Archive for the ‘church life’ Category

The last, oh about 4-5 years of my parenting have been a time for me to be silent. About parenting, I mean. Although this is a topic I feel compelled to talk about. A topic I love and love to study and contemplate.

Two reasons that I see right now. First, I’ve just had to be living out the beliefs and wisdom God has given me. And you know, parenting questions are matters of conscience and a parent’s personal growth, so partly, I’ve just had to be quiet and live out what I’ve been led to live. To test the fruit that will be borne of these things.

But second, it was a time in our church when certain people were not open to me. I should say, when my husband became the main pastor, the grumps put their crosshairs onto him. And so, personal things we might have shared just had to be put aside for that time of ministry….. I actually never saw an end coming, but … that period of our lives (V as main pastor) is coming to an end now, and so people’s relationships to us in the church are transitioning, and the grumps are somehow also the gateway to a lot of things in our little circle. Or, maybe just God is the gateway. And He used the time of quietness to teach certain things to me and to others. And now it’s transition time.

People are asking and there’s a hesitant openness.

It’s a moment to speak, but also to build trust. And to not be anyone’s expert, but to point people to God, who has all the answers in His Word and the Holy Spirit. But it’s still important to speak at the appropriate moments. … I’m trying to do that. You can pray for me. It’s hard for me … to speak and to remain silent.



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Vitaliy’s birthday was last Wednesday. We were out in our village house/rehab center. I picked up some soda and sausage/hot doggie type things to fry. So they cooked them over the fire.


Igor heated the pech (clay/brick fire stove) in the summer kitchen and made a huge pot of zharkoye (mostly potato, with some meat and carrots and onions).

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Here’s the feast:


Then at church today they surprised him 🙂 In the middle of the service, there is участие –like literally “taking part”– so if someone wants to say a poem or sing a song or share a praise, they can do that.

So he asked if there was any “taking part”, and suddenly, a youth guy stood right up and said, “I do!” and two others stood up and said “we do!” And then everyone stood up and sang happy birthday to him.

Then they gave him presents. A book, a box of chocolates (they read my mind! for me!), and a huge bread loaf made into a sausage sandwich (they read a guy’s mind!) And one said a poem, and they sang one of his favorite songs.

giving the huge sandwich

giving the huge sandwich

we also had Lord's Supper today

we also had Lord’s Supper today

saying a poem

saying a poem

today, we also, incidentally, had a “представление”—  a presentation of a couple announcing their engagement. (Vitaliy’s doing the premarital counseling, so I knew about this in advance–usually it’s a surprise for me, too!)

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Our life now reminds me of our first year and a half of marriage, when we lived in the nearby bigger village. (We later moved to Kiev.)

Village churches, village services. There’s just a different flavor to it, than the Big City.

There’s a couple we’ve known for as long as we’ve known each other– and Vitaliy for even longer, as it is his best friend in Bible Institute days. They did their studies together, village evangelism together, life together. We were at their wedding. They invited us to this little Christmas Eve service in a neighboring village where believers from several villages would gather.  Their names are Olexiy and Luda.

This (the man with the guitar up front) is the missionary (Ukrainian) who works in this small village, Krasyatochi.


Vitaliy preached the first sermon.


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Then we had lots of участии — the part of the service where whoever wants to do something, can–sing a song, say a poem, etc. This is Luda’s children’s group singing–the two boys in the front are hers.


Olexiy preached.


This box sits in the back of the room for offerings. This is 2 Corinthisans 9:7 on it: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”


Olexiy asked questions about Christmas– to see who could differentiate tradition from what’s actually written in the Scriptures. It was so interesting! He gave out candy to those who answered correctly.


It was a wonderful preparation for Christmas Day 🙂

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Our church gals do awesome baby showers. (One is a wedding designer, so ….) It’s worth having a baby just for the beautiful shower. And all the love and gifts and sweetness poured out.

So I was asked to give the devotional at the shower yesterday, and I talked about thankfulness.


За все благодарите: ибо такова о вас воля Божия во Христе Иисусе.

1 Фесс 5:18

In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

I Thess 5:18

Here are some notes:

We thank when it’s obvious and easy. But thanking always is a huge step in maturity and growth. It’s how we can constantly fellowship with God and experience His grace and joy.

The verses in the NT where we’re instructed to give thanks are often connected to prayer and rejoicing, so giving thanks constantly is a way we can have/do/be full of prayer and joy.

I want to talk about 2 times when it’s hard to thank God:

  1. For the mundane. We do many repetitious tasks that seem to have no spiritual value. … laundry, food, discipline, playing with kids, cleaning .

But we can fill these tasks with spiritual meaning by giving thanks to God for them and through them.

For example, we can thank God for these simple, humbling jobs. For Christ, who did simple, humbling things on earth–who lived in a family and fulfilled the will of God as a son and brother.

We can thank God for the presence of the Holy Spirit while we do everything. In the Old Testament, people were filled with the Spirit for special tasks, and in order to fellowship with God, they had to go to a priest, a temple, offer a sacrifice. But today!  We have the Spirit constantly living in us, filling us, making holy all that we do. We ourselves are priests; we can pray and fellowship directly with God through Christ. And we can do every single job in holy service to Him.

Example: Jesus thanking God for food–such a simple, daily, repetitious thing to thank God for, but He gave great meaning to what He was doing by giving thanks. Mtt 14:19, 15:36, Luke 24:30-31

2. We can thank God for hard things: for disappointments. For tragedies. For our own struggles with sin.

Thanksgiving by faith gives meaning to these things and gives us hope that God will do even greater things than we can imagine.

Jesus thanked God for the bread and wine at the Last Supper and taught that they represented His suffering for us. He pointed us to the spiritual value that His suffering had. And we now continually give thanks, too, when we take communion, for His suffering. Mt 26:26-27.

All things in our lives have spiritual meaning, even tragedies (Rom 8:28). These things are God’s grace to us, it’s what we don’t deserve. We don’t deserve to have tragedies that can become blessings to us– we deserve just to have evil for our sins. So thanking God for ALL things strengthens our faith that there is purpose and eternal value in the things that disappoint and hurt us. For example, when I was in a car accident– it seems like simply a tragedy, but so many spiritual and physical blessings came from that time. The world may not understand our thankfulness and joy during these times when only sadness and tragedy is visible, but by faith, this is what we do.

Thanking God for our sins. When my first two kids were little, it was the hardest time in my life. I felt like I was sinning all day long. At one point, I wanted to put my older child in kindergarten, but I realized that I was just trying to run away from myself, to withdraw myself from a situation that was provoking me to sin a lot. But could I submit myself to the egoistic discomfort I was feeling, and remain in the relationship and let God use it to sanctify and transform me? I’m thankful this is what happened, and that God taught me so many lessons about Himself and the process of sanctification during that uncomfortable, obviously-sinful time in my life. I have much better understanding of some spiritual things because of this, and much greater compassion for others.

Sometimes when we give thanks for a hurtful thing, we immediately feel and gain relief in our spirits. Other times, we have to discipline ourselves to keep thanking God, and in time, He grants us that joy and peace that comes from fully trusting Him.

Also, when we have conflicts with someone in the church: Paul very often wrote to churches, “I thank God for you…” Of all people, Paul could’ve been critical, judgmental, and constantly dissatisfied with these new believers. But what did he do? He constantly thanked God for them! And so, when we experience conflicts in our church, rather than think evil, let’s find ways to give thanks for that person.

And let’s be ready to encourage one another to give thanks. When we share our trials and hardships with each other, let’s urge each other to express thankfulness in this, to find spiritual value in it, and not grumble.

We're all due not far from each other :)

We’re all due not far from each other 🙂

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I’m kind of nervous about group cooking (and cooking in general), however, I also think it’s important to invest in community, and cooking is a way to do that. So I signed up to bring breakfast to Sunday School tomorrow, and I want to make it something special. And It’s Mother’s Day.

So I asked for ideas on a forum I’m on, and a lady gave me a recipe for spinach strata that she makes for her class, and I found a gluten-free muffin recipe that is very simple.

The muffins are done, and the spinach strata is in the frig overnight to be cooked tomorrow morning. Here are photos:

Sausage and spinach/onion mix:


bread cubes


layering the spinach strata


sits overnight, cooks tomorrow morning:


gluten-free muffins made with almond butter–fabulous, and they might not make it until tomorrow 🙂 Only 5 are left I think.

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Background: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Working through this issue happens in stages, I see, and after a new level, I evened out for a while, but the last two days I was in a bit of a funk again, and that’s the sign that God wants to do something deeper.

So I’m reading “Prayer” by John Bunyan, and one thing he says:

If thou wouldest more fully express thyself before the Lord, study first, Thy filthy estate; secondly, God’s promises; thirdly, The heart of Christ.

I had been thinking, during church, how the longer I live, the more I am “saved.” I mean, the more life experiences I have, the more I experience my own sinfulness and see the possibility of my sinfulness.

Intriguing that Bunyan says to study this first. To, by the Spirit, be made aware of my own vileness.

So in my journal, I listed out some of the sins I’ve struggled with over the last 10 years. And asking God for mercy and salvation. And remembering His promises–that He leads me in paths of righteousness, that He will complete the good work He started in me, that He’s working all things for my good–for conforming me to Christ.

And as I looked at that list of sins, I thought of the leaders in our church in Ukraine, and the sins they’ve struggled with. And they’re not that different. At all. And the Spirit united me with them in our mutual poverty, asking God to have mercy upon us and save us, for how desperately we need Him.

And so, this funny-sounding first-emphasis in prayer (my “filthy estate”) became God’s way of salvation for me in working through this issue.


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I’ve noticed that I have a hard time listening to sermons and teachings on complementarianism and even headship/submission.

It’s not that I’m opposed to those things at all. I even believe them. I think I have these spasmic reactions to these topics b/c I’ve seen & heard about them being done so wrongly.

Let me clarify: I’m not talking about those who are different from me. People are free to live according to the Holy Spirit’s leading in working out the day-to-day of what this looks like. Marriages are widely varied mixes of temperaments, characters, weaknesses, strengths, interests, etc., and this all affects how these things will be put into practice.

But there are those who are rather rabid (quite prescriptive) in how they lay out applications of these principles.

One example: I go into marriage with the teaching that the man is ultimately responsible and he must make all final decisions.

And my husband … wants us to decide things together. Together. Together. Together. We both have to live with it, so we need to decide this together.

Fortunately, having listened to thatmom‘s podcast where she mentions how women tend to read all these marriage books that command how exactly a husband must lead, and they then strive to force their husbands into that mould. … I didn’t start forcing Vitaliy to decide things with just my humble input.

He wants us to decide together? Then that’s his leadership. And will I follow? or will I try to lead him by forcing him to decide? … No, I’ll learn to follow.

Anyway, this whole deal has confounded me a bit when I’m teaching or speaking to women. And it’s hard to listen to it in Ukraine, when I hear Ukrainians bringing in the beginnings of teachings … that I have already seen the end results of in the U.S. It’s hard for me to talk about it and figure out what to say.

I’m still thinking it through, if you can’t tell …

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