Thursday, December 18, 2014

when you cry at physical therapy

God has done so much.

He has been working on my heart while He has been working on my back.

I have been going to physical therapy for almost five months now and have seen an incredible, no.. a MIRACULOUS difference in my back. The pain has almost completely subsided. I’m not constantly being reminded by a sharp pain in my back that I’m not normal. At 24 you should be in the best shape of your life right? It’s beyond frustrating for ANYBODY to be in pain, but to slap on the fact that I shouldn't be experiencing this at this young of an age is surely discouraging…

until the point that I don’t allow the pain to be discouraging. When I choose to make my back issues a positive and give them to God the enemy has no power over me.

I have been beyond blessed to 1) be able to go to physical therapy (I have my parents to thank for that) and 2) to have worked with the people at North Texas Rehab.

Typically people are paired with a single therapist that tracks their progress and works with them, but I was blessed with TWO. Drew and David have been putting their most into my therapy. Not only have they done an incredible job with guiding me through workouts, studied my case, and constantly assessed and reassessed the best route toward healing, they have also been a huge source of encouragement and reassurance to me.

I leave for Spain in two weeks and nerves have been starting to creep in. I’ve become so dependent on their guidance through my workouts and although I’ve gotten so much better, I’m not 100%. So how do I know I won’t go back to where I was? This is what the enemy has planted in my mind more recently.
Today, David and I went to a side room where it was quiet and nobody else was exercising. As my time at North Texas Rehab (and Texas itself) is coming to a close he asked where I was with everything.

“Well my pain is next to nothing and the typical discomfort after driving has decreased an immeasurable amount.”
“When do you leave?”
“In two weeks.” My throat started closing and tears started to fill my eyes.

I shared with him how I’m fearful of not being able to continue gaining strength and do exercises on my own. I know this to be false after a canceled flight of a friend I was picking up led to a morning boot camp workout with my aunt. Everything in the workout was something I was scared to try on my own, but as the workout continued I was aware of my posture and my muscles that I normally activate at the wrong time. I made it through the workout, a normal, feel-the-burn workout with no pain and a realization that I know my body better than I thought. Yet, this fear was still creeping in.

As I shared about my fear of failure and pain coming back, David looked at me with his kind eyes and reassured me that I would be able to do this. I pulled it together and we worked on a routine that I will be doing daily. We went through each one, talking about specifics of positioning and form. Each one has a beginner level (where I am now) and ways to advance them once I do get stronger (because I will).

David and I have talked about our faith with each other starting from our first session and on through every time we have worked together.

Today was special though. I felt the presence of God in our words.

After the workout had ended he asked what he could be praying about for me. It was easy for me to answer. “That I would have an open mind and heart to what God wants to speak to me about in Spain.”

I explained how in the weirdest way, I’m actually thankful for this pain and all of the ways it has caused me to trust God in much deeper ways than I ever had before, because if we’re being honest, my life hasn’t been difficult. I have been blessed beyond measure in so many ways.

I recognized that my tears at the beginning of the session weren’t coming just from fear, they also came from frustration. During my time on the Race, I became aware of how much fear had a hold on me. Fear of failure. Fear of man. Fear is crippling and it is not of God. I told David that now I’m aware of fear and what that feeling is when it sneaks in, I know to combat it with trusting God. It is frustrating that I have fear of leaving therapy because I KNOW that God has me. I have been at therapy the perfect amount of time and have been equipped with the knowledge I need to succeed without a couple of weekly visits to therapy.

David lightly pinched my skin and said, “Do you see what you’re made of? This is what you’ll face your whole life and when you’re sixty, which will come sooner than you think, you’ll have sixty years to look back and see what God was doing. I’ll share a word picture with you.”

Now, I have to mention that David is the king of word pictures. He has a way of explaining things so that it is easy to understand what your body is doing and how your body works. I’m all about visions and metaphors that allow me to relate His love for me and David most definitely possesses the gift to relay these messages from God to people.

“When I get to heaven, Jesus will lead me into a room with a huge tapestry. He’ll point and say ‘do you see that thread? That’s your life. Remember when you were struggling with this, well that was that curve in the direction your thread was going. Look at all of the curves and turns I had you go on and all of the other threads you touched because of it. Look how I used you to help complete this beautiful picture.’”

At this point I’m crying for the second time in the session, but instead of tears stemming from fear, they were tears springing from joy. Tears that came from a place of complete peace and joy because I know that I know that I know God is using me in ways that I can’t imagine. He is using me to complete a tapestry of His perfect plan that will accomplish bringing His Kingdom to earth.

What an HONOR to be used for this greater purpose.

Some days His love is quiet, some days His love comes from your physical therapist, but it is always present, always abundant, and always perfect. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

swallowed by a big fat fish

In August, I signed up for a short-term mission trip to Haiti. When I signed up, God had already clearly spoken to me that I should be in my hometown until January. I had planned to leave for discipleship school in Spain by October, but God had a different idea. This was made clear to me through my back pain, which I had no choice but to rehabilitate. I have been going to physical therapy for almost four months now and seen a HUGE difference. (I'm not 100% so prayers are still greatly appreciated!)

This past Wednesday, I received an email with the news that our trip to Haiti had been canceled due to riots in the town we would be in. Just ONE day before I was supposed to head out, God throws this plot twist at me. 

Well, I think it had been thrown at me a while back... I just wasn't listening. 

My plane ticket was already booked, and although there were riots it wasn't THAT dangerous right? I tried finding a way around the signs God was so clearly showing me. I wanted to figure out a way to go on my own. I mean, I didn't have an ounce of fear in me so why not go?! Looking back, my discernment was being clouded by my selfish desires to leave the country. I went to speak with my associate pastor to see what he thought about it. 

As I talked out all of the angles spinning through my head, he simply said, "I'm reminded of the story of Jonah". 

Jonah, the book of the Bible where God sends a guy to the city of Nineveh, he doesn't want to obey, heads the opposite direction, and is swallowed by a fish that makes him rethink his decision to doubt what God had commanded. 

Immediately it hit me...


It burned a little. God has called me here and now for a specific purpose. This meant staying put, even if it was only a short five-day trip. He wanted me to stay. I had completely missed it. I thought I was walking in obedience and I mean, come on, how could God argue with leaving America for a mission trip. It was about Him, right? 

Instead of being disappointed, I was expectant. Instead of being down, I was intrigued. 

"What are you doing, God? What do you have planned for me instead of Haiti?"
It was almost as if God was telling me, "Oh, just you wait."

In the time that I was supposed to be in Haiti (which still has a couple of days remaining) God has done the following:
-taken me on a trip to minister to the homeless in Oklahoma City
-led me to a coffee warehouse where an idea for a business was ignited
-started that business, which has spread so much faster than I thought possible
-given me guidance about the organization I am starting (I will post a blog soon about this!) as well as provided a name for it
-brought clarity to things I had been praying about
-blessed me with a deeper friendship with a new friend of mine, who I know will be a friend for life!

(Just a few of the sweet faces I encountered this past week.)

All of these things and more wouldn't have happened had I been in Haiti. Two days remain of the time I had set aside for Haiti and I am expectantly waiting to see what God is going to do. 

Lesson learned? Instead of doubting God's plans you must run towards them. If you choose to ignore His plans, you might completely miss what He has for you


You just might be lucky enough to be swallowed by a fish and get rerouted back into His perfect path for your life. 

"But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows, for my salvation comes from the Lord alone. " -Jonah 2:9

Even if they might seem righteous, what plans and desires do you need to sacrifice?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Story of Grace

A year ago was the first time in my life that I had given something up of this world not for my gain, but for His. A year ago I had been putting myself and a relationship first and it had left me feeling empty and unsatisfied. A year ago was the first time that I TRULY trusted that the Lord would provide, although I have forgotten that from time to time.

He has blessed me in more ways than I could've ever imagined. Although it was one of the hardest things I have ever done, the Lord has shown me that if I leave the things of this world to Him, then He will use me in big ways. 
"Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God's will. Then you will receive all that He has promised." -Hebrews 10:36

I have leaned heavily on that verse so many days. Patiently enduring the thing that faces me each day (the fear of being single or not being good enough), so that I can do God's will and use the gift of life each day to honor Him. THEN I will receive ALL that He has promised. 

Anyone who is close to me knows the struggle this year has been for me. I have been SO extremely blessed with loved ones who have prayed for me and reminded me that the Lord's plan is bigger and that He wants nothing more than for me to be happy. I could take up pages thanking each of you, but just know that the love you showed me in my tough time was showing me Christ's love and I couldn't have made it through this year without each one of you. 

Some of my encouragers this past year told me that it's through the hardest times that you learn the most about yourself and grow closest to God. I listened but didn't always understand. I questioned why God allowed me to continue struggling with so many emotions instead of just taking them away, but I see now that through all of the tears and restless nights are when I was pushed closer to God. I had never needed the Lord more than before now, and even though I haven't been the most faithful to Him, He met me when I needed His peace and comfort most. How is it that I can be pursuing things of this world instead of the Lord, and yet when I'm broken and absent of my usual comforts that He meets me with grace and love? Because He IS grace and He IS love. I am His beloved who He cares deeply for even when I'm too ignorant to see that. When God sees His child hurting, He will do everything to show me how much He loves me.
"Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.' The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;  it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord." -Lamentations 3:22-26

The struggles of this past year have been more than difficult, but I wouldn't trade them for a year of complacency and mediocrity. I am a stronger person and have grown spiritually more in this past than I have in my whole life. Not to say I haven't messed up and stumbled along the way, but I get it now. I get that the Lord is the only thing that will ever keep me satisfied and I get that He is the answer to all of my doubts and worry. 
"For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy." -Philippians 2:13-18

It's amazing to look back at the past year and see where I was and where I am today. I want to spend my next year towards falling more in love with Christ and trusting in His plan for my life, especially with graduation fast approaching and no clue as to exactly what I'm going to do as far as a career.

I feel like these lyrics are extremely fitting for my past year. It's by United Pursuit called "Story of Grace"

One way ticket to the lion’s den
Got to go through the fire so I can come out again
Fight for my faith, live what I believe
Stand on my feet and sing, Oh I will sing

Jesus You’ve called me friend
Jesus You’ve made me what I am
Jesus You are my life within
Yet in my weak frame
I’m calling on Your Name
Broke my heart with Your love
God I will love You the same
Forgiven oceans I am
Brought to my knees
The story of Your grace
It fills me with the theme

Jesus You’ve called me friend
Jesus You’ve made me what I am
Jesus You are my life within

I will live by the light of the glory you shine on me
I will live by the grace that you offer so freely

-"Story of Grace" by United Pursuit

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dosvidanya Ukraine, Salut Romania!

I'm so far behind in posting, but that should tell you that I'm having so much fun that I only have enough spare time to sleep!

At lunch, Zoya and Ann prepared a going away lunch for me. It was just as big of a meal as the welcome dinner. I couldn't believe that my time had already come and passed. They asked questions about my stay in Ukraine and my impressions of their home city. One question was, what were my three favorite things while there.
1. The dacha. I loved the atmosphere of being out in the country and all of the fresh fruit and vegetables. It felt like we could have been hundreds of years back in time.
2. The night we dressed up for the soccer game. Ann mentioned how out of the ordinary it was for her to not only be watching tv, but to have her face painted and to be dancing around cheering for their team. It was so much fun to be silly and not care how crazy we were acting.
3. The food. I was nervous about not having food I like while I was there, so I packed a couple dozen protein bars... They never left my suitcase.

Of course sentimental toasts were made at the table. They are all so sweet and have such kind hearts, and this is shown through the words Ann would translate of their toasts. After Ann poured the last bit of wine into her glass, Igor insisted that she make a wish. Whoever gets the last amount of wine out of the bottle makes a wish by talking into the bottle and putting the cork back in.

Ann, Nadya, Zlata and myself spent a nice evening at Oak Tree Park, which was ironic because to find an oak tree in the large park was a task. It was very relaxing walking along the lake telling funny stories, of which Nadya translated from English to Russian for Zlata. We were all very impressed with her! We walked by the small carnival that stays there year round and has been there since before Ann was born. We spent 8 hrivnyas a piece (right at $1) and rode on the ferris wheel. It was a beautiful view where we could see the river, the park, and all the way to our flat. Nadya wasn't able to enjoy it until we started on our way down.

Ann explained how when her father was a child, most people had their own animals for food while living in the city. His family had a pig, and they would make a trip to the park to gather pounds and pounds of acorns (which weren't edible for people) and carry them back to their house as feed for the pigs.

On the bridges there were hundreds of locks. The tradition is to go take your wedding pictures around the city at famous landmarks directly following the ceremony at the church. (When we were in St. Petersburg a couple of years ago, we saw at least ten couples partaking in this tradition.) One stop they always make is at a bridge where they lock a padlock onto the railing of a bridge and throw the key into to water to symbolize their commitment to each other. One had a combo lock and I joked that it was in case of divorce.

We spent about three hours there and had a lot of laughs. It was a perfect last night in Ukraine. Simple but very enjoyable.

Because the next few days would be spent traveling, I knew I should get as much sleep as possible so I slept in and didn't rush to get ready. It took me about an hour and a half to pack everything and it was a miracle it all fit. With two countries worth of souvenirs to go, I'll have to send some things back with people on my mission trip if I'm going to buy anything in Romania or Italy.

I spent the rest of the time at the flat reading and playing chess with Nadya. I wish that I had known sooner that she liked to play because it doesn't require speaking, but it is still enjoyable to do together. My dad is a master chess player and he used to challenge my brothers and I to games all the time. I remember one time when I was around twelve that I was only one move away from beating him, but made a mistake and he took me out. One day it will happen!

Once the bags were loaded down, we headed to the train station where Ann, Zlata and I would leave for Kiev. The entire family came to say goodbye which meant so much. It is always hard for Igor to get out and about so for him to make a trip to the flat AND the train station was just priceless. It is a small example to show how caring and considerate they all are.

Once we got settled into our compartment, we pulled out a deck of cards. The ace, jack and queen were all different letters and there were only 36 cards because they start at 6 which threw me off a bit. They were amazed at how I could shuffle and do the bridge, so I tried to teach them how. Key word: tried. It was unsuccessful but it was a good laugh watching them struggle with the deck. They taught me a game where all the cards were dealt out to the players after one queen is taken out (besides the queen of spades). You take turns drawing blindly from the deck of the person on your left. After putting down pairs, you don't want to be the last one with the queen of spades. When I said "nothing," as in "I have no pairs to lay down", Zlata misunderstood so on her next turn after not drawing a matching card she replied "muffin!" It was the joke that carried over the rest of our time together.

We arrived in Kiev around six in the morning. The earliest check in the hotel would allow was noon so we had a lot of spare time to kill. We checked our bags into the hotel so we wouldn't have to drag that around with us. The hotel was a beautiful boat hotel that overlooked the river. The hotel had moved locations a few weeks before so it would be more convenient for all of the Euro Cup fans.

We went to the center of the city where the hotel we stayed in a week or so before had been tripled in price. Zlata had recently been hired as a lawyer for a campaign so she had meetings to attend and would meet up with us later. The fan zone had been completed, but it was blocked off until later in the afternoon. We found somewhere open for breakfast and ran some errands. Ann's boss was working on traveling to Italy with her daughter in a couple of weeks, but the place that issued visas wouldn't answer the phone or return calls so she asked Ann to go ask questions for her while we were there in person. It is extremely difficult for Ukrainians to get visas, especially to Italy and America. Once it was about noon we headed to the hotel to take a long nap. When we got there they said that they had already given out the rooms and there wouldn't be any clean until two, so, discouraged, we waited for a while longer in the lobby. We were pretty unhappy customers, but while we were sitting there we saw that some Germans had come to check into the rooms they had reserved and paid for previously and were told that no rooms were available and they would have to find another hotel. It was shocking to see them just send them on their way, no help at finding a place to stay in the midst of the Euro Cup.

After we got to our room I crashed for a few hours. We headed to the fan zone about an hour before Italy and Croatia played. It was incredible how many people were there watching the big screens and enjoying the night. There were TVs set up everywhere and every ten feet was a beer stand (no exaggeration). They had people dressed up representing the different countries in the tournament, but I only got a picture with the Irish. I cheered for Italy because we will be there for the semi finals and final game. Italy ended up tying with Croatia which put them 3rd in their bracket. Instead of taking the Metro we got a cab back to the hotel to be safe and to get back quickly. We got to bed around 10:30 or so, but set our alarms for 2:40.

The sound of the alarms came way too early. I didn't have to get much together because I prepared everything the night before. Within about twenty minutes we were on our way to the airport. On the way I noticed how bright it was for so early in the morning and Ann said that the sun usually rises from 3:30 to 4:00 in the morning.

It was pretty crowded at the Lufthansa check in for being so early in the morning. I noticed the electronic check in kiosk with no line in front of it. I checked in within two minutes and just had to wait in a short line to check my bag. I noticed after I checked in so quickly that other people caught on and followed my lead. The three of us found some seats and visited a little while longer while anticipating saying goodbye. Ann helped me finish up my blog post with the recipes and it was time for me to head through security so Zlata started with the goodbyes. Although I spent so little time with her, I grew very fond of her and her laid back personality. As she was saying goodbye she started tearing up which of course got Ann and I going. The way they put their words together is so sincere and kind. I couldn't express to Ann how grateful I was for her to open her home to me and to make my time in Ukraine the best that it could be. I told her she made this portion of my trip so great that it will be hard to beat by the next two stops. It will be a time that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Once I went through security I had a couple of hours until the flight left and because it was 4 in the morning (and 8:00 at night in Texas) I was able to Skype with my mom and then one of my best friends, Alyssa. It was so nice getting to see them while I was in an airport where I knew no one.

Once you start boarding for your flight in these smaller airports I've been through, you have to go down several levels of stairs to get to ground level and then board the plane by climbing stairs. This wouldn't be an issue except for the fact that my carry on suitcase is as heavy as my checked bag. Luckily a guy saw me struggling and carried it for me the whole way. He was a younger guy and had been in Ukraine for a few days to watch the Euro Cup, just as most people in the airport. My first flight was to Munich where I had been a couple of weeks earlier. I had a short layover so I grabbed a snack and then boarded the plane to Bucharest. I could've booked a later flight that was direct from Kiev to Bucharest, but it was just an hour before the group arrived and I didn't want to risk being late so I ended up at the airport five hours before them. By that time I was worn out from waking up so early, but I couldn't sleep being by myself and having all of my luggage. I passed the time with some reading, but the time came that I needed to go to the bathroom. There wasn't one on the level where I was, so I went downstairs and followed the restroom signs and once I got there the cleaning lady wouldn't let me in. She then directed me to the one other restroom which was up a flight of stairs and down another and with two suitcases and two other bags it wasn't possible to get there. I went back upstairs to a cafe with a couple of hours before my group would arrive.
While I was sitting there I heard people speaking English so I asked where they were from. It was a friendly couple from Canada and we were each waiting for the same flight for groups we would be meeting up with. I told them about my trip and how we would be working with the orphans and invited them to read my blog. Normally it isn't something I would do, but I know the Lord wanted me to start this blog for reasons I can't see so I figured I should share with whoever! Luckily, the husband was able to watch our bags as the wife and I went through the maze to get to the bathroom. So thankful I had them because otherwise I would've just had to wait! As it was time to start looking for our groups, I gave them a carved box made out of birch tree bark that I got in Ukraine as a small thank you and way to remember our meeting.

Because I had never met anyone on our mission team I was a little worried about being able to find them. One of the women who has been coming to Romania fifteen or more times has an adopted son who now lives in Bucharest and was meeting us at the airport. She told him I would be looking for everyone and that I would have "American" stamped on my forehead. Sure enough while I was looking for the group as people were arriving I hear "Are you Addison?" in a Romanian accent. Sure enough he found me! Costica (not sure on the spelling, but it is pronounced coast-ee-kah) and I waited for about twenty minutes before the group finally came through. He was so nice and easy to talk to, I wish we had been able to meet up sooner! He was telling me how he is working on getting a visa to come to the U.S. for Christmas this year, but how he had little hope because he has already been denied so many times.

After the group was together and with our bags, we got on a 20 passenger van for our five hour drive to Tulcea. By this time I had been awake for something like 18 or 19 hours so I slept most of the way. We arrived late to our home for the next week, a house boat! There were 12 rooms, and because there were 12 of us, we each got our own room.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ukrainian Cuisine

The main difference I've noticed in Ukrainian lifestyle is the food. Because everyone walks for long distances each day, meals with lots of nutrients are vital. Since we have arrived to Zaporozhye, Ann has made each meal for all of us with a wide variety of dishes. Practically all of the food is home grown and home made.

Lots of families own dachas outside of the cities to grow their own produce. Their family dacha is an hour train ride away. They grow a wide variety of fresh vegetables and fruits like: tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, green onions, bell peppers, beet root, lettuce, garlic, dill, parsley, eggplant, zucchini, pumpkin, peas, beans, chili peppers, radish, horse radish, corn, sunflowers, watermelons, melons, apples, strawberries, raspberries, currant (black, white, and red), pears, apricots, sweet and sour cherries, mulberries, plums, and walnuts. Some of these do not keep for long so they either freeze, can, dry, pickle, or preserve them with sugar and they are used throughout the year.

I have started writing down some of Ann's recipes to take back with me because they are all so tasty!

Stewed Apples:

-Half a pan full of sliced apples (in eighths or quarters of apples)
-1/3 cup of water
-a bit of sugar if apples aren't sweet

Boil with lid on and simmer for 10 minutes or until apples are tender.

 Syrniki (pronounced: sir-nee-kee):

-1 egg
-1/4 tsp. of baking soda
-3 tsp of sugar
-7 oz. of cottage cheese (mash with fork until it has a smoother texture)
-1 full tbs. of flour

Mix egg, baking soda, sugar, and cottage cheese. Ball the dough with your hands until the texture becomes sticky. Flatten into small patties and cover each side with flour. Put patties on skillet with preheated oil and cook each side on medium heat until golden brown. Once each side is cooked, simmer with lid on for 10 minutes on low heat. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and jam.

Kompot (fruit drink):

White Kompot - 1 pear, 2 peaches, 2 apples, 3-5 apricots, 3 tbs. white currant
Red Kompot - 3 tablespoons of sour cherries or red currant, 2 tbs. strawberries, 2 tbs. raspberries, blue plums

Put into pot with 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 3-5 minutes. Then let infuse for one or more hours.

Borsch (a very traditional Ukrainian soup):

-2 small peeled and grated beet roots
-2 chicken breasts
-Bullion from chicken breasts
-1-2 grated carrots
-1 finely chopped onion
-1 tbs of olive oil
-4 medium sized potatoes
-1/4 head of finely chopped cabbage
-1 bell pepper sliced in thin strips (size of small bubble gum strip)
-2 small grated tomatoes
-chopped dill or parsley

Preboil beet roots for two hours

Put chicken breasts into pot of luke warm water and bring to a boil. Gather protein film that floats on top of the water. Cook on medium heat for 35-40 minutes (or until meat is done) with the lid on. Leave chicken in bullion until time to serve, then remove chicken and cut into pieces for each person.

Mix grated carrots and diced onions and simmer with 1 tbs of olive oil for 7 minutes. Peel potatoes while waiting. Mix potatoes, onions, carrots, and preboiled beet roots into bullion. Add salt. Cook on medium heat for 15 minutes or until potatoes are cooked. Add finely chopped cabbage and chopped bell pepper to mixture and cook for no longer than 5 minutes.

Simmer 2 small grated tomatoes so all water evaporates and the texture resembles a sauce. Add chopped dill and/or parsley. Add tomatoes to the pot and boil for 3 minutes uncovered.

Serve with sour cream on bottom of bowl, green onions and fresh garlic on top.

Dried strawberry leaves:

Used for high blood pressure. Pour hot water into a cup with dried leaves and place a napkin over the cup for 15 minutes to infuse.

Waffle Cake:

-5 layers of thin round or square waffle
-About 10 ounces of condensed milk (Ann called it "skimmed milk")
-7 ounces of 72% fat butter

Soften butter. Put condensed milk and butter into bowl and use fork to mash until it becomes a smooth, creamy texture (Ann said this should take around 10 minutes). Use 2-3 tablespoons of mixture between each layer of waffle and on top. Top with chocolate shavings, crumbled waffles, nuts, or fresh fruit. Refrigerate or set out for one hour to allow mixture to soak into waffle.

Honey Cake:

-2 egg yolks
-1 egg
-1/2 cup of sugar
-3 tbs. of honey
-1 tsp. of baking soda and 1/2 tsp. of vinegar mixed
-2.5 cups of flour

Mix all of the ingredients to make a dough that is soft. Should be sticky. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour. Divide dough into four parts. Bake each layer separately on an oiled baking sheet (keep hands wet with water so the dough won't stick to hands)and make layers thin (about 1/10 of an inch) and round. Bake each individual layer at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for around 10 minutes or until the middle is baked. Once all four layers are done, trim edges so layers are the same shape. Icing: -7 ounces of 72% butter -10 ounces of condensed milk Make sure butter is soft and mix two together with fork until it is consistent. Ice in between each layer, on top, and on the sides. Top with crumbled excess cake from trimming, walnuts,


 Nobody in Ann's family drinks anything cold. With cold juices they will add hot water to make it a luke warm temperature. She said one way they prepared for my coming was by freezing ice in the trays for about a week because they don't ever have ice! One meal Ann wanted ice in her drink so it was a big deal and I gave her a hard time.

I don't know how it is possible after the amount of food I eat, but I have lost about 7 pounds on this trip! I think it is from eating healthier and walking everywhere. Note to self: if I ever need to go on a diet, but don't want to feel like I'm on a diet, come back to Ukraine!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I am His beloved

It was nice to be lazy and hang around the flat on Saturday before we went to the circus at four. I watched one of Louie Giglio's talks from Passion about Jesus rescuing us before we are sent to our burial.
"Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." -Ephesians 5:14
It was a great reminder of the place I was back when I first heard this talk in January and to see where I am now. The struggles I have overcome, the struggles I still put myself through, and my Savior who is stays constant through it all. Little by little I'm making it through the book I had mentioned in a previous post, "Abba's Child" and I'm being stretched and grown by each page that I read.
"...the heart of it is this: to make the Lord and his immense love for you constitutive of your personal worth. Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. God's love for you and his choice of you constitute your worth. Accept that, and let it become the most important thing in your life."
I'm learning that I should be seeing myself as not only one forgiven by God's grace, but one deeply loved by Him. I am His BELOVED! Only when I can fully grasp that will I be able to love myself and live my life glorifying to Him. Needless to say, I am not only having a great time in Ukraine, but I am also learning so much about the Lord and His sweet promises to me!


We arrived at the circus and I had no clue what to expect. Ann and Nadya were excited because the circus is something they only get to do once a year. It was very similar to our circuses in that there was popcorn and cotton candy, balloon animals, and animals to take pictures with, but it was a little different because it was a permanent building where only the circus is held, and there were no large animals like lions or elephants. The acrobatics were amazing and scary to watch.  

Out of all the years Ann has gone to the circus, she has never been picked out of the crowd to be part of a performance, and somehow I was picked... twice! The crowd favorite was a clown that came out between acts. This was the first time that he picked me out of the 400+ people there!

(At the end, I'm holding a baby doll if it is too difficult to see!)

The second time I was picked was only because another lady was in the ring and her daughter started crying so she had to go sit back down. I guess because I was on the front row and he knew I wasn't too shy to go out there, he picked me again for a group skit.

At the very end when he brought me back to my seat he pointed to his cheek for me to kiss, so I leaned in and he turned to where I kissed his lips, so that was the reason behind my yelp!

It was such a fun experience and I'm proud to say I was in a Ukrainian circus!

On Sunday we woke up early and got a taxi to the train station. Most people here have dachas (or country homes) to grow fresh fruit and vegetables. We had an hour train ride out to the country and then a local village person gave us a ride. It is usually a twenty minute walk each way, which is hard to believe when they have pounds of freshly picked produce to carry. Once we got there Zoya prepared a second breakfast for us and then I had a nice long nap. Ann and Eugenia share their dacha with her parents and are a few houses down from her aunt and cousin's.   Ann showed me around their plot of land and explained the different plants and had me guess a few. The only obvious ones to me where the garlic and peppermint plants. It was nice being in the fresh air miles away from the closest city and eating food as it was picked. Ann made the observation that it had the same feeling as being at the monastery, very peaceful and serene. It's pretty clear through all of the pictures that it was a beautiful place and I wish we could've had more time there! We left about an hour before the train arrived so we would be sure not to miss it. We walked to the train station because it was downhill. I told Ann that this was a good preparation for when I'll be in Colorado in a little over a month!

I loved all of the mixed matched furniture and fabrics. It gave the house a true country feeling
The flowers Ann painted

Breakfast Number Two 
The patio we sat at and where they have dinners.
Sometimes Nadya will pull a cot out here and sleep in the open air!
Freshly picked raspberries

A flower they dry and use for sore throats and tooth aches 
Recycled concrete window sills. Igor brought these one by one to make the patio. 

Raspberries. Yum!!
As fresh as they come!
Red currant

Putting me to work!

Soon to be grapes

Tool used to pick fruit from trees
Cherry blossom

My Ukrainian sister!
Lucia showing me how to harvest potatoes

Signing their wall using charcoal. It was harder to write with that than you would think, hence the sloppy writing!

Attempting to show me how to crochet 
Not too successful...

The root cellar where they store food in the winter and summer
Zoya added sheets to give the cucumbers some shade

Each time Zoya leaves the dacha she feeds this little guy.
He knew when we walked up that we had some tasty bones waiting for him.

A larger dandelion calls for a larger effort

Yesterday was another day relaxing at the flat trying to keep out of the heat. Ann had to go to work, but Nadya and I played Connect Four and chess. I'm not proud to say that I only won the less strategic of the two. It was enjoyable to have some more time with Nadya, and especially because she HAD to speak English since Ann wasn't there.

Later on we went to an art exhibit where a local artist paints portraits of people in a different time period. One of the paintings was of Nadya's music teacher! I couldn't believe the detail that went into the paintings to make them look so realistic.

From there we went to an Adidas store, where the prices were surprisingly higher than in the US. It seems weird because the salaries here are much lower. I was hoping to get a jersey for either Ukraine or Italy for the Euro Cup. I asked Ann if we could try and find some face paint to get into the spirit for Ukraine's first match against Sweden. She had never seen any face paint and we were skeptical of finding any, but Nadya knew just the store to go to. They ended up having it and only one set of paints left, so we had gotten really lucky! I felt like it wasn't going to be enough so I found a Ukrainian flag a couple of stores down. Ann doesn't usually follow soccer (or "football"), and because it was the sport I played my whole life I had to get them excited! We painted up, rearranged the furniture, and blared the cliche soccer song "Ole." The first half flew by with no goals, and then we found ourselves down 1-0 51 minutes in. Ukraine tied it up just 3 minutes after Sweden scored and we were jumping around and screaming like true football fans. At the 60 minute mark, Andriy Shevchenko came through for Ukraine with his second goal and for the final score 2-1! We jumped around, were cheering, and even played "We Are the Champions" by Queen... classic. Such an exciting and memorable night!

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