going blind.  She is totally blind in her left eye and her right eye is going blind too.  She can get treatment for her eyes but the family does not have the money for the surgery.  Her family has been praying for people to help.

The cost of the surgery is $400.

We're trying to raise money to help Blessie get her surgery.  We believe that through the kindness of others she will be able see not only the natural world around her but also the supernatural, unconditional love of God.

Will you prayerfully consider helping Blessie to get her surgery.

If you would like to give - please call 718-453-3352 and ask to speak with Becky.

If you are not concerned about your donation being tax-deductible you can use the Paypal button on the right to send money to our Paypal account.  Please write me a quick email or a facebook message (or comment on this post) to let me know that you gave so I can keep you updated on Blessie's situation.

And please pray for the kids and the workers in the Philippines.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Agency Adoptions: Pros & Cons

Found this very simple article on pros and cons of agency adoptions on "Focus on the Family" website.

This website has a lot of resources for adopting or looking-to-adopt couples in their transition period.

If you're considering adoption - you should stop by there.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dealing with Discouragement in Ministry

I already blogged about her here.  This has been going on for a while.  I have spent years supporting her trying to make sure her world does not collapse.  Despite all my efforts and all my tryings - I saw pieces shattered on the floor yesterday.  Her choices determined her reputation, the outcome of her actions.

I stand and wonder, "Have I done anything wrong?  What else could I have done?"

God is silent.

I think.  Hard.

And at that moment I do not understand what could have been different.

Another conversation with another person.  The entitlement and ungratefulness seeping through her comments.

Those two put together in one morning... and I am just so... angry... so frustrated and sad.

Everyone who's ever tried to witness to someone or disciple a new believer in Christ will eventually face DISCOURAGEMENT.

Discouragement - that desire to lower your hands, throw in the towel, exhale and... walk away... from it all...

Yes, from it all... from the good and the ugly.  Just be done with it.

But how can I?

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?  
(Romans 10:14)

I am reminded why I am here.

And I try again.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lionhearted and Lamblike

In the first months of our marriage my beloved husband and I have spent a long time re-assessing what we thought we knew about the roles of husband and wife in marriage.  Transferring what we remembered reading in the Bible or hearing someone teach in church into our personal convictions was hard.  Even harder was looking deep into ourselves and adjusting our behavior to be more Christ-like towards each other.  And trust me - we're still working on that.

This summer I blogged a lot about being the wife that my husband needs (if you're interested and new to this blog - just scroll down on your right and look for theme search - then click on label "completing him challenge" and all posts will show).

This morning I thought I'd share a little about the role of a husband with you.  I loved this sermon by John Piper "Lionhearted and Lamblike: The Christian Husband as Head".  I think that best describes what a husband should be: a strong and determined yet gentle and humble leader.

You can watch / listen / read Part 1 of the sermon here and Part 2 here.

Hope it blesses you like it blessed me.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Making Home A Haven: Sorting Through Messes

I walk through the door and I am oh so tired.  It is after 9.30pm and it's been a long day...

My life runs like that: meetings, ministry, work, serving, studying, school, friends... non-stop.  The first thing to suffer or be left out in that whirlwind of activities and things to do is... our home.  As I walked through my small one-bedroom apartment today I noticed lots of messes, spaces filled with clutter that I refused to notice this week.

But the little messes here and there is not what I want to talk about today.  I will focus on where the big mess is - my bedroom.  The biggest danger that a busy wife faces is keeping common areas clean and inviting while allowing your own bedroom to overgrow with clutter.

If we want our homes to be a place of peaceful harmony - we need to make it our priority to create that atmosphere.  

My challenge to you today is to walk through your bedroom doors and ask yourself whether your bedroom is a haven.  Is your bedroom a place where you both can unwind after a long and tiring day?  A place where you can hold each other and talk about how your day went?  Share your dreams?  Be passionate with each other?  A place where everything is pleasant to your eye? and your smell?

If it isn't - maybe it's time for you to de-clutter your bedroom.  When I do not have much time - I often just throw everything that's out of place into a clean garbage bag.  When I have a bit more time I go back to the garbage bag and sort through the items.

Don't allow your bedroom to become the messiest place in the house.  Make it a haven for you and your husband.

But isn't that interesting how my life is like my apartment.  I keep the common areas nice and clean.  Whenever you stop by my heart - what you see looks nice and inviting.  And then as I open up His Word I am confronted with the bedroom of my heart - a private chamber, filled with the clutter of disappointment, and hurt, and discouragement, and pain, and discontent, and jealousy, and fear.  Those things you do not see. But I do.  This is a mess and so I set my priorities on de-cluttering my heart.  Sorting through my emotions, checking it against the Word.  Two piles: THROW and KEEP.

Will you dare sort through your messes today?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pray for Belarus

The presidential elections have now been scheduled for December 19th, 2010.  Due to the current political situation in Belarus, it would require nothing short of a miracle to bring about a real change.  The current (and only) president of Belarus has served since 1994 and has no intention of leaving the office.

I am hoping for a miracle today.
Will you join me in prayer for the country of Belarus and her people?

Monday, October 11, 2010

One Thousand Gifts - #26-29

I lean my head against the wall and exhale.

I am faced again with... nothing... the emptiness... the quietness...

My heart yearns for rest.  Rest from anxiety.  Rest from worry.  Rest from stress.

Even rest from anticipation.

And so I rest... for a minute... leaning my head against the shower wall...

Warm trails of water saturating my hair... racing down my spine...

His Spirit giving me a new hope, developing stronger trust.

And I am grateful... and willing to wait for His promise.

#26 - a wall of bathroom tile to lean my head on
#27 - the privacy of my shower (the place for my deepest sighs and most sincere prayers)
#28 - the gift of time (and how everything changes as it passes)
#29 - the rich legacy of answered prayers (in the Word of God and my personal life)

holy experience

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Making Home A Haven: Playing Catch Up

Courtney over at Women Living Well is hosting yet another challenge.

I was very excited about the challenge... My life is very hectic right now.  I am trying to juggle many ministry activities (fall semester is often the busiest for those in ministry and it is definitely true for me), doing school on my days off, still trying to find time to invest in those dear to my heart, focusing on being a better wife, and doing all that without forgetting about my personal relationship with the Lord.

Needless to say, my home is not always getting the attention it needs (but that's about to change).

I was even more excited about the challenge when I realized that I already had a nice big candle that someone blessed me with...

Remember the juggling?

So here I am - it is already Sunday - the challenge's been going on - and... I keep forgetting to even light the candle (leave alone praying for my home when I do)...  I guess that is what this challenge will be all about for me - decluttering my own self first... focusing myself on my home and my husband even in the midst of my busiest season in life...

Let me share with you the most important lesson I've learned so far.

You may try so hard to please your husband that you forget to do what actually pleases him.

My beloved husband turned 30 this week.  I was so determined to make it extra-special for him that for the past year and a half I have been secretly saving up for a surprise trip for the two of us.  Everything was falling in place.  We flew to Phoenix AZ on a Sunday and Bryan's dad and brothers took him out for some speed racing men time while his mom and I were putting the last details together for Bryan's surprise birthday party.  In the evening we went to a very nice hotel where we got a sweet upgrade.  But that was only a so-called appetizer.

My main gift for my husband was going jet skiing.  He's wanted to do that for years and I was thrilled that I could plan something that would make him so happy.

The fun part started when we both realized that we weren't quite sure how to get to the spot on the lake.  I had the directions and GPS service - but I was contacted by a representative in the morning with a set of directions and I was specifically told not to follow the GPS or Google Maps and use those directions only.  Before you knew it - we were arguing (as most couples do when they are uncertain of their route while traveling).  I was upset and he was upset and we were angry and we were frustrated.

And that's when it hit me.

What was the point of all my effort?  of all the money that I have so diligently saved up?  of all the stress?  What was the point of it all if I allow it to disappear in a irrelevant and ridiculous argument?  Everything I had worked so hard to plan and organize was losing its appeal in my stubborn refusal to let it go and put my husband first.

Me and my beloved husband jet skiing @ Lake Pleasant, AZ
And that's when I had to bite my tongue...

Dear ladies, how often we do that!  We spend so much energy caring for the home, doing what we think our husbands would want us to do (and they do) but then forgetting how important it is for us to simply follow them and love on them and admire them.  All our effort is lost in nagging and arguing and tension and frustration will quickly build up if you're not careful.  That's how marriages fall apart.

Today, I refuse to allow my effort and energy go wasted.

Today, I will love my husband fully.

Today, I will take care of my husband and my home - but I will do so with JOY.

What will you do today?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nothing But The Truth

"God does not have a Son..."

Her curious beautiful eyes were fixed on me waiting for me to answer.

"Of course He does," I said, "Of course He does..."

This was the beginning of a series of conversations between myself and a girl from one of our Sidewalk Sunday School sites.  She is being raised in a Muslim family.  Her family has recently moved here from Africa.

She knows about Jesus.  She is simply taught that He was a great prophet but not the Son of God.  This girl has been staying after the programs and talking to us, asking us questions about Jesus.

She is not the only Muslim child at our sites.  These kids would never be allowed to attend a church service.  Isn't it great that the kids who would never set foot in the church are being exposed to God's Word right in their neighborhood?

It is my desire to point this girl to Jesus - the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

As our Sidewalk Sunday School starts full force today - please remember to pray for us, for our sites, for our team, for the people to hear the Word of God and be receptive to receive the TRUTH.

Monday, September 27, 2010

One Thousand Gifts - #15-#25

I am taking this gratitude thing slowly... savoring every day...
Today I am grateful for...
#15 - random signs that bring a smile to my face

#16 - for chocolate
#17 - for Google
#18 - for yummy caramel macchiatos
#19 - for a husband who always reaffirms my worth and my beauty
#20 - for talking without fear of being judged
#21 - for a rainy day today
#22 - for leftover pizza which brings me to...
#23 - not having to cook when I am tired
#24 - for a huge umbrella :)
#25 - for Starbucks

holy experience

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Are You Putting God First?

This past week I had a privilege to sit under the teachings of R.T. Kendall.  He is a wonderful man whose mission is to inspire people to desire to see the praise that comes from one and only true God.  Over the course of our staff retreat Dr. Kendall spoke about the need for total forgiveness in the body of Christ (which includes forgiving others and forgiving ourselves).

Yet, today I wanted to share with you something that Dr. Kendall & his wife Louise shared with us during Q&A session.  A question was asked how to balance family and ministry.  An important question indeed.  I couldn't wait to hear their response.

This is what Dr. Kendall said,
They are more important than 
the people you may never see again."

He mentioned that if he could do it all over again - he would spend more time with his family.  He said, "I used to spend more time on writing sermons thinking I was putting God first.  I used to spend more time counseling other people thinking I was putting God first.  I was wrong."

Sitting at my computer today I am reminded of the times in my life when the ministry took so much out of me that I had nothing left to give to my husband... I thought I was putting God first... And with a deep sigh I must agree with Dr. Kendall - I was wrong!

This is what the Bible says in 1 Timothy 5:8,
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 

What have I failed to provide for my husband?  If you ever smiled and acted nice in public only to snap at your beloved in private - you know exactly what I am talking about.

Today I am choosing to put God first by setting my priorities right.

What about you?

Monday, September 20, 2010

One Thousand Gifts - #9-14

My schedule gets busier by the minute.  The interns are here.  Sunday School starts this weekend.

In the midst of it all - PEACE... and London Fog (my favorite drink this week)... and oatmeal cookies.

Today I am thankful for:
#9 - Abby who taught me about being a good leader and introduced me to London Fog
#10 - having all ingredients at home to make oatmeal cookies
#11 - for quiet Sunday evenings
#12 - for a midnight trip to Battery Park with my beloved on Friday night
#13 - for a good hairdresser
#14 - for an extra day off this week

holy experience

#8 - here
#2-7 here
#1 - here

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Quick Update

No, I do not have the writer's block.  As a matter of fact, I have more ideas now than I did in a long while.  Many unfinished posts and ideas.  But I need time.  Time to spend writing without stealing time from other oh so important things like my time with God, or with my husband, or my ministry, or my school.  Just know that I am here and I will resurface soon.

Please pray for the new 46 interns who joined our ministry this week.  May they stay strong and may all God's purposes be accomplished in their lives.

Monday, September 13, 2010

One Thousand Gifts - #8

I am growing weary of Facebook conversations with her.  Facebook gives her a place to hide, a way to ignore my questions, freedom to pick and choose her answers.  I am growing weary of confrontation, of pouring out my very soul into a person who does not seem to get it, or want it, or listen.  I am a minister, the ambassador of my Savior pleading her to reconcile with God.  Eight years of love, effort, patience, struggle, waiting, coaching, praying are seemingly disappearing into thin air in front of my eyes.  Eight years.

I am growing weary.  Taking a deep breath, followed by sips of caramel macchiato hugging my insides warmly.  A brief look into the sky.  Another breath.  I walk away from the computer.  Defeated.

Fast forward to yesterday morning.  I slept in (as in not because I could).  Rushed morning.  Tired.  Almost wishing I did not have to go to church.  I walk in looking for a place my husband saved for us.  My eyes are searching up and down the rows for his bag... no - for her.  She missed last week.  And sadly she is not here today.  I can't find the bag and I stand by the wall, frustrated.  Defeated.

A tap on the shoulder.  Someone knows where my seat is.  I slip into my seat and exhale.  I am right behind the pole so the pastor can't see me.  Good.  I'm thinking, "Is anything I've done in the past eight years at all significant?"

Another tap on the same shoulder.  I turn around.  I see... her mother.  She is here in church after making more mistakes she can count, after losing her children and struggling through her addiction, after getting offended, and accepted, and offended again, after losing everything she held dear, after breaking so many promises... but here she stands... again.  Today is her second time after a long time away.

I give her a hug.  My mind travels to a cold fall afternoon in 2002 when I threatened and blackmailed and pleaded and begged her to come to church to see her daughter perform in our Christmas play.  And seeing her standing behind me signing praise to our King - suddenly - warms me up in ways my caramel macchiato can't... and makes me feel so... victorious!

holy experience

#8 - I am grateful for God's visual reminders when I need them the most.

#2-7 here
#1 here

Thursday, September 9, 2010

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Links...

(and yes I did sing the name of this blog post as I typed it)

In my search of simplicity and creating more "fully-present time" with those I care about, I have decided to clean up my Google Reader list.

This is what I've done:

1. I left all the blogs of people I personally know.  My friends do not post that often and I love reading updates on their life.

2. I stopped following all of the blogs of people I have never met personally.  I added my favorite blogs into a favorites folder that I can always access when I do have extra time to just chill and read and rest.

3. I looked through the list from step 2 and selected a few blogs that at this time in my life are helping me grow.  I have put them back in my Google Reader.

With that - I wanted to share with you some of my favorite blogs of people I've never met that made it to my Google Reader:

And a few others that I refer to often...
(Scripture Dig is really good but can get quite overwhelming as there's a lot of posting activity - so most times I just scan through and focus on just one or two posts)

These 2 below are great (not yet applicable to me much and even though I do not read every post - I do refer to them often).  I think if you have children - they could be an excellent resource for you as well:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

In The Crosshairs

These clips were featured on the TV show "Christianity In The Crosshairs" about 6 years ago.  Surprisingly I have not seen them until now.  My friend cut the parts of it and sent them to me to watch.

As I watched this clip - I was once again reminded of the Lord's faithfulness to me and my family.  Six years later - both my parents are still alive.  And as they are watching me live my life out, they are learning to accept the choices I am making.

My husband (top center) and I (bottom right) with my family in Belarus in 2009
If you are facing impossible situations today...  if you're asking yourself and God the oh-so-painful "Why?"... if  the price tag on your decision to follow God's way for your life seems too costly at times... TAKE HEART!!!

Be strong and of good courage, 
do not fear nor be afraid of them; 
for the LORD your God, 
He is the One who goes with you. 
He will not leave you nor forsake you. 
(Deuteronomy 31:6)

Monday, September 6, 2010

One Thousand Gifts - #2-7

Today is Monday which means it is time to express my gratitude to the Lord for the many gifts He has blessed me with.  Last week was a big one so today I'll throw a few technical thank yous.

#2 - internet access (on my phone and my computer) - every time I am not sure of something I can simply look it up... like what a random lemonade craving would mean... or where S'Mac is located... or how to get around Queens with a help of #3 - my GPS service on my phone (oh how I use thee!).  I am also  very grateful for #4 - my computer (ok so it is technically Bryan's but we all know the truth about who's using it the most) and #5 - my printer that allows me to print our Sidewalk Sunday School locations and times on the back of the fliers without having to go through the hassle of stamping them all by hand... talking of printers - very grateful for #6 - a scanning feature on my printer (helps me tons in my study and ministry)... the last one for today - #7 - is an awesome OneNote "Clip" feature which allows me to save parts of my screen or a web page as a picture.

You can find #1 here.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

What Do You Believe? Really...

According to the Pew Forum's research, a majority of all American Christians (52%) think that at least some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life. Indeed, among Christians who believe many religions can lead to eternal life, 80% name at least one non-Christian faith that can do so. 

You can read the full report here.  

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me."  (John 14:6)

What do you believe?  How real is your faith to you?

Monday, August 30, 2010

One Thousand Gifts - #1

"And the LORD God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant."   
(Jonah 4:6)

I feel like my brain is overloaded... so many decisions... so many disappointments... still daring to hope...

In the midst of this crazy unexplainable thing called LIFE I do not want to forget that God is with me through both most exuberant moments and most hopeless situations... which is why I will be joining The Gratitude Community @ the Holy Experience.

My #1 Gift from the Lord is... FRIENDS!!!

I am so grateful for my friends... throughout the years God has surrounded me with people who were there for me whether I needed someone to share a laugh with or someone to vent to or someone to cry on...

I challenge you today to contact your dearest friends and let them know that you love them, value them, and appreciate them.

holy experience

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Dream For A Dream

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a wife and a mother.

I wanted to have children... many children...

I also wanted to succeed in my career...

... and in my ministry ...

... in my friendships ...

... in homemaking efforts ...

I seek perfection in everything that I do.

I am realizing that I have to let go of some things.

And I am ok with that.

Prioritizing is not easy... but necessary.  Oh so necessary!

You can't have it all... You can't be everything to everyone.

At some point you have to give up some dreams to make other dreams happen.

I am giving up my perfectionism so I can be free to love others.

I am giving up my desire for acknowledgement and praise so I can be free to do what is right.

I am giving up having to do everything by myself so I have more time to do what is truly important.

I am giving up my culturally defined notions of success (whether in ministry or career or personal life) so I can eliminate worry.

I am giving up investing in stuff so I can invest in people.

I am giving up trying to be everything for everyone so I can simply be me.

Letting go is not easy.  But a tight-fisted person never receives more.

My hands are open.  I'm ready to live my dreams out.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Eating Better While Eating Out

My team went out to IHOP recently.  As you know IHOP is not necessarily the healthiest place to eat.  Even their omelets pack on as much as 900-1000 calories without any sides.  I was terrified.  Somehow admitting that you're trying to eat healthier felt very humiliating and "party-pooping-like".  So instead I studied the menu online in advance - sorted through their healthier options and found a few things that I knew I could enjoy. I had a great meal and a great time with my team.

Tip 1: Do Your Homework.
       - Go online and research the calories and other nutritional info for the restaurant you're planning to attend.
       - Excluding the foods that you definitely do not like - write down on a piece of paper (or type in your phone) all the options that you would enjoy eating.
       - Try to decide on what you want but keep other options in mind just in case.

Tip 2: Know Ahead Of Time What You Will Order
You have already decided what you want - so open the menu on the page where the item is and look like you're picking it from the menu with the words like, "I think I'm going to have                            ". This way it looks absolutely natural and does not cause any awkward feelings with people who are more lenient in their choices.

Tip 3: Close The Menu
If you keep flipping through it - you will have to deal with temptation (especially if you have not developed the taste for healthy eating yet).

Tip 4: Enjoy Your Meal
Talk. Savor. Pause. Chew well.

Tip 5: Say NO to a Dessert.
Or if you absolutely must have something sweet - suggest to split it with someone and only take one or two bites.  This way you get the sweet taste in your mouth without over-indulging... and it's better for your wallet.

How about you?  Are you're striving for a healthier lifestyle? Do you have any tricks that you employ while eating out with friends?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Prayer Calendar

I must confess...

1) I often struggle with my prayer life

2) I am slightly OCD (just very slightly)

The result:
Behold the Prayer Calendar ;)
Mine is basic and easy.  Every day of the month I will be praying for my husband using The Power of a Praying Wife (by Stormie Omaritan) as a guide.  And then I am adding a different prayer target each day of the week.

Every Sunday I will be praying for our church.
odd weeks - praying for actual church services
even weeks - praying for outreaches

Monday: praying for myself.
Week 1 - spiritual growth
Week 2 - physical health
Week 3 - wisdom
Week 4 - ministry

Tuesday: praying for my family in Belarus

Wednesday: praying for Metro Ministries
Week 1 - church, pastors
Week 2 - Pastor Bill Wilson
Week 3 - Sidewalk Sunday School
Week 4 - Indoor Sunday School & bus ministry
Week 5 - donors & finances
If you're interested in praying for the ministry we're involved in - you can find more areas of ministry and detailed prayer requests here.

Thursday: praying for Bryan's family

Friday: praying for our community
odd weeks - for our neighbors
even weeks - for NYC

Saturday: praying for adoption
We're not in the process yet but this is definitely something we will do in the future.  I will be praying that God will place the right child in our path, that we will have wisdom to find the right agency, for financial provision of adoption expenses, for smooth transition of our future adopted child, for their protection, etc.  Another prayer request that will be made on Saturdays is for Christians to open their eyes to the suffering of kids going through multiple foster homes and group homes - and for them to start opening up their homes and their hearts to those children.

This is just my basic outline.  I am still learning to discipline myself more in my prayer life.  Teri Lynne at Pleasing to You has a more detailed outline of what you can put on your prayer calendar here.

I will be sharing another little tool that I will be using to help me pray some time next week.
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