Saturday, October 24, 2009

A change of perspective

Did you ever have a conversation, hear something said in passing and it felt like someone was throwing a bucket of water on your face?  Like you *woke up*!  and saw things differently than before.. your perspective was completely altered?  Well that happened to me Friday when Rachel's friend Svieta came to visit.  Svieta's grandparents live down the road and she comes every Friday after school and spends the weekend with them.. and in turn us.   When she rings the doorbell Johanna comes running 'SVIETA!!  Svieta, my other sister is here!'   She's spent quite a bit of time at our house since we moved in four years ago.. and we all think of her as our 'other sister.'
Svieta sat down at the table and I set about fixing her a cheese sandwich and hot chocolate and asked her about school.  She seemed more excited than usual and chatted on... 'my Papa is coming to see me tomorrow!  I haven't seen him for four years and I'm so excited!!  He's going to take me to McDonald's and buy me a new coat!'  I was stunned for a moment but then got excited with her.  I had learned from her Mother that Svieta's Father had left when she was a  baby.. but she had never ever mentioned him before.   "Where does he live?"  I asked thinking he must be from Vladivostok or some city in far away Siberia.   'Oh he lives in Moscow,'  Svieta replied.   'I just never see him because he works all the time, but he is really rich now.. he has a television as big as an entire wall, and a new car, and lots and lots of money.'  She finished her snack and then took her plate and put it in the sink.  I kissed the top of her head and then watched her skip up the stairs to play rack-o with Rachel and the boys.
I turned back to the sink and felt the tears spring to my eyes.   I wanted to weep for this man I had never met.. this man who lived a mere 60 miles away and yet who had missed so very, very  much these past four years.  I wanted to weep for a society that thinks a wall sized TV is more important than your daughter's 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th birthdays.  Do they really believe that children desire gifts more than a relationship with the giver?   Then my mind began to race with memories I had made with Svieta over the years ~ the countless walks in the woods together, baking cookies & apple pies, going swimming at the lake,  skating at the pond and sledding down the big hill til we were frozen.  This summer when her dog died how I held her while she sobbed.. with Rachel sobbing right along beside her, and then we all walked to the store for her favorite chocolate ice cream.  I thought about Rachel giving Svieta her first Bible, and her coming to the day camp and telling us how she believed in God now.  I thought about all the joy & laughter she had brought into our lives.   And there in that moment I had my *AHA* moment.. I saw things differently.. I remembered with shame that I had thought to myself 'well here's this poor child with no Father, an alcoholic Mother and Grandfather and maybe we can do some good in her poor life'.   But now I saw clearly that I had needed Svieta.  I had needed someone to walk through the woods and tell me which mushrooms to pick, I needed someone that did nothing but watch a catapillar for an hour straight, I needed someone to teach me silly songs in Russian and tell me the gossip of the whole city.   She had blessed my life in ways I had never fully appreciated and had taken for granted.  
And that got me to thinking.. do we realize how much we miss when we don't have children in our lives??  Do adults realize how much we need little people around?   We need people in our lives that have no concept of time or money.  Who love unconditionally and forgive immediately.  Who will spend an entire afternoon talking to stuffed dogs, and think the closest place to paradise on earth is Cici's pizza buffet.  Last week Johanna spent a solid 45 minutes on the toilet singing made up praise songs.. I walked by and knocked on the door:
  ~ "Johanna are you okay in there??"
  ~'Yes Mommy!  I'm just singing to Jesus'    I could hear her little voice through the crack in the door..  'thank you Jesus for my special bug, thank you for the yellow flowers, thank you for my princess dress, thank you for Rachel my friend, thank you for the purple flowers...'

I thought about it later, when was the last time I had 45 minutes where I did nothing but praise God?    We're told in Matthew,  'Unless you become as a little child you will not enter the kingdom of God.'   Could it be that the secret to becoming like a child is to have little children in your life?  Do we need to be involved somehow in a child's life because that is what enlarges our own heart;  gives us more patience, love, forgiveness and grace?

If this is true how would it affect our churches and lives?  Would there be a waiting list for who gets to do the preschool crafts for VBS??  Would people be fighting over who gets the privilege of teaching the 5th & 6th grade boys Sunday School class?  Would there be less children in foster care and orphanages and more children around our tables?  

As all these thoughts swirled through my mind I turned away from the window and thanked God for throwing that water on my face.  I realize now that I got the *bargain* of the decade. For in exchange of a few crust of bread and warmed up milk, our family has been given a priceless treasure..  a friend named Svieta. 

Summer report

I told James to chain me to the computer and not let me up until I had updated the blog :)   We've had so much going on I feel like I never really reported on summer camps.  James said this summer was by far the *best* ~ most organized, lots of great help, great kids (no one brought drugs or got drunk!!  this had never happened the previous years).    One neat thing that happened after camp is that two young men Costya & Dennis decided to go to a Christian drug rehab center.   They have been there almost 8 weeks now and both have repented!   James has been going to visit them and share with the group.  He is really impressed with the Christian man who decided to begin this ministry; it is certainly a huge need.  The facility is a tiny wooden house and James said 20 people sleep in the one room you see below.  Costya and Dennis are both doing great and say the training and encouragement they've received have changed their lives.   

If you notice the lady sitting to the left in the black scarf ~ that is our neighbor Olga.  Her son is the one that committed suicide last month.    James had invited her to go along just to get her out of the house and have some fellowship.  She has been coming over all the time to just visit and talk.  One night last week she came over and did my dishes and folded laundry with Rachel.  She brought over a stack of children's books that had been Dima's and wanted to give them to Johanna.   There is still deep grief, but it's been amazing to see how this has opened up a friendship.  To give you an idea of how things work over here with the Orthodox Church.. I told you the local Orthodox Priest had refused to do the burial.  Well Olga went to a higher up Priest in Moscow and gave him a monetary *gift*, and he agreed to come out and perform the ritual of 'praying his soul out of hell.'    Thank you to those who have prayed for her and Zhenya.
I wanted to post some pictures from the end of August.  Both of Rachel's friends have birthdays and the parties are always a highlight of the summer.  The older *babushka* in the back is our dearest 'Babul Irena' as we all call her.  She is Olga's great-grandmother and one of the sweetest ladies I have ever met.  Johanna and I take a walk every evening in the summer and we always end up at Babul's house for a chat.  She is 82 years old and is amazing ~ there is a reason they call them the 'greatest generation'.  :)
This is from Darina's birthday party.  Don't worry the kids didn't consume any alcohol ;)  They played games out in the field and had a wonderful time.
September was filled with apples ~ we have 6 apple trees in our yard and this year was a bumper harvest.  We made apple butter, applesauce, and apple cobbler and pie almost every night.  There is a reason the fall is my favorite time of year!  It was so much fun to watch the kids climb trees all afternoon and sit up there munching on apples.   Our other dearest Grandmother 'Baba Luba' as we call her (red hair) and her sister Vera came over several days to help us peel apples.   With them around it seemed like a party.  James also took entire van loads of apples to all the widows/shut-ins over at our old apartment building.  Baba Luba was joking that all the Grandmothers love it when James rings their doorbell!
Here's Rachel and Johanna helping her friend Olga with their potato harvest.   Rachel had so much fun helping in the garden.
And of course Johanna thought she was the biggest helper around.
Summer 2009 will forever be remembered as the summer of the puppies.  Our dog Nutmeg had three adorable puppies and the kids played for hours and hours with them.  Johanna dressed them up in doll clothes and pushed them in her doll carriage and was in canine paradise.
There is something about little boys and puppies that just makes your heart melt.
Caleb & Super Hero, David & Rex (a family in Texas is laughing right now.. but don't worry he isn't your namesake, he was named after Billy's dog in the Billy & Blaze books ;)  and Rachel & Paprika.
David kept telling me.. Rex thinks I'm his Mommy!  Oh we had so much fun with these puppies!  David's dog is a guard dog for a store not far away so the kids still walk down and play with Rex.  Happy happy Memories.

So there's a few pictorial highlights of our summer.  We're back to our school schedule which for James includes two Bible studies a week and then Sunday.  Teaching English at the orphanage, visiting the drug rehab center every other week, and also an English class at the Youth Center as a way to meet new people.  Also he and Andrei do lots of visiting in the hospital and a low income apartment building (similar to a homeless shelter in the States).  

Prayer Requests:

1. Continued good health for Susan ~ so far all my tests, scans & bloodwork have been good.  Yeah!  I am still struggling with anemia.. so pray I start liking liver ;)

2. Sanity for Susan as she homeschools ~ a 5th, 3rd and 1st grader now!  All I can say is I'm camping out on God's promise that 'HIS grace is sufficient'  cuz I feel like I'm in wayyyyyyy over my abilities!   

3. The children & Susan to learn Russian  fluently ~ we're really trying to make this our goal for the year.  James & Rachel are completely fluent.. but the rest of us to only varying degrees.   

4. Wisdom for James and continued opportunities for ministry.

5. Please pray for a dear friend Slava, he came to camp last year and regularly to the Bible studies last year. (those of you who helped at camp last year.. Slava was the one with the glass eye)  While he was away this summer his Mom Ludmilla was beaten to death by the man living with her.   Ludmilla had come several times to talk to James about camp and the Bible and was a wonderful loving, caring Mom.  Slava is devastated as they were very close.  

6. Our neighbors Zhenya & Olga as they continue to grieve over the death of their son.

Thank you again for all YOU do to make it possible for us to live here... may God richly bless each of you!

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