Thursday, April 12, 2012

a dimension invaded by Love

I've been reading Donald Miller before bed (again--I've read all of his books at least 3 times) and last night, these words really made me look at things ever so slightly differently than the moment before.

"I was reading Brian Greene's book The Elegant Universe, in which the Columbia professor talks about potentials of the superstring theory...I was struck at one point when Greene indicated the possibility that multiple dimensions may be laid out against each other as slices of a loaf of bread or tissues in a great brain....I began to wonder how odd it would be if we existed in the mind of God....And, out of this other place, this other existence, Christ stepped to inhabit ours.
 If you believe Jesus was God, and He came to earth to walk among us, the first thing you start considering is that He might actually care.  Why else would something so great become something so small?  He didn't close Himself off in a neighborhood with the Trinity; He actually left His neighborhood and moved into ours, like a very wealthy and powerful man moving to the slums of Chicago or Houston or Calcutta, living in the streets as a peasant."

Miller goes on to list personality traits and characteristics he believes Jesus had/has..

1.  He believed all people were equal.  (He hung out with those society rejected most--THINK ABOUT THAT).  "The more unsavory the characters, the more at ease they seemed to feel around Jesus" Contrast, Jesus got a chilly response from more respectable types. Pious Pharisees thought him uncouth and worldly..."

2.  He was "ugly".  Yep.  "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.  Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised and we esteemed him not."  Isaiah 53:2-3 NIV  Pretty sure if Jesus came to America today, he would be ignored, rejected, and taken advantage of the way most people who don't have the "beautiful person" halo are in this extremely shallow, image obsessed society.  This makes me love him even more.  "One might believe that the unsightliness of Christ was a statement of humility, this this isn't true.  It would be inconsistent if Christ's looks were a statement of humility.  They were, rather, A STATEMENT OF TRUTH, and our seeing them as humility only suggests an OBVIOUS PREJUDICE."  Kind of beating a dead horse here, but be very careful in judging others based on their looks.  Speaking from experience, you may have to eat your words or thoughts when you lose your God-given looks (whether it's to aging, weight gain, or your own perspective,,) that you did nothing to earn.  And, it's not loving others well.

3.  He liked to be with people.  "He never sat down and wrote a mission statement.  Instead, He accumulated friends and allowed them to write about Him, talk a bout Him, testify about Him.  Each of the Gospels reveals a Christ who ate with people, attended parties, drank with people, prayed with people, traveled with people, and worked with people.  I can't imagine He would do this unless He actually like people and cared about them.  Jesus built our faith system entirely on relationships, forgoing marketing efforts and spin.  Not only that, but one of the criticisms of Christ was that He was a friend of pagans.  Not that He hung out with pagans, BUT THAT HE WAS THEIR FRIEND."  

4.  He had no fear of intimacy.  ....this is something I love about Him and hope I can learn from Him.  Intimacy scares the hell out of me.  There is such potential for being hurt and taken advantage of..

5.  He was patient.  He was always around crowds of people who misunderstood his motives, left Him alone when they said they wouldn't, and asked Him countless questions and favors.  The only time He lost His temper was in anger toward self righteous, pious pharisees.

6.  HE WAS KIND.    enough said :)

just thoughts from someone who has had their fill lately of Christian culture, American culture, and well, the thoughts in their own head.  It's all part of the journey.  I just want to be freed from small minds, boxed in formulas, and this self loathing that stops me from loving others the way they need to be loved.  Jesus, help me.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I know why the sky is crying when there aren't any words to say

I have so many mixed feelings about this part of life right now.
We are planning another trip this summer and although I have moments of blissful excitement, I still feel stuck in this bout of cynicism I've been in since last summer's trip.  I don't know how obvious it's been that I've been struggling with my faith this last year, but I've been struggling pretty badly.  It has many consequences; some affecting others' lives (and that breaks my heart) and some just being the typical self destructive moves people experiencing cynicism and lack of purpose do.  In times like these (that last much longer than we'd like...), I guess I'm thankful for 1) the thread of hope holding things together and 2) friends who see past the hurtful words, the pushing away, the walls, and the varying levels of self destruction.  We are made for community and as a self proclaimed loner, I'm slowly learning that I need people so much and that they actually need me.  That's just one reason to reach out to God in times of selfish pity because when I'm focusing on myself, I can't be there for others very well at all.
All that being said, I do feel led to once again return to Ukraine this summer.  The trip will look very different than others.  And, I won't see many of the kids I've bonded with in summers past.  This is very difficult for me; much more so than I can even verbally communicate.  These kids/young adults have my heart and I see their faces daily.  Trusting that God is sovereign is especially challenging during times of cynicism and this sort of situation shows me where I am with it all.  Sigh.  So glad it's not up to me, my beliefs, or even how well I'm equipped.  Showing love to people who need it has always been hard for me because I live in this stupid bubble of not feeling loved...but, these kids break all of that down.  BAM.  I see them, I interact with them, I hang out with them, and I just inexplicably love them supernaturally.  They need it.  Bad.
I am fundraising again.  If any of you are interested in giving, please pray about it, think about it, meditate, do whatever you want...but the trip costs a bundle and I don't have that.  If I don't get support, I can't go.  I've said it before and I'll say it again; this part of the trip is always something that grows my faith.  I have no choice but to trust that people will be moved to give and when they do, well, it's mind-blowingly awesome.  Email me, message me, let me know if you want to give to our team!  And, if you can't or don't want to, please keep this mission in your thoughts and prayers.  We are dependent on so much support to love on these kids!  Thanks:)  Love y'all!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

dah or nyet

I have not raised enough funds at this point to go to Ukraine.  With that being the catalyst causing me to wonder whether or not I should make this potentially exhausting trip, I have begun the intense process of deciding if God has other plans this Christmas/winter season.  So, here goes.

Pros for going to Ukraine:
1.  I get to see many of the people I miss every day I live and breath.
2.  I get the opportunity to bring warmth, love, and cheer to "kids" who otherwise may not have any of those three things.
3.  I get to see the beauty of that overlooked, intriguing country and stretch my sheltered American mind.
4.  Borscht--'nough said
5.  I would have more insight into a country I am interested in living in for possibly a year or two someday.

Pros for staying in the states:
1.  I'd save a boat load of money.  This aspect is crucial to this being a God thing.  If it is not, I should not spend loan money to go to another country.
2.  I'd be able to be more available for others here during a school break.  I miss investing more in my friends.
3.  I'd be able to go home for the holidays!  And, give my family decent gifts for the first time in two years!
4.  I would be forced to wait patiently until God wants me to visit the kids again and prepare my heart for summer camp next summer.  I'd probably be more excited about summer camp!  (it's one of those things; kinda of need to forget how hard it is in order to be excited about going back :)
5.  My tailbone wouldn't be protesting.  I damaged it in May (cliff jumping with bad form--imagine that!) and sitting more than 2 hours is quite awful.  One flight alone is 7-8 hours.

I think you all know what I'm going to say next.  I'm praying about it.  I firmly believe that I'll be directed and that whatever happens is what God wants because His will cannot be thwarted.  The problem is living out this belief and not letting emotions (which cannot be trusted) and doubts cloud my mind with confusion, guilt, and all that jazz.  I need to be fully invested in wherever I am.  That's hard enough for me, anyway.

The all too familiar Proverbs 5:6 applies here.

 Let not mercy and atruth forsake thee: bbind them about thy neck; write them upon the ctable of thine dheart:
 So shalt thou find afavour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
 aTrust in the Lord with all thine bheart; and lean not unto thinecown dunderstanding.
 In all thy ways aacknowledge him, and he shall bdirect thycpaths.

"In all thy ways" is the hard part.  If you think of it, please pray that I accept whatever He has and roll with the punches!  Because, either way, this is going to stretch me!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"hope deferred makes the heart sick'

Friends.  I am currently, rather frantically, planning another trip to Ukraine over Orthodox Christmas in early January.  It will be quite different from times past as it will be more independent, less people going, and possibly involving only interaction with the children ( hardly 'children' anymore) who have transitioned out of the orphanage into trade school.  It would be lovely to also go to the orphanages, but it is rather complicated and difficult to accomplish without having a backing organization or 'game plan'.

Of course, this takes so much wrestling with God, prayer, and some planning.  And, the entire planning of the trip has been so haphazard and a bit uncertain to say the least.  Which is why I'm only beginning now to plead for your support.  I cannot go on this trip if I do not have support; both in funds and in prayer.  So, amid all the other stressors of life as a student who is working, I am attempting to step out in faith and ask for help once again.  This, as I've probably said before, is a very humbling process.  But, when funds start coming and my trip needs are met, my heart feels safe knowing my Father is motivating all who give to this ministry.  Kind of sounds like Christianese, but friends, it is so true.  I am a flawed human being who is undeserving of my Father's love.  My friends fail me, my family often fails me, and I fail myself and others.  But, the One who placed the trillions of stars in the sky; the One who invented time and space; the One who throws lightening darts at this deeply depraved planet?  He loves me.  And, He loves those kids.  He is somehow using us to communicate that to them.  I implore you to join me in prayer for them. 

If you feel at all moved to give a sliver of your spending money in support of this trip (estimated cost :  $1500-2000; most of that being plane ticket), please send a check to me at 315 Stones River Cove, Nashville, TN, 37214.  And, as we could not find a non-profit to back us, we're on the honor system.  You'll have to trust me.  I have little to nothing saved up to go as I am living off school loans and my meager paycheck while I attend school.  I am literally begging.  Forgive me.  I want to see my kids so badly and not dash their hopes that I really do love them as much as I tell them in letters.  They have such little reason to hope in anything.  I want to somehow show them the One who IS their only hope.

Psalm 10:14......"But, you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand.  The victim commits himself to you;  you are the helper of the fatherless."

Monday, October 10, 2011

dah or nyet?

Does God want me to go back to Ukraine this winter?  I'm still trying to figure that out, but am leaning more toward DAH.  This trip will be completely different from past trips as it would be a very small group going independently to visit "our" kids who have transferred from their orphanages to trade school.  It is mainly the knowledge that these trade schools often come with a very hostile environment while neglecting to meet even physical needs that is propelling us to want to visit our kids.  I miss them so much and still think of them daily.  Certain songs transport me rather quickly to the land of bread, Soviet era statues, cheap vodka, and neglected children.  I'm praying about this right now and would appreciate yall praying that I follow God's leading and not get anxious about it.  The entire ministry often seems overwhelming.  I can't rely on my own understanding; thank God for His!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

For my supporters

First of all, I'm so sorry I am just now following up with this trip.  It's always so hard for me to get back to the states and recoop after Ukraine.  The reverse culture shock this time was particularly difficult for me.  You would not believe how easy one gets 'sucked in' to another culture when one is flinging themselves headlong into it.

I cannot even begin to express how thankful I am for you.  If you had not generously given to me in faith, this trip and this segment of my journey with God would not have been possible.  Here in the states, I'm considered way below the poverty line.  So, going out to dinner is a big deal; let alone, leaving the country and staying there for two weeks.  I squeal with excitement every time I get a support check and most of you were so encouraging with your support.  It means so much.

This photo is of Alina and I.  I am painting her face for rec; a time of day we play outdoor games on a big field.  It is so fun.  Chaotic, but fun :)  Alina is a wonderful girl with a big heart.  She often gets made fun of by her peers, but she always shows others love and takes part in discussion more than the other kids.

I learned so much more about the kids this trip.  I kind of go through some of this in my last post on this blog, so I don't want to be repetitive.  But, needless to say, their lives are very, very difficult and complicated.  Most of these kids have been abandoned, many have been abused, and many have that look in their eyes.  You know the look.  Apathetic, but anxious; untrusting, but hopeful; dull; yet glimmering with a little light.  It seems that every time we visit them, they become just a little more trusting.  They have more energy and offer more affection. They are willing to speak about Jesus in front of their peers; this is HUGE.  So, although there are so many super hard things to digest about their lives and culture, this fact gives us hope.  

This is Tonya and I.  She is a rather tomboyish, kind of wild, but very sweet girl.  She got into some trouble on our last day at camp; therefore, she was forbidden to see us off, but she snuck off anyway and plowed through the entire crowd of people and everyone on our bus to tell me goodbye.  I was waving out the bus window to other kids and I hear "Lori" in a Russian voice.  I turned around to find her with open arms.  I love her so much and pray that she doesn't get involved in terrible things when she goes to trade school this fall.

Valya, me, and Katya.  Valya's mother tried to sell her for her organs when she was very little, so she ran away.  
Dasha and Alina.  I will be partnering with an organization to sponsor them this fall.  Please pray for them and all of our graduates.  Their plight becomes quite shaky from here on out.  

I could go on and on.  I'm sure in future posts, I'll be sharing more photos.  This is where my mind wanders when I'm not focusing and often when I am focusing.  My heart breaks for them.  But, God promises to be the Father of the fatherless.  He loves these kids more perfectly than I ever could and He will do as He sees fit!  Please continue to pray for this ministry as it is far from over.  Please also pray for the country of Ukraine and its many flaws so different from the flaws of our country.  

I thank all of you once again for your support and prayer.  May God continue to bless you and to show you His faithfulness in every season of life.

"This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God."  ~2 Corinthians 9:12

"I thank my God every time I remember you."  ~Philippians 1:3

Monday, July 11, 2011

rear view mirror

I have been home for twoish days now.  And, I really have a hard time wrapping my mind around that fact.  I cannot believe this trip is over and now, I'm fighting off thoughts of ditching my life here in some crazy attempt at "saving" my kids' lives over there.  Oh, trust me.  There are more irrational thoughts where that came from. I wake up every morning thinking I'm still in Ukraine and the noises outside are the kids.  Nope.  Reality is a real beeotch sometimes.

This summer was so different than last.  I formed more relationships with kids, deepened the ones already formed, and learned so much about myself and how I default to my own ways of coping (versus God's) when I'm experiencing emotional and physical difficulty.  If you want to learn a lot about yourself and those around you (subtle laughter), just place yourself in a physically and emotionally challenging environment with no escape for two weeks.  You will be forced to cry out for help both from God and from those you are surrounded by.  It is a quite astonishing, exasperating, and unique experience.  It is also violently beautiful.  You are literally coerced into trusting your Creator to sustain you minute by minute.  You find out that you are being served almost as intensely as those you've come to serve.  Quite the paradox.

Of course the kids' situations are extremely heartbreaking.  The more I learn about their lives, the more my faith in a God who truly cares about His creation is challenged.  I've cried over this so much.  I keep telling myself someday I'll understand, but it's just not enough right now.  I only hope and pray that He will reveal His plan and divine reasons for allowing so much pain in this world.  It seems these children cannot avoid misery at any time.  They become abandoned for many horrible reasons.  One girl told a translator that, when she was a little girl, her mother tried to sell her for her organs and she ran away.  They end up in the orphanage where their peers, and often their teachers and counselors, molest and beat them.  (My kids told me minutes before I left camp that they had gotten beaten that very day by their counselor.  I also heard one of these beatings taking place during an unexpected trip to their building one day at camp.)  Finally, they leave and go to a trade school where they feel utterly alone and marginalized while being easy targets for pimps and drug dealers.  Their culture does nothing to hinder this tragedy; if anything, it encourages it because they are thought of as nothing.  Hearing this stuff while looking at the pain in their eyes, well, I cried in front of them several times.  At least they can see through my vulnerability that someone cares about what happens to them.  But, that can't be enough.  It never was for me.  They need more consistency.  They need a support family in the form of believers willing to sacrifice on their behalf---and more than once or twice a year.  I am praying about all of this and I know many of my team members are as well.

Thank you again to all who have made this ministry possible.  I appreciate all of you very much.  For those of you who truly care and ask, it means more than you will ever know.  As painful and heartbreaking as this journey has been, I wouldn't trade it for the world.  I love those beautiful faces so much.  I dream about them nightly and wake up wishing I could see them and talk to them some more.  Tonya, Yuliya, Katya, Valya, Yana, Sergei, Andre, Taras, Ruslan................all of them.  They are each so uniquely talented and beautiful.  But, I have seen that same painful look in each of their eyes.  That look that says, "Please love me.  Please see my worth. Please follow through with your promises.  Because I don't think you will."  Even as I type this, it's all so fresh and tears are slowly falling from my tired eyes.

 I hope to see them again soon.