Archive for November, 2014

T-Tapp exercise and goals


That’s me yesterday at our lovely Thanksgiving meal ūüôā

OK, so one goal was to be in size 14 by Thanksgiving. I can’t find a size 14 pair of pants to actually measure, however, I have packed away the size 16s I was wearing when I started this T-Tapp venture, and I found 2 old pairs of size 12s that I can get in and close up fine, though the stomach area is not pretty-looking in them.¬† So I’m going to count it as goal accomplished.

I had written that my reward would be a pedicure/manicure, but I think I want to get a perm instead. I really want wavy hair for a while. However, getting all this done for myself will be a feat, what with snowy roads, village life, finding a salon in a nearby larger village, having a breastfeeding baby, etc. It is weird, female things like this I have to get Vitaliy to help me with because I don’t know the word for perm in Russian, I don’t want to make phone calls¬† about it to people I don’t know and who don’t know me, etc.

So, one goal is to get this goal done by my birthday next month.

Looking forward, the next 2 goals I have written down fall on my 39th birthday, which is at the end of next month. Goal 1 is to have been consistent with exercise (that means exercising for at least 15 minutes 4-6 times/week). Goal 2: There’s also a winter coat I have that only goes to my waist that I want to be able to zip up comfortably by that date.

I’m thinking about adding some type of dieting to this process to speed things up, but I’m terrible at dieting, so I’m not sure yet that I want to do that. I’m thinking about this idea slowly.

Onward ho¬†ūüôā




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some happy details!

So the summer months had me huffing through Ashan (kind of like Wal-Mart) every Sunday afternoon as the rest of the family and rehab guys waited in the van. It didn’t make for really stopping to explore or find obscure things (though I do confess to sometimes doing this as they sweated out there under the sweltering sun).

During the week I think, oh, what a great ingredient/household item/article of clothing– it’ll be cheaper at Ashan, so I’ll get it there. Then Sunday late afternoon rolls around, and I have a list of a week’s worth of groceries, so the odd item out I was dreaming of … well, you can imagine.

(I keep thinking I need to have a leisurely day of shopping in Ashan, and … I’ve been thinking that for months now ūüėČ )

Anyhoo, so Sunday we were just the fam, and V went his way with 2 kids and I went my way with two kids (we were all in Ashan), and so I had a few minutes to browse. I was actually searching for cocoa powder and picking up powdered sugar. And guess what I found!

Are you guessing?

A few months back I found powdered sugar — saves my coffee bean grinder from having to grind sugar up.

A few weeks back I found peanut butter— the jar is still with us, though mostly empty.

And yesterday, I found, in the store, where I normally shop, where many Ukrainians normally shop and it has good prices …


Do you see them?

That’s right– chocolate chips.

The bag is about a fourth of the size of what’s in the States, but hey, who’s measuring?

I bought two bags. Just to have them near ‚̧

I don’t even buy chocolate chips in the States that often. Nor so I make chocolate chip cookies often. However, in the last 12 years here, I have wanted to at certain times. So now, perhaps I will.

Here’s the small bag of chocolate chips along with the small jar of peanut butter:


Speaking of food. I’m adding a new recipe/dish to my Thanksgiving repertoire: Creamed Corn. I’ve been craving creamed corn the last few months.

I even tried buying corn kernels and just mashing it up to see if that was what creamed corn was made of.

Sadly, I’m not joking.

I found a recipe and am doing it whole hog for Thursday ūüôā Along with real cranberry sauce. I love real cranberry sauce.

Oh, we got home at midnight last night, and I’m putting away groceries, and I see that Vitaliy bought me some food, too, to show love to me:


Avocados and persimmons– some favorites!

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I love kotleti po-kievski (Chicken Kiev)– it’s a chicken roll with melted butter inside and bread crumbs on the outside. I’ve always thought, maybe they are impossible to do for regular humans because: how do you get melted butter inside the chicken roll?

Well, it is possible. I looked up the recipe and the secret super-power with the butter is to freeze it, then place it inside the chicken, roll the chicken up, bread crumb the surface, then cook it. …. What brilliant person thought that up?

Here are photos of our awesome lunch– adorned the meat dish with beet salad and French fries.

It was a BIG HIT!

IMG_4300 IMG_4301 IMG_4302 IMG_4303 IMG_4304 IMG_4305




French fries frying

French fries frying

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Skyla was so happy, she decided to read us a book! We picked ourselves up off the floor and winked at each other ... and listened.

Skyla was so happy, she decided to read us a book! We picked ourselves up off the floor and winked at each other … and listened.

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About a year ago, while we were in the States, God was directing me to think more about His Spirit’s role of being the Comforter.

As I pondered this, I realized I had a very weak view of comfort and comforting–like it was pretty much someone sending me a Get-Well-Soon card or something along those lines. I didn’t know what the right view was, but I thought, surely¬†comfort must be some strong, powerful thing because the Spirit is powerful and strong.

Months pass. I’m pregnant with Una, we’re back in Ukraine, living out in our village house. The war is shocking us all– it’s intensity, acts of cruelty and torture, all the dying.

I lay on the bed and breastfeed Andre some days and think of all the¬†“little¬†boys” out fighting and suffering and dying.

One story particularly fascinated me. In one evangelical church, terrorists came in and took 4 men, leaders. They’d been helping people evacuate or something. And those 4 menleadershusbandsfathers were killed. Beaten horribly and killed. And dumped in a general grave-pit and found months later.

One had a wife and eight children. I thought about this woman, this widow. This wife-turned-widow. I still think about her. I want to meet her one day. It’s a hard story for me to bear.

I’m working in the kitchen one day, and Vitaliy comes in a says, They’ve drafted 80 men from our village.

Are there 80 men in this little village?

So I faced one of the hardest few hours of my life to date. The reality that Vitaliy might be drafted into this war. It was emotionally upsetting, to say the least. But soon, I was thinking, you know, God is in control. God controls Vitaliy’s life. Not a government, not a commander, bomb or gun. His life is in the hand of God. And whatever happens, I can trust that it is the will of God. And I’m at the point in my faith where I can accept the will of God as a comfort, not a threat or disappointment, even when it hurts.

And at that moment, I realized God was comforting me.

He was making my belief in His truths live out in my life.

And in the face of the most horrible things we can experience in life, God has the power to comfort us.

Money seems comforting, friends, too. And there can be a measure of comfort in those things. Music, food, a trip, a gift received. So many things can give a measure of comfort. But full and final comfort, comfort big and strong and long enough for living in faith through all the pain, comes from the Comforter.

He applies God’s truths, promises, character, words to our present lives, and that comforts us.

Comforting is a God-size job. Look at the depths of our pain, loss, suffering … the depths of sin and it’s results. And God’s comfort can comfort all of it, over and over. It can comfort to the end, with satisfaction.¬†Comfort can¬†affect our hormones, our thoughts, our emotions, our decisions. The very course our lives take in response to the pain.

Comfort is full of faith and truth. Faith and Truth unite in Comfort. Comfort is the union of Faith and Truth. In our hearts, our whole beings, our temples, where the Spirit dwells.

My mind goes back to the widow with eight children whose husband was killed in such a shocking and horrible way. And God comforts me, when I think of her. And God comforts her. And I hope one day we’ll get to talk about it.

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Do you remember doing that as a kid? I think we used to take turns with who would sit in the front seat of the car so we didn’t argue about it. Generally, it’s a prized place, you know.

So I had this interesting spiritual experience yesterday that I want to record.

Yesterday, we drove to Kiev in our van as a family. This was a big deal, as usually we have rehab students with us. A guy or two sits in the front with Vitaliy. I sit in the back with the kids, holding Una, feeding her, and a guy or two or three squishes in there, too.

I kind of hate sitting in the back because cold wind blows through the side door onto me, and when we hit a bump, you literally lose contact with your seating. (This was originally a cargo van that we switched to a passenger van, so that contributes to this phenomenon.) Also, because it was a cargo van, there’s no heating vents back there– all the warmth is in the front seat.

But yesterday, I got to sit in the front with Vitaliy. I love these drives. We chat about this and that. I’m warm. I remain seated.

So, we get to church yesterday. And lo and behold, Oleg shows up. Oleg was in our rehab program a while back. His health was so poor, we paid for his hospital treatments to relieve his stomach pains. But he was so disobeying the rules and had a crummy attitude, and he left / was sent away. Vitaliy thought Oleg was on the verge of dying and had just given up his last chance at accepting God’s mercy.

But how deep and wide and long and new¬†is God’s mercy? Oleg is still alive.

Oleg is from the train station. That’s where he lives. Ruslan was later witnessing at the station (after Oleg had¬†left the center), and Oleg was hateful to him. (general rule: the more you do for them, the more they hate you later, it seems– except for the grace of God which can change them, and how glorious when that happens.)

So yesterday, Vitaliy talks to Oleg, and yes, he really wants to change (suppressing the eye roll, choosing to hope all things–because we have a God with whom all things are possible). He really wants to come back to the center.

Did I mention that Oleg stinks to high heaven? from his homeless life.

So … we rearrange our day.¬†And I’m sitting in van later as we’re waiting for the girls to finish AWANA. And I¬†know I should give up the front¬†seat for Oleg to sit there.¬†So he’s not in the back with the kids, stinking,¬†etc.

But I don’t want to give it up. It’s warm, stable, and I can chat with Vitaliy.

And I start¬†thinking, why is this¬†so hard for me? Sheesh, over the years, I’ve happily given up thousands of dollars, my best bath towels, my husband, been hospitable in a multitude of ways. Why is it so hard to give up the front seat on one trip, for Pete’s sake!?

And I remembered Philippians 2, where Jesus took on the form of a servant to come into world and save us. And I thought:

Jesus gave up the front seat for us.

That’s exactly what He did. He had it all– warmth, comfort, deserved worship from angelic beings, enjoyment of His Father’s presence …

And He gave up His front seat and got into the cold, uncomfortable back seat for the sake of stinky sinners who tend to treat Him with hate no matter what good He does for them.

And further, I reasoned, I have the comfort of being a co-sinner with Oleg– I can identify with him, that all the bad things he is and does, I have the same sinful capability in myself, and generally I have committed sins and had consequences, too.

But Christ didn’t even have that comfort when He gave up the front seat to identify with us. He didn’t sin ever, but He took our sins upon Himself. He didn’t ever have a bad consequence from His own sin, but He bore our consequences and still does as His Spirit lives in us.

What an amazing humility.

In the end,

It wasn’t easy¬†giving up the front seat. It sounds so stupid, and it is¬†just such a stupid thing to struggle over. But I didn’t want to miss the blessing of giving up the front seat out of love. … After a few minutes, I¬†adjusted to the idea. But … was I really loving Oleg or just¬†getting used to the idea?

So I looked at the back of his head and prayed for him. Prayed that I would love him, that God would have mercy on him¬†to save him. And if he’s come to¬†our center¬†to die with us, that he would¬†be going into God’s presence and not into hell.

And I pray that my heart would be stretched so that this hospitality would become the normal size of my being. (When I have these struggles, I think about my mom and what she did so often in so many small and big ways. It all seemed and still seems to be so easy for her, to give up this or that.)

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I’m in the “can’t see the Start–can’t see the Finish” phase, the long stretch of gray in between. Well, I’m trying to litter the long stretch with happy things to keep me going.

1. I can do 15 minutes a day. Lately, it’s usually between 9-11pm, when the house is quiet and kids abed. There’s a moment when I doubt that I want to exercise today, but then I think, It’s¬† only 15 minutes. So I go and do it. 5-6 days/week. (It’s advised to take one day/week off.)

2. I love how the shape of my body is changing. I look at an arm or a leg at times, and think, Wow, that’s looking thinner, more shaped.

My stomach region is the most noticeable for me. And blogs need photos, so:

Here’s me with my today, much-smaller stomach with relaxed muscles:


And the same pose with muscle-contracted stomach (the T-Tapp stance has you keep your ab muscles contracted continually).


The shape of my abdomen is changing.

3. I haven’t been doing much for losing weight– I lost the energy and drive for thinking about this– but I just stepped on the scale and a few more pounds are gone. I’m around 180 now. SO, bright spot on the long race, I’m almost down to my next “decade” of weight, as Charlotte Siems talks about.

Today is my break day, and I’ll measure myself tomorrow. But really, I’m happy with the changes, and the numbers make me¬†anxious generally and expect too much, but I think they’re important for keeping focused.

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love hopes all things

A few years back, I realized I was dealing with cynicism and being jaded about certain things in ministry. It’s when I stopped being shocked when I heard about someone’s sin, and instead it just pinged off my scar-tissue’d heart with an eye roll.

Cynicism is related to bitterness, in my experience.¬†And unforgiveness. It’s¬†one sinful way we deal with the shock of sin.

Godly love, in contrast, takes the more painful, more inner-work route. For one, godly love mourns over sin, no matter how many times, no matter how frustratingly uncorrectable and un-help-able the sin seems.

“Hoping all things” is also one of the antidotes to cynicism and bitterness.

I realized this tonight as Vitaliy and I were chatting about the two new guys who’ve come for rehab at Center Salvation. After doing this ministry for a few years, it’s¬†so easy to roll one’s eyes at their “repentance,” to distrust any statement of spiritual interest¬†… to be cynical about … pretty much everything.

And I have to repent of this¬†sin of trying to protect my heart with cynicism and distrust. Because it’s what I naturally turn to. Vitaliy tells me that¬†a¬†guy¬†said this or did that, and immediately, I distrust any promising word. I want to stamp out any hope or expectation with my cynical tongue. I want to roll my eyes and snort and think sarcastically Yeah, right.

And instead, I need to embrace God’s love that hopes all things. ALL is a big word. To hope¬†ALL things? To hope that God’s Spirit will reach into sin-choosing souls, into lying, deceiving, self-serving lives and transform them into godly, Christ-righteous men?

That’s a lot of work. To hope.

To keep on hoping year after year, guy after guy.

That’s a lot of love.

… And … And …¬†I need to turn away from cynicism towards myself and hope all things for God’s transforming power in my own life. And in the life of our church.

1 Thess 4:3 says “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.”

My cynicism, sarcasm, and eye-rolling snorts¬†want to jump right in and stamp out¬†the possibility of change– the huge work of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying us.¬†Well, not that I’d say it aloud, but I’m sure thinking it when it comes to certain issues in my life and certain people in our church.

So here’s my God-answer for cynical, sarcastic, jaded, self-protecting anti-love:

Love hopes all things.

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