Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I Know Who I Am - A Look At Two Countries

I had a nostalgic moment a few days ago.

I was thirsty and did not feel like drinking a 15th cup of water or like 7th cup of iced green tea (yes, it was HOT in New York). So for the first time in 8 years living in American abundance I went to the fridge, took out some raspberry jam and mixed a tablespoon of it into my cold water. Yumminess!

I have not realized that no one does that here when I noticed a confused look on Bryan's face. And posting it as a status on Facebook only confirmed that.

I was born and raised in Soviet Union. I have lived through the collapse of the biggest communist empire of the world. And in many ways my thinking, my approach to life is influenced by it.

When I moved to America, I went through a long time of wastefulness. I enjoyed abundance to the extreme. I loved the freedom I had to preach and I loved the many ice-cream flavors. I loved walking with my head high and I loved Chinatown shopping. I embraced everything America had to offer (within the Christian guidelines of course).

But today - as I look back at my 8 years in this wonderful country - despite all the assimilation I've gone through - I still mixed raspberry jam with water :)

I am grateful that I am from Belarus (Soviet Union) because:

- I love the values that had been instilled in me as a child (camaraderie, teamwork, friendship, hard work, excelling).

- I learned humility and submission, and perseverance.

- I went to an excellent school for free.

- I was part of one of the most significant moments in recent history.

- I witnessed the emptiness of human spirit without Christ on a nation-wide scale.

When I first came to the United States I was only 14 years old. When I returned, I told the Lord that I would do whatever He wanted me to do as long as I didn't have to live in America (and look at me now!). Needless to say, I had no desire of staying here when I came back to US 6 years later as an intern for Metro Ministries with Pastor Bill Wilson.

After having lived here all this time, I can see how America changed me.

I am grateful:

- for freedom to preach

- for the American dream in its best sense (believing that one can achieve anything in this country)

- for the opportunity to minister alongside people from literally all over the world this enriching my world view

- for my wonderful husband

- for God teaching me to look past the superficial and deep into a man's heart.

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all Your works;
I muse on the work of Your hands.
(Psalm 143:5)

Monday, June 28, 2010

He Has Not Turned Away My Prayer

This is Week #3 of Courtney's Marriage Challenge (for the explanation of the challenge - read here) and this week's challenge is PRAY for your husband daily.

The title of my post "He Has Not Turned Away My Prayer" comes from Psalm 66:20. Isn't it wonderful to know that He will not turn a deaf ear when we cry out to Him! And before I receive criticism from those who seemingly received no answer to their prayers for healing, for restoration, for salvation of loved ones - I also had times when my heart was shattered by seemingly unanswered prayer (even recently) - but today I still say, I trust His wisdom more than mine. He knows what He's doing in my life.

I asked my wonderful husband last night how I can pray for him and he asked for 2 things only:

1) Wisdom to make the right choices for our family

2) Promotion

So these are the things I will commit myself to pray for daily.

Courtney has a very extensive list on her blog of things you can pray for when you're praying for your husband (taken from "The Power of a Praying Wife" by Stormie Omartian) as well as a suggestion of using your wedding band as a reminder to say a quick prayer for your husband.

As you read this post - would you please say a one sentence prayer for us as well as we seek to please our Lord with our lives and ministry.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Strong Finish

Ice cream trucks playing there annoying little songs, fire hydrants running freely and humidity that makes you feel like you're in a sauna; this combination can mean only one thing... It's summer time in New York City! Which also means Sidewalk Sunday School is drawing to a close. For our Sidewalk Sunday School final week we had a water gun raffle. The kids love to be drenched with streams of H2O expertly dispensed by highly trained Sidewalk Sunday School water gun professionals. They all look so proud when they too can drench their friends with their new water guns.

Helen and I were hoping for a big turnout for this week. After all, it is the last chance to give the kids, and their parents one last word from God before the summer. We were blessed to see 433 in attendance at our four sites on Friday with a total attendance of the week for our team of 1580.

We also announced the winners of our attendance contest. Kids who came regularly to Sunday School, filled in homework, memorized verses, brought friends and participated in various activities earned stickers on our contest board. 6 kids earned enough stickers to go with us to Dave and Buster's (a restaurant/video arcade). Additionally we are taking two of our workers in training on this outing. There were also 7 kids who came to Sunday School 12 out of 12 weeks. They received a certificate of achievement and a $5 Dunkin Donuts card.

Special trips like this are not usually paid for by the ministry so many of our friends have stepped up to help sponsor this trip. For that we are truly grateful. If you would like to help us do extra things for our kids like this please let us know. We will be posting plenty of pictures after the trip which will happen on 29th of June.

Love Without Reservation

Almost 2 years ago in July 2008 Bryan & I looked at each other and gave each other a promise to love each other as long as we both shall live.

Two years have passed... and even in those short two years we have had occasional moments when we felt like our marriage was not working right. But we gave each other a promise to to stay by each other through the good times AND the bad. Many young couples make a mistake thinking love is that strong irresistible passion, that uncontained drive to be with each other. But love is bigger than that. Love is what stays when all else fails.

Here's what I said to my husband on our wedding day:

I, Helen, take you, Bryan, to be my lawfully wedded husband, secure in the knowledge that you will be my constant friend, my faithful partner in life, and my one true love. On this special and holy day, I give to you in the presence of God and all these witnesses my pledge to stay by your side as your faithful wife in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, as well as through the good times and the bad.

I promise to love you without reservation, comfort you in times of distress, encourage you to achieve all of your goals, laugh with you and cry with you, grow with you in mind and spirit, always be open and honest with you, and cherish you as long as we both shall live.

The one part that hit me (and is still a challenge for me) is "to love you without reservation". I am honestly convinced that I have worked my way through all others pretty well so far. But what does it really mean to love my husband without reservation?

That means getting off the computer when he comes home.
That means going places where he wants to go.
That means sitting on the couch with him at the end of the day.

That means NOT doing things that I consider important (looking forward to July 12th challenge)

Oh yes - and it does mean occasionally eating out at Dallas BBQ [sigh].

Our senior pastor and the founder of our ministry Pastor Bill Wilson always says, "Marriage is never 50/50. It should be 100/100". I give 100% and my husband gives 100%. That is what will make our marriage successfull.

Most importantly, for me to love my husband without reservation equaled to love him and cherish him with my 100% without expecting his 100% back.


If you live in Portland, OR area - here's the web page of our wonderful photographer (who even came to New York for our wedding) - http://www.memorybookphotos.com/portlandphotographer/


A few random articles:

Oldest African American Couple (as of February 2010) - married May 13, 1924

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dating Days

Today is the beginning of Courtney's Completing Him Summer Challenge.

The challenge today is to go back to our dating days and do something that would remind my husband of the "youthful wife I once was" (wow - I hope it won't be that hard granted we got married only 2 years ago - lol)

Our dating started slowly and progressed rapidly. Bryan and I met through our ministry (http://www.metroministries.org/) in 2004 in Summer Camp. I was on staff and Bryan has been coming for years to camp as a volunteer. I came over to the boys' side to relay a message... and I can't even remember what the deal was but I remember thinking, "How dare he talk to me like that?" I did not like that man.

Bryan came to our internship the year after in 2005 and stayed on staff. We were both in the same training to become team leaders for our Sidewalk Sunday School ministry. I think that was the time when we both started to let go of our judgmental and negative thoughts toward each other (oh yes, I later found out that our camp dislike was mutual). As we got to know each other better we gained more respect for each other. When we became leaders, our offices were next to each other and so... we talked once in a while.

In 2007 Bryan got transferred to another team and with the new team came the new assignment to our Preschool Class on Saturdays (guess who was in there?). We had lunch once and after a while they became a Saturday tradition. We both enjoyed those times. As that semester was coming to a close, both of us were getting ready to leave on extended vacations. Bryan was going to the Philippines and I was welcoming my mom for the first time into United States. We were going to be apart from each other for most of the summer. Bryan wanted to tell me how he felt about me and so Monday morning June 25th, 2007 we met for breakfast. I don't remember Bryan actually telling me that he liked me (I am sure he might have eluded to that at some point in the conversation) - so for me nothing was changing. We were good friends - that's all. For Bryan, however, that day became the day he fell in love with me and realized that he wanted to pursue me for marriage.

(the day Bryan fell in love with me - June 25th is now Red Polka Dot Day in our family)

We had breakfast and in a few days left for our vacations. As we spent long four weeks away from each other, I realized how attached I have become and how much I missed him.

We started dating in August.

(our first official dating photo - September 3rd, 2007)

For New Year's I flew to Arizona to meet Bryan's family.

(visiting Bryan's family in Arizona for the first time - Grand Canyon)

As I look back to our dating days, I am realizing how much we sought to please each other. Everything we did was geared towards serving and loving. We spent every available moment together.

We walked... a lot!

For our first Valentine's Day I made Bryan a nice breakfast (yes - these are heart-shaped pancakes on the picture) in the morning...

... and in the evening Bryan treated me to an exquisite meal.

We had a great time - and I loved dating him. He was the most wonderful person to be with.

As the reality of marriage settled in, I wondered what happened. I no longer had the butterflies. I blamed Bryan for many things that he could have been doing better. I was often frustrated and annoyed.


I realized

This has NOTHING to do with my husband!!!

I was the one who had changed. It was no longer enough for me to simply hear, "I love you". It was no longer enough to keep getting flowers. I wanted more. I wanted him to pick up his socks off the floor and put them into the laundry hamper. I wanted him to make more money. I wanted him to be more responsible. I wanted him to read my mind and know exactly which mood I was in. I wanted him to want to do the dishes (mainly because I didn't). Somehow I held him to a much higher standard now in our marriage than I did during our dating days... when just being with him was enough.

So... What's Next??

My next step was letting go of unrealistic expectations and simply enjoying our marriage. It worked for me. I may still sometimes get frustrated - but I am sure he has as many reasons (if not more) to be frustrated with me. God did not call me to be right. God called me to serve and love. And this is what I am resolving to do.

We went to Central Park today and took "couple pictures" - just like when we first started dating. And then we walked to Times Square. Just walking and talking and simply enjoying each other.

Think today: Do you have unspoken or unrealistic expectations of your spouse?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Completing Him Summer Challenge

I am busy... so busy...

Sidewalk Sunday School semester leaves me drained by the end of the day. Oh don't get me wrong - it's a great drained, knowing that your busy hours and hectic schedule are making eternal difference by pointing people to our Savior.

And yet... It's easy to leave the very people who are most important to you out of the equation. It's easy to serve everyone else around you... but your husband.

This is why I have decided to participate in Courtney's Completing Him Summer Challenge. Hop on over to see what it's all about. And if you're married - let's do this together!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Excessive Exposure

I was confronted recently with the overwhelming need that this world is in. Within less than 2 months I have visited Belarus, and saw the pictures of my friends who went on a missions trip to India, and Cuba, and Haiti. The need all around me was so overwhelming. And then I paused... and I wondered why is it that I am... NOT OVERWHELMED. It hit me... hard... like a brick thrown from the top of the Empire State Building... Has my heart hardened? Do I no longer feel the pain of those who suffer? And if so - why and how and when did all of this happen?

After long time of soul searching I believe I found the answer. Excessive Exposure. If you are a Christian here in United States, you are most likely bomarded daily with the requests of prayer, support, encouragement for ministries here in US and all over the world. And somehow knowing that you're not able to help everyone makes it difficult for us to respond with a soft heart.

"Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer" (Deuteronomy 10:16)

6Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’” (Isaiah 58:6-14)

We need to repent and ask God to break our hearts for the suffering of His people.
Church needs to rise up. We can no longer turn a deaf ear.

Raising Homemakers

Raising Homemakers has launched!!!

Raising Homemakers is a website that is "dedicated to inspiring, teaching and blessing mothers who have an interest in raising their daughter in godliness and preparing them in the arts of homemaking to the glory of God"
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