Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving Prayer

This Thanksgiving I had the honor of hosting the Chernichenko family meal and I was very excited about it. As I prepared the table, the food, the desserts, and a few hundred other details. I found myself grateful.

Perhaps it was because my kids and I have been making a list of "100 things we were grateful for" and watching my children write down letters to God can make any parent more appreciative.

Of course I had also looked numerous times at the list. I looked at Derek's countless entries on being able to serve and help others. I thought about Jenny's love for life, creation, and purpose. And then smiled upon Drakes joy in letters, language, and laughter. At the end of it, I was surprised that not one of them said anything about material things. No entries on toys, dresses, Barbies. Nothing on bikes, scooters, or cars. That even without me saying anything at all, they must have some how decided between each other that the most valuable things can not be bought.

I smiled at the thought of my children and the blessings they were to me. I thought about the amount of time I have left with them and the kind of example that I need to be. A person who goes above and beyond for family, because that's what I would want from them. That as I set the table and arranged the flowers, as I baked the cake and tidied the house. That is wasn't only for the people I would be serving, but more so, the way my children will one day delight in inviting to serve me.

Perhaps it was a bit of a daydream, but I enjoyed it. And I enjoyed the evening around the turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy.

At the end of the evening. Genius and I went on our usual black Friday date. We went and saw a movie and walked around town like we did when we first met. But after the magic of the evening wore off and the almost 30 year old body got tired, I must have also gotten a little cranky.

In the moment between bliss and reality, it suddenly occurred to me that he had still not ordered the plane tickets to Canada. So in the most polite way, I shared my concern and asked him to buy them the minute we got in.

By the time we got in and opened up the computer, it was 5:00am. Our tickets had also doubled in price and I had no other outlet then to blame my husbands procrastination. I was angry and he knew it. And honestly, I was struggling not to do anything that I would regret.

I watched the screen of numbers,I watched the air lines change, the depature dates, and the tabs open up with different search engines on cheap tickets. All of which did not help me with the state I was in. Things like, "I told you so!", "Why did you wait so long?" and "How was he planning to fix this?". Replayed in my mind.

As my circle of blame enlarged. A small voice reminded me of my earlier comment. I had seemed so grateful to God, I had so passionately expressed my gratitude for his grace on all of my problems and mentioned to Him how it easy it was just to give God all of them in exchange for peace.

Right in that very moment I knew that I shouldn't say anything at all to my husband but instead, use my words to pray. And I did. Right there beside the man I was so angry at. I prayed for God to fix the situation and take us back to the previous day when we were so excited to take a trip with the kids and see snow.

As it may, the minute I said "Amen". The screen in front of me changed and instead of being double or triple the amount we needed to spend. It was less! God is Good. And I am so grateful that I can come to Him ALL of the time. When I am angry or happy. He will always be there waiting for the moment I choose Him over my problems and my sometimes enlarged circle of blame.

Thankful for grace, Hope.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Beautiful

Recently I received a compliment that I couldn't stop thinking about. I had heard it said only once before, its just that this time it took on a whole different meaning.

My close friend Maria was kind enough to say that when I enter the room, I don't just walk in, I seem to magically float in. If you are wondering what that even means, like I did, let me explain.

About 6 years ago my uncle married a wonderful girl named Irene. She was simple, kind, and had a wonderful heart for people. Just by talking to her I often felt that I was in the presence of greatness, and I couldn't even pinpoint why. All I knew, was that everything about her was beautiful to a point that it was even hard to take my eyes off of her.

The thing is, that Irene was pretty, but it wasn't her features that made her stand out, it was something else. Watching her, I knew that there was something deeper and more powerful than her outward appearance.

I soon began to want this kind of beauty for myself. I looked for it in the bible, in the people I met, and in the prayers that I prayed. I searched for it daily and stretched myself thinly.

I think the importance was significant to me because I felt that I wasn't the most beautiful girl out there. Coming out of a long line of pristine genetics, I was aware that I had some how fallen short on the scale, and weather it was because of the world and its fictitious models, or my own interpretation of perfection. I found myself often living a life of comparison because some how Gods "perfect" did not help in making me feel like I was.

Saying that, I find it amazing that when the time came and I searched for security in my youth, God knowingly sent me a boy. Meeting Eugene, it was his compliments and flattery that became a starting ground to believing that I was created, perfectly, by God.

Even to this day I feel that Genius plays a large part in how I view myself. It was freeing to think that I no longer needed to compare myself to others.
And being the God that He is, I think He used that small bit of acceptance into strengthening me spiritually. In the years that followed, as my marriage grew, love deepened, and a faith matured, beauty looked different to me. More and more of it became less of what I looked like and more of who I was.

I realized this a couple months ago when we took family photos. As they exploded over my face book page and instagram, the feed back I received was mostly good. All but one girl, said that my updo made me look older in the photos and my reaction to her opinion, shocked me. Because instead of feeling threatened by her youth and beauty, I took hold of my age and replied that my intention was not to look younger or prettier. If I looked older, it's because I am well aware that I am aging. And that if I look like a mom, it's because I am.

For the first time in my life, I felt totally okay with that.

I now understand that on my own I am not a very good reflection. That beauty was never meant to be given, or earned, but rather beauty was intended to take the shape of the work that God is doing in my life. As for compliments, they are not supposed to help my self esteem, instead they are conformations of what god is working out in my life.

So, it's that kind of beauty that floats. It surrounds us, follows us, and takes on a different appearance. First by believing we were created perfect and then letting God complete His perfect work in us. That is nothing short of beautiful.

Floating, Hope.





Monday, August 6, 2012

Our new place

Six years ago we built our perfect dream home. We built it with the vision to entertain and fill it constantly with people. Indeed, many people walked through those doors and we were blessed with many relationships. But, although we tried to live a life that would bless others we seldom wondered if were living out Gods plan for our life.

As the economy crashed and the harsh reality hit our home, it forced the question on us, had we lived a life for God or for people? And had we lived out His plan for our lives? It didn't take long for us to see that although we lived in a great house, it was built on our own vision and our own dreams.

When the house finally went into foreclosure and the banks asked us to move we began to ask God the questions we needed to. Our prayer was that we wanted to live out this next season of our lives, purposely seeking out His plan for our life. Saying the words then, felt exciting, it seemed honorable and brave. So that's exactly what He challenged us to do, except being called to bravery suddenly meant letting go of everything we were holding onto. This included the lifestyle we were used to and the expectations that we placed on God.

I believe that letting go, allowed God to use that room in our hearts as growth for our faith. And as we drove around our little town, we explained to our kids that we were searching for the home that God had chosen for our us. That He told us to go look for a place and that it would be perfect for our family.

I am not sure if my kids will fully understand the whole miracle but I do know that the minute we walked on the property of the house we are in now, that there was something different about it. That as our feet touched the ground, we knew we found the place we've been searching for.

Of course, our hearts finally felt a sense of relief but it wasn't for very long. Two days later we found out that there was a sale pending on it and that the process with the banks would take us past our move out date. We were nervous, scared, and unsure but we knew what we heard and we felt that what we heard was Gods promise to us. So we looked at the worst case scenario and then chose to wait for this home to become available. We felt that even in our uncertainty we needed to believe that Gods hand was on this.

And we did, but when the news came in that there was also a grace period, and an issue with the banks. The pressure settled in. We asked God if this was even the home for us. We questioned God because we began to doubt His voice in us. We looked at our eviction papers and wondered if the possibility of having no home to go to, was a foolish step? Or a step of faith?

As we battled between rational thinking and faith we wondered what stepping out in faith even meant? Did it mean throwing away all rational thought? Did it mean fighting for a voice that we thought we heard? Did it mean focusing less on our understanding an more on His? The questions followed us until we were certain that it wouldnt be called "stepping out" if it didn't require us to completely leave all rational thinking and just take a leap.

After that, we still continued to receive news that was not in our favor for the following weeks. By then, we were living out of our boxes because we were living after our deadline. We did not know if we would come home to locked doors or belongings on the street. The only thing that sustained us as a family was that God knew the day we would actually be moving out on.

To make matters worse, after the sale didn't go through the house that we had been believing for was taken into foreclosure. Confused, we knew that we needed answers that were real and tangible. But when we went to the owners of the home, we received a very unique answer. One reply was that" it was highly unlikely and that the circumstances did not look in our favor". The other said that "everything looked well and we could move in".

So the question that we had to ask ourselves was, Would we move into a home that we might have to move out of?

Wondering about this and trying to make our next decision the right one, it dawned me that I had thought a lot about our family and not very much about the family we would be renting from. I began to wonder what kind of things they going through and what kind of uncertainty were they under that they couldn't even agree on an answer to give us?

That day, I felt that our family finally had the perspective we needed. I felt that this process was not to make it difficult for us but instead break us out of selfishness. That although it was easy to focus on our families needs, it didn't excuse us from being considerate about some one else's. God revealed to me, that this family was in a need of a miracle themselves and that my prayer had been answered months ago, it was just hidden in people. Praying for them simultaneously opened the door to an answered prayer for us.

The prayers I prayed are as follows.

God, thank you for having a plan in times when we didn't. Thank you for having a compassion and mercy that is insurmountable. Thank you for giving us time and being patient with us. For helping us grow and giving us room to grow. Thank you for doing all of this without disturbing the peace of our home and for filling our lives with faithful people.

Thank you for every day that we have had in our home. Thank you for hearing our prayers. Thank you for for giving us another chance with the house on 30th street. We know that we have been blessed, but today I want to pray for them. That you would bring peace in their life. That you would help them figure out their finances as quickly and as painlessly as possible. That you would help them because they chose to help us and in the process would they see the hand of God. I don't know what miracle they need, or the details of their life, but since it's been aligned in such a way where our lives are so determined by theres, I ask for your hand to be upon them also. I am uncertain if it is their house that we want or this prayer that that they need, but I know that somehow the two will work together. So just bless their socks off with your love. Be so real and so powerful that they will bring glory to your name. In the midst of that, while we wait for your work to be completed, I ask that you continue to bring us peace and certainty in our faith!

Amen.

After a three month journey I find it so amazing is it that I serve a God who stands on his word and full fills his promises to us. He really showed our family what it meant to fight for Him, what it looked like to step out in our faith, and what it took to keep holding on to it.

Lots and lots of Hope.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Who does that?

I have a friend named Jen. A couple years ago she called me to ask if she could bring anything over.

No one had ever asked me that question before. I didn't know how to even answer it. So I said the first thing that came to mind.

"Thank you. I think I have everything I need." I said.

That day, Jen and her family brought me a bag filled with some of my favorite treats from Trader Joes and a gift card for 100 dollars.

That day defined to me what going above and beyond for the people in our lives looked like. And when I asked Why? She simply said this.

That when she is blessed she takes on the responsibility to bless some else. That day, that some one else was me.

Blessed by her generosity, I have tried to keep that perspective in mind. And I thought I was doing a pretty good job of it too.

But that was before Maria called me.


Maria has one of the biggest hearts for people and for Jesus. We see each other at least once a week. So, when we didn't have our usual date it felt odd and we missed each other.

Pretty soon, I received a message.

I want to take you out. It said. When would be the best time to meet?

I replied with a date and drove over to her house, thinking that we would have lunch and chat like we usually do.

But she had a whole different kind of day planned.

Maria took me out to a new place, just because she knew that I enjoyed small adventures like that.

Maria read the reviews, to make sure that I wouldn't be disappointed.

Maria told me to pick anything off of the menu, ordered meals for each of my kids and paid for all of it.

Seeing her pay. I honestly felt uncomfortable. I just wasn't used to this act of kindness from people that i knew didn't have extra to give away. I knew that this was something she might have had to save up for and I felt like I didn't deserve such a grand gesture.

So, when she offered to take me out for yogurt. I declined. I made an excuse that it was too cold for yogurt, that the kids also needed naps, and that we could enjoy a scoop of ice cream at her place. So we did just that.

But that wasn't the end of the story. As we sat and caught up on our lives, we made plans to see a movie that evening with a few girl friends.

That evening, she came to the movie theater first. And paid for Jen and I.

Later, as I drove home, I thought to myself. Who does that? What kind of person takes me and my kids out for lunch on a regular day. Who offers more then she has. Who willingly pays for my friends. And who does it without expecting anything back. Who does that?

The next time I saw her, that's exactly what I asked. And you know what she said.

That she had been blessed and in turn wanted to bless some one else.

I don't know about you. But if there happens to be a day when some one asks that question and says "Who does that?" I want the answer to be, Nadia does. Maria does. Jen does. And so on.

I want it to spread in the same way that I have seen it be spread. Touching the lives of people close to our hearts and impacting the people surrounding our lives. I want to learn how to think about you and practice it in my life . I want to be the one that "does".

That day. I was convicted. I so foolishly thought that I was doing enough instead of going above and beyond.

Hope.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Louder than words


This week was picked out of the whole year to be the week of little miracles.

All of face book seemed flooded with photos of little feet, tiny hands, and chubby cheeks. Proud papas paraded their new born in the halls of the maternity ward. Mamas melted in the arms of yet another new found love. And in the land of parenthood, all was precious.

Between the hospital visits, flowers, and sanitizer, the memories of labor came flooding back. As I remembered it, it wasn't the labor that was hard, it was the week that followed.

The sleepless nights, the constant feedings, the colic, the aches and pains, and probably the worst of it were the breasts! Just the thought of it, makes me cringe. But I must say, the sights of a child breathing in my arms is nothing short of a miracle, and I rejoiced with the new moms.

One of the things that I do, to extend my congratulation and to really help in the recovery is to coordinate a meal plan for the mom.

I usually send out a message to her friends and family, asking to help in the meal planning for the week or so. Each person that volunteers are asked to pick a day out of the week that would work best with their schedule. By bringing dinner over allows the family to focus more on the baby and all the changes that this may hold on the household. Personally, I like the sense of community and idea that our actions speak louder than our words.

Do you sometimes feel as though you say empty words?  I do, but I also don't want to. I never want my words to be empty, I want to stand behind them with my deeds. I never want to expect some one to do the things that should, I want to be the first to do them. And I never want to be the girl that holds bitterness in others successes, I want to be the one to help them succeed. Because what I want, is to be so consistent in my 'wants' that my life would show it. And I feel as though you do to.  So, be the next one to bless some ones socks off.

Here is the recipe I used this week.

Lasagna recipe:

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 onion,diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup heavy cream
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper
fresh basil
Olive oil

In a dutch oven, on medium heat the oil and add the onion, cook until softened.  Add the garlic and cook about a minute.  Add the ground meats and cook until it looses its pick color.  Add the heavy cream and cook until it is absorbed into the meat.  This might take up to 10 minutes.  Add the can of tomatoes last and return to a simmer.  Adjust the flavors with salt, pepper, and basil.  Sometimes I add more herbs like Marjoram,  parsley, rosemary.

After the meat mixture is ready.  Make the ricotta mixture.

1 15oz container of fresh ricotta
basil leaves, chopped
1 egg
salt and pepper

You will also need:

Modzerella, grated
Parmeson, grated
Uncooked, ready to bake lasagna noodles

Then in a casserole dish spread the meat mixture on the bottom.  Try to have more liquid then meat in this step.  I like to use the uncooked, ready to bake lasagna sheets, just because its one less step to worry about and it takes the flavor of the sauce.  Place those on top.  Smear with the ricotta, sprinkle with Parmesan first and then mozzarella, top it off with more of the meat mixture and repeat.  I usually end up with 3to 4 layers.  

 Cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated oven at 375 F for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for 15 more minutes.  After removing it from the oven let the lasagna rest for 10 minutes before cutting.

Of course, enjoy :)




Monday, June 18, 2012

Vintage pretty

I found myself truly blessed today. Disguised by small moments throughout my day, I saw my life as I should be seeing it daily.

It started like any other. I showered, made breakfast, prepared lunches, kissed the older ones good-bye, waved to the bus driver, and then finished getting myself ready while the two younger ones played.

I felt lucky to still be living inside of our home. I felt that God had given me today, and that the time we had left in our house would be determined by Him and not anything else. So, I did the most natural thing I could. I untaped a few boxes, found my sewing machine and watched that needle bop up and down. The way I saw it, was that if time was the gift He gave me, I was going to use that time to give back.


The bonnet was made from a soft linen type fabric, by leaving the edge raw, I felt that it gave the hat a modern twist to a very vintage concept and I was pleased with the finished product. Especially because it brought back memories of my little Mikka and the bonnet I made for her. I smiled, she was rummaging in the pile of loose scraps on the floor, I couldn't believe that she was one already!


The pacifier clip was more of my friends talent then mine. To be honest I saw her post a picture of a necklace she made and thought it would make the perfect clip for Pearl, she loved vintage things along with urban touches and I felt that this would be right up her alley. Luckily, my friend Olga had all the parts that I needed and was also a sweetheart in helping me out with this project. Please, check out her things at www.Elementboutique.blogspot.com


Lastly, I took a moose ornament and made a little bow tie. I felt that it presented the bow well and that it was a unconventional way to display it. I also knew that Pearl loved pretty little gifts and that the more thought I put into it the more it would be a true representation of time.

Do you ever feel so blessed that you can't help but spread the joy? I hope that everyday I can live that out. What I want is to be able to notice the very things God gives to me and then be moved enough to share it!

Hope.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My little sister


Today is my little sisters birthday. Her name is Alina and she turned 19 today. Being that she is younger than me and lives far from me, I have been wondering what would be the appropriate gift for her. So I went shopping. If I know anything, it's that she loves being glamed up, with curls in her hair and high heels, she can pull off the look like a supermodel. Confident, stunning, and graceful. She has a humble heart, a thankful attitude, and kind spirit that is always willing to give or to help. In my eyes she would win any beauty pageant out there and I love her to pieces.

But as much as she loves show stopping beauty, at the end of the day, she loves to unwind with sweaters and sweatshirts. So I found a gift that was well suited for the down to earth, side of her. I wrapped it. Addressed it. And then looked at it.

As much as I enjoy gift giving, it just wasn't enough. What I wanted was for her to see how important she is to me, how valuable she is to our family, and how honored I am to have her as my little sister. All of a sudden, the box seemed empty.

So I thought about us. I thought about all the times she just wanted time with me. The way her innocent, young eyes looked up to me and as an older sister and I just never had enough time to give her. How fast time flew by since then, how much had changed since childhood, and how much I wanted to just sit and finally give her all the time I had.

So I did. I packed the kids in the car, and decided that I was going to take my sister out. Even if she couldn't really be here with me. Even if it looked crazy while doing it, I was going to pretend she was right beside me.

At first we went to a yogurt place. It was chaotic, crazy, and the candles didn't light up. Sorry Alina, somehow in my mind it seemed easier. But don't worry, the kids enjoyed the cheesecake, red velvet yogurt to the last drop. Derek picked cheesecake, because some how some where he remembers you making it. Jenny chose cake, because it's a birthday. Then they loaded the bowl up with berries, brownies, cherries, gummy bears, caramel, and sprinkles.... Of course! We stuck 19 candles in, and sang until we turned blue.

I hope you enjoyed it as much as they did. I also hope that all those toppings are your favorite! The video on the other hand was a mess, so we took you out for dinner where you enjoyed macaroni and cheese with meatballs, french fries, and Pepsi. After a fantastic meal, happy tummies, and hopefully happy hearts, we lite up another candle, sang another song and wished more wishes.

Happy birthday, little sis. I hope you feel loved today, I hope I made you feel special, and I hope you feel like your the most important girl in the world!

My wish to you is that you begin this next season of your life with wisdom and triumph. You have seen the mistakes that I have made, witnessed them almost first hand. You have lived through the tears that were shed for our brother and then waited on the miracles of prayer. You have had to see more, experience more, and hear more than any of us. For being 19, you hold more years on you. You have also had to be there for each one of us, kindly accepting our ways but cautiously walking on your own. I love how much you enjoy your privacy, it's never loud, it's never gloating, it's simply escaping from the chaos we put on your shoulders. Not every one can bear the burdens you have had to and I know that you were meant to be the youngest for a reason. The reason that we need peace and you bring that, we need kindness and you show that, we need loyalty and you are always there. So thank you, from he bottom of my grateful heart. You will walk the path of triumph, I can feel it:)

Hope.