Friday, December 30, 2011

December 30th, 2011

An update!!! =)
In the few days since returning Stateside, things have been so chaotic that I have not had a chance to sit down for evern ONE LITTLE BABY MINUTE on my computer. =) Today is my first day off of work, thanks to my coworker switching me shifts, and I decided to hang out at Chick-fil-A, where my sister works, and use the free wifi to update my blog. =) Unfortunately, all of my photos are on my camera, and I did not bring the cord with me. Oops. =) But I promise I will update with photos, soon!!
It is lovely to be back in the USA. I am still awed by the the cleanliness and perfection of this country. Everything is so orderly, pristine, and comfortable. People smile and wave. Cars move smoothly down accurately-painted streets. The sky of Oklahoma is huge and the sunsets breathtaking. In fact, the sunset out the window right now is really nice. =) Yellow and gold are touching the rooftops across the parking lot and feathery white clouds are turning grey in the coming shadow of nightfall.
I miss my family back home, of course, so very much. Every moment I wish they were around, so I could share with them everything that I am experiencing. Oh, well. Praise God for Facebook and Skype. =D
Being with my sister, Katrina, again after 6 months apart is absolutely wonderful! I missed her very much, and true to the saying, absence has definitely made our hearts grow fonder. =)) She and Jonathan, her boyfriend, have made my return very warm and welcomed me back with outings every night. It's been a blast! We went to see the Christmas lights on the mansions in Nichols Hills as well as in the public park in Yukon. I also discovered Jonathan has a penchant for really freaky scary movies =)) haha! We were able to celebrate Christmas together and I am looking forward to seeing my Heartland/Southwest friends on Sunday night when we plan to go to Bricktown to celebrate the New Years!! =)
Panera. What I can say. I love my job. =) My managers were ecstatic about my return and quickly issued me 40 hours for my first week, introduced me to the new foods we now offer, and swooped me back out onto register. The customers haven't changed. The routine hasn't changed. The atmosphere of the neighborhood hasn't changed. A lot of my coworkers have changed (transfering out to the new, snobby Panera with a drivethru lol) but I am enjoying the chance to make new friends. Praise God for saving this job for me. I am very grateful for His provision.
Today..... I got to hang out with some of my very best friends. My adopted brother Justin is back from his sunny vacation in Arizona (hoorah!) and the friend who saved my beloved computer from a sad demise, Levi, is back from the snowy mountains of Washington. We shared Ihop and Starbucks and Walmart shopping. I walked out with Cheez-Its, sharp cheddar spray cheese, a jug of eggnog,and a case of glass bottled Stuart's creme soda. =D Oohhhhh so much fun. =) Hello, New Years. Harry, my childhood friend from New Mexico, came by work to see me last night before he heads off for New Years. I was touched by the kindness I've been shown.
Well, I need to wrap this up. Thanks to everyone for the prayers during my travels. God kept his hand on every flight and there were no delays or problems.
Oh yes. Paris, by the way, was indescribably lovely. =)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

December 24th, 2011

Some memories are just too special to write about. Sometimes it's not that the occasion was perfect or the plan went unhindered or that the weather was ideal and the timing flawless. Sometimes it's just the simple fact of dreams and planning coming together in one beautiful moment. And those are the memories that we carry forever.
Steven is back home!! And we went skating. =)
I fell. Twice. And he whizzed circles around me, fearless and dynamic and amazing. He is a much better skater than I could ever be! But I loved the look on his face when I did backwards crossovers. Haha. WIN! =D
I am so thankful to be home with my family for Christmas holidays. The only down is not having Katrina here! But I will be seeing her soon... I leave tomorrow! It has been insanely busy trying to pack in as much time with my family as well as clothes into my suitcases at the same time!
Please pray for safe travels to the US. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a special time with thier loved ones. Take the days we have and make the most of them. =)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

December 20th, 2011

Time to pack!!!
This is a whimsical post because I'm determined to not think about leaving my parents and brothers and church friends in just FIVE days.
Poor Chester (my couch) has become the catwalk for a mountain of clothing and accessories as I waded through my wardrobe this last week. Packing always presents a problem for me. I like to have everything with me, whether in the States or here at home, and it is hard to leave a single item behind. I'm not sure why. I do not think it is normal to have separation withdrawals from a pair of suede pumps or a Calliope tee-shirt. But I cannot escape the sad feeling when I pull something from the "approved" pile and place it neatly folded into the "staying behind" pile. Very sad. =(
Clothes were the first hurdle but not the hardest by any stretch of imagination. Where do all the little things come from that compile mysteriously out of the blue over six months of living some place? A big part of home is familiarity - like the giant words scrawled on my mirror "Faith, Courage, Love," - or the little platter of Italian porcelain that catches all my loose change and yesterday's pair of earrings. These things can't go with me.
Maybe I'm just wildly sentimental? I have a box of every card sent to me. Well, several boxes now. Every time I relocate, I start a new box so that I can keep a tangible memory of the friends I've left behind and that they haven't forgotten me. Now what am I supposed to do with these boxes?? Someday, I imagine, I will make the world's most awesome scrapbook with all the notes and squares of wrinkled paper that represent the people in my life who send me cards. I doubt it will ever be a museum collector item, but it means a lot to ME. =)
Then there are my coffee cups. Oh so funny, this is a story in itself! But I won't digress. The happy little feeling I get from pulling a new mug off the rack and filling it with hot aromatic coffee is tampered by the admission I have a trail of coffee cups from my bedroom all over the house. It's just a tick. I can't stand using the same cup twice and am comfortably accustomed to making a round at night and finding where they all ended up, dumping them in the sink to wash so they are ready to go in the morning. I suppose... I can't take all fifteen mugs with me.... and I will miss them all, I know. I have 3 mugs at school and they hardly fit in my crowded cupboard next to the GrapeNuts box and cans of Spaghettio's. I had a fourth but there is some suspicion in my mind someone stole it to stop the collection from growing out of control. Haha. =)
While I'm sorting through odds and ends and wondering how I manage to get so attached to such silly material things, I come across my Bible with its pretty red cover and gold-tipped pages. Now THAT is something I will be taking with me, in my carryon in fact. People change, and time shifts everything around, and clothes go out of fashion and coffee cups crack (sad face). But the most unmovable part of my life is that knowledge that God lives within me, and loves me, and He's never going to let me go off without him. If the earth were to blow up, and I was being evacuated to Mars, all I'd need was my Bible.
(and my passport, of course)
(and my black leather boots)
(and a picture of my turtles and puppy)
(and that heavenly-soft pearl white blouse)

Monday, December 5, 2011

December 5th, 2011

A small update!
I really haven't been in a writing mood the last few days....
But I wanted to update about my skating lessons... because they have improved =) And that is a very nice feeling! The crossovers are going quite smoothly. She's added a bunch of new moves and there are a lot of details to the techniques to remember! Today, we moved from gliding a combined Christmas tree-crossover, to something truly difficult: the enchanted waltz!! It is soooo pretty when my trainer executes the moves! She is so fluid and graceful and completely at ease, so fearless.
Luckily, I managed to get it down the very first day! Which, seems to a bit of a miracle to my trainer. The waltz is a spinning, dancing glide in a large loop. There are three technical points to it - the Troika, the spin, and the landing.
Spinning was something we've been working on. It was actually one of the very few things I knew I wanted to learn when I started my lessons. I could NEVER figure out how to go from skating one direction (forward) to flipping around and skating backwards, while never losing my forward momentum! Well, after a lot of trials and errors, I finally conquered the science of spinning backwards, then forwards, on two feet tightly tucked together. Last lesson, we worked on spinning around on one foot - but that is really difficult!!
The enchanted waltz is a beautiful procession out of a crossover, spinning around to skate backwards, and pushing off on one foot into a "landing" position to glide outstretched, then turning to face forward and start it all over again!
The initial move, the Troika (Russian for "three") comes from the blades cutting the number 3 in the ice with thier movement. The rest of me, however, has to work on swinging my arms and shoulders in the correct degree to propell my single skate to turn, swirling 180 degrees, while the other leg is outstretched in the swallow's stance. For some reason, I have a hard time not shoving off and about whacking my trainer with my outstretched skate when I make the spin. "More relaxed, more fluid, and much slower!!" she coaches, inching away to safety from my karate-speed kick.
After I complete the troika and come out of the spin dizzy-headed, the wonderful "landing" takes over, skating backwards, arms outstretched and one leg, too. Toe pointed like a ballerina, it is one smooth transition to leap backwards and be facing forward again, ready for another waltzing round!
The lovely thing is the landing, it is so much fun and I passed on my very first try!!! =) Yeah!!! Svetlana, my trainer, informed me that the landing is essential for all the rest of figure skating, especially the jumps, because the landing helps them transition from spinning through the air to on to whatever other move comes next. Yay!!
The bad news..... I caused my first accident on the rink today. =(( I felt awful. =((
Some Speedy Gonzalos thought he'd whip around behind me - while I was coming out of my spin into the landing, and didn't know that I was about to thrust out my leg behind me. Haha! What a shock when my boot and very sharp blade was suddenly in his face!!
I never saw him... I was coming out of the spin going backwards, but I heard Svetlana gasp, "Oi!" and then she grabbed me and propelled me forward. The kid, luckily, swerved abruptly but lost control of his skates. He went flying into two girls innocently skating along the loop, and the three of them went crashing. =(
He hurt his arm and the girls were very shook up. I felt really bad. But Svetlana made sure they were okay- just bruises - and warned him about going to fast without calculating distance between him and other skaters.
Sigh. =(
I have a lesson on Wednesday and Friday... only 14 days left till John Steven will be here!!! =) I am so excited!!! I hope that he is soooo surprised.... definitely not expecting his little baby sister to be able to spin through an enchanting waltz! =D Soooo happy!!
Please pray that I do not fall and break my neck or arm before he comes. That would totally ruin this!!! =)

Monday, November 28, 2011

November 28th, 2011

Today was a very depressing day at the ice rink... =((
A drizzling ending for the festive week of Thanksgiving, which was very wonderful! My brother's girlfriend, Nina Andreevetz, came up from Odessa to celebrate the holiday with our family. We had SO much fun =) I'm not known for my excessive social skills... but nevertheless it somehow turned out to be such a lovely time. We spent hours with my mom cooking and baking in the kitchen, and after the turkey and pies had been eaten, went out ice skating with my brother Dima.
Holiday over, I went back to my lessons today.... and was sorely disappointed in my feet. What happened to them?!?! I picked up my skates one by one and examined them in confusion. It was like they had forgotten to obey commands. GLIDE, you silly little boot. GLIDE!!! TWIRL!!!! MOOOOOoooove in one smooth, graceful direction..... please....
Nope. =(
Wobbed, bobbled, ground and dug into the ice in miserable little circles. =( I tripped on my own blades almost six times, and would have gone flying if not for my trainer's quick hands. Horrifying! And embarrassing!! Who does that?? Even novice skaters don't run thier skates right into each other. *annoyed* My arms aches from being held out into the air for so long, and my spine refused to stay poised and tense. Maybe the pumpkin pie went to my muscles because they were all mushy....
To make it worse, the recreational skaters on the ice were being WILD. One girl came whizzing around the bend and slammed, fullspeed, right smack into me (trying to complete a left-footed backwards crossover). I, in turn, slammed into my trainer, and the three of us were screeching in surprise and pain. Someone yanked my hair, and I felt an elbow in my side. When we got free of the tangle, my trainer lit into the twenty-something Barbie, who whined she didn't know how to stop.
"Then why are you going so FAST if you can't even STOP to avoid hitting someone?!?!" Svetlana, my trainer, exploded, exasperated. Commendably, however, she took a few seconds away from *my paid lesson* to teach the girl a few tips on how to control her speed. I took the minute to get my breath back and fume. Haha.
The rest of the lesson was haunted by similiar near-misses. Two teenagers were playing chase and kept cutting into our practice space, which I wouldn't have minded if they were careful about it. But they came throttling through, feet flashing widly and arms swinging like off-track windmills. Of course, they came through when I was trying to go backwards, which is panicky enough, because I'm using peripheral vision and concentrating on getting my feet to not trip on each other... Once they came so close I felt the cold air caressing the back of my neck and the lingering sting. ={ Grr. So scary!!
Well.... that's about all of my sad story. To console myself, I went Christmas shopping!!! =D =D
Just looking today, bopping in and out of stores at the mall, checking out design and prices and seeing what's in. YEAH!!! =)) I can't wait till the holiday!! And I love buying gifts. =D =D I already have two down.... 7 more to go, now that we have "almost-extended-family" to add to the list.
I hope everyone had a WONDERFUL weekend and a very happy Thanksgiving!!!!
Only 28 days left!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

November 25th, 2011

Glamour. Catwalks. Style. Jeans. Name brands. Europe. Lace. Magazines. Shoes. Vogue. FASHION!!!
Yes, what you can see in this picture is a girl with a PLATE on her head. A plate, in fact, exhibiting a plump cluster of succulent, wine-colored GRAPES. Perhaps she took to heart the proud words of Coco Chanel: "I don't do fashion; I am fashion." Hopefully she was not expressing herself to be a fruitloop.... =)
I thought I'd seen everything in the fashion world, or quite close to it. Russian women are fanatical about dress, Europe provides the testing waters for all new trends, and Americans invented the fine line between style and comfort. Design and fashion, style and statements and beauty, have always captivated my interest. Travel helped expand my horizons of how trends flow from culture to culture. It has been truly said, "Women dress the same all over the world: to annoy other women." Haha.
Yesterday, I was in downtown Kharkov at an upscale coffee bar waiting to go skating later on. I caught a glimpse of priceless fashion - silk sheath skirt, crisp Oxford blouse, heavy metalic jewelry, skyrise heels. I was startled, and I do mean startled, when upon her braided head I saw a delicate ceramic plate of grapes.
When girls dress up for the attention, it is obvious; because first of all, they are obvious about themselves. But this woman? Completely absorbed in her coffee date. I, at the very least, may have been slightly concerned that the plate would teeter on its precarious, diagnal perch. How embarrasing THAT would be! I couldn't help stare... and even take a picture, because I wasn't sure anyone would believe me! =)
Wasn't it a few hundred years ago, that wearing fruit in the hair was a striking fashion statement?? I didn't realize it was coming back around... Wow! And if it made the runways of New York and Milan, and from there trickled into the random magazines and TV shows about vogue, I wouldn't have thought so much about it. But to see it in PERSON? In a perfectly normal restaurant? It was too much to resist. =)
How comforting is the eternal truth of the Scriptures! "The fashion of this world passeth away," Paul noted over two thousand years ago, and he was right! Even today, designers admit, "Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months."
I would so rather cultivate a beautiful character than a beautiful style in dress. And yes, as a woman I am highly entertained by shopping and new clothes (especially SHOES!), but there is a deep resevoir of reason that governs how much of my pursuit in life I would spend on temperal, ever-changing vanity. If only every girl had some measure of common sense!
But then again, if that were the case, I wouldn't have had such a laugh last night... or been able to write this blog post! God bless the fashion-addicted girls out there, and their poor, unfortunate men!!! =)

Monday, November 21, 2011

November 21, 2011

My brother Steven will be home in 29 days!!!!
I am soooooo excited. The worst part about college-age O'Briens is the inevitable months-long absences away to study. =/ Oh, well. Soon the semester will be over! And Steven will be back home in Kharkov, just in time for Christmas. =)
Accordingly, I am waist-deep in preparations! =D Ice skating is a family pasttime, and Steven has always been the smooth and skilled skater on the rink! Really, there's no comparing with him when I put on my skates and stomp out onto the ice. I can glide away to the left... to the right... a little fancy footwork on the corners, maybe... and Steve has managed to whizz in intricate patterns around the loop 7 times already, chasing speedy Gonzalos, Kendon. Haha. Even Katrina is a faster, more confidant skater than me, laughing while I trail woefully behind the crowd.
Well. Inspiration struck! What a lovely surprise, to invite Steven to skate upon his return and dazzle him with skills!!!??? A lil' healthy competition. =D =D
So, my parents gamely supporting my ambition, I signed up for figure skating lessons with a 40-year professional skate trainer... and I've been on the ice nonstop the past 2 weeks!
Technique! Technique! Posture! Choreography!
Figure skating is really quite complicated... and a bit painful, after lesson number #1 - learning to "fall" correctly!! No kidding, I was pushed and bumped and shoved off my feet (well, skates) a dozen times and crawled back up bruised and shamefaced until I had mastered the reflex to fall safely, in particular positioning.... "falling with style." Haha. Buzz Lightyear would be proud! =D
Since then, it's been "Christmas trees," "waves," learning to skate backwards, and now - "crossovers"!!! Correctly executed, the legs intertwine and weight is shifted from one to the other in a graceful spiral, arms outstretched and torso twisted sideways. Trying it backwards??
Terrifying!! Although I understood what my feet and legs were SUPPOSED to be doing, I found myself struggling like I'd been suddenly struck with ataxia - movements jerky, uncoordinated, and saturated with thought. Haha. I bet I looked ridiculous. I felt like the Tin Man on ice.
Found out I'm left foot dominant today, even though I'm right-handed! That was interesting. =)
So, on goes the theatrical attempt to surprise Steven upon his return! =) Only 29 days left, and though my trainer Svetlana assures me I will be ready in time, I remain dubious. WE SHALL SEE!
If not, at least I've learned a LOT, including how to get up after a dozen falls and how to laugh at myself!
Merry Christmas <3

Thursday, November 17, 2011

November 17, 2011

Vengeance~ a rather scary word, isn't it? According to Marriam-Webester, it is defined, "punishment inflicted in retaliation for an injury or offense." Prime synonyms include revenge, retribution, requital, payback. The first verse that comes to my mind is God's absolute monopoly on the subject: "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith The Lord." (Rom 12:19) Clearly, revenge is not supposed to play any role in the life of Christians. But does it?
Recently, I have been preparing a few lessons for the ladies class at church, which I will be giving come December. As I thought over everything I've learned at Bible college - and beyond- the past year, this was a subject that crossed my mind, and I wanted to share.
Romeo and Juliet. Yupp, that's pretty much my ultimate idea of revenge personified in history. Suicide, the most extreme retribution in response to a lost love. I suppose next up would be Joseph's brothers throwing him in a pit, plotting his murder, and then up and selling him into eternal slavery - all in turn for jealous sibling rivalry. The examples are plethoric and infinite. Much blood has been shed, lives forever altered, and history written, in the service of revenge.
Vengeance isn't such a far progression away from the old, familiar experience of anger. According to the study "Anger and the Christian," by Dr. V. Jett, it is merely the third step in a natural, downard progression of unresolved anger - a quick successor to bitterness and resentment. Any injurous assault (whether actual or perceived), gives birth to anger. Left unresolved, bitterness takes root, followed by resentment, and the natural response is to act upon these feelings: to retaliate.
Cain may have lured his brother in the fields to a viscious, violent death - but just because revenge is a consequence of sin seen from the very beginning of the world, does not mean it has any play in MY story, right? Well, we would all assume so.... but I found otherwise.
Just what is revenge, anyways?
Not necessarily the extreme, violent act of hatred that is so often portrayed. When Satan works vengeance into our life, like so many other traps of sin, he applies it in small, seemingly-harmless doses. It was quite a shock, much like a dose of cold water, when I came to terms with how widely Satan had infiltrated my thoughts and life with vengeance.
And I realized, that in all honesty, revenge is merely any action I take without prayer. When someone has hurt me, made me mad, annoyed me, insulted or disappointed or upset or wronged me? I instantly make some kind of decision on how I will respond. And I have come to realize, that unless that FIRST RESPONSE is to pray, and ask God to help me make a right decision, than I have strolled heedlessly into the natural, ancient path of revenge. My problem, taken care of my way.
Have you ever seen how deeply our life is permeated with miniscule, destructive acts of vengeance? When someone gets upset, they --- fill in the blank, and there's the revenge.
I won't talk to them for a while. I won't answer the next time they call. I'm not going to smile at them. I'm going to ignore them. I'm going to yell back. I'm going to delete them off Facebook! I'm going to frown and cross my arms. I'm going to....
Hey, why aren't you going to church anymore?
Oh, the preacher upset me...
Hey, why aren't you talking with him anymore?
I'm mad at him right now...
Hey, what's with the attitude today?
Someone pushed my buttons...
I'm not sure that my examples will relate to the temptations that face my friends and readers, but, I wanted to share, and I hope that the thought comes through. =)
The next time a situation presents us with anger, be sure not to jump to revenge. Before we make a decision, take a minute to pray!
"Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and PRAY for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Matt. 5:44

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Novemeber 13, 2011

Airlines, booking fees, inteneraries, layovers, seating options. The most straightforward step in going from life here to studies at Heartland Baptist Bible College, is probably the plane ticket. It is probably also the most interesting. =) Where in western Europe should I drop in for my flight change? I travel with enough luggage to sink Titanic, but how much is that going to cost? Most importantly, perhaps, is if the airport terminal has wifi, so I can keep tabs on my FB world! =P
Last New Years, I flew through Madrid, Spain, with my adventurous sister Kat, on our way to Heartland for the first time. Coming back, Helsinki, Finland, was the Norwegian stopover. Travel and sightseeing is a package-deal luxury that I love about being an MK.... There is still so much of the world I would love to see!! This time, I will be flying by myself (cool) from Ukraine to the USA.
Days of looking, looking, looking... and my ticket is booked! I still have to arrange travel to the capitol city, Kiev, but from there - it's Paris, France and then Dallas Fort Worth, Texas, over 21 hours of flight before I end up in good ole Oklahoma City! Where hopefully, all of my luggage will be waiting cheerfully on the carousel. =)
I am especially thrilled about Paris. I haven't been since I was sixteen (for my sweet sixteen birthday! it was unforgettable!), and I'm looking forward to having another French stamp in my passport. Bienvenue à Paris! Profitez de votre séjour! Merci...
Hopefully, jetlag won't be a big deal on the way there. I will gain eight hours in the air, flying backwards against time zones. So I will land only a few hours after I leave Europe, according to local time when I land, even though it's been a day. Kind of like taking a 9-hour nap and fitting it into three real-time hours. YEAH!! =) It is lame on the way back, though, losing eight hours. Oh, well.
So, one major step down! And several more to go. Mail in my reenrollment papers, secure a bus ticket to the capitol, celebrate a few holidays in between there. =)
I can't wait!!! The excitement of change in the air is so delicious! A little scary, but definitely good. I plan to keep everyone updated as the details roll in. Shouldn't let the travel hound loose... ;)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November 12, 2011

In the highly-interesting, millenia-old book of Ecclesiastes, an ancient king pondered the course of time in all its active beauty. Inspired by the Creator Himself, the words were recorded, "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven... He hath made everything beautiful in his time." Among the list of shifting eras, three were noted: "A time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace."
Many months have passed since my last blog post. Chance as it seemed, when blogger (again!) refused to publish my whimsical ramblings, I know that it was God's purpose for this time of quiet.
Ironically enough, I moved my blog from the pages of Memories of an MK to this chronicle, A Story Unpublished, almost this exact time last year. I was preparing to embark on a new journey, to fly to an unknown college in an unfamiliar state, miles away from all things dear and familiar.
How clearly I remember the challenge, the fear, the anticipation.
Now, a year later, it is curious to look back and see how God has worked. Oklahoma City no longer feels so alien and vast to me, even if it is still very unknown. Maybe someday it will feel more a part of me, but for now, it definitely is a chapter in my life's story. In the place of great void, I now have bright warmth that represent the friends made, experience won, history written.
I am looking forward to going back to OKC, but my time home in Kharkov has been an unspeakable blessing.
Once again, I find my life shifting gears, shifting "seasons," and God opened up the opportunity for me to renew this blog. Just in time for the holiday nostalgia!
I hope that my readers are still out there somewhere =)
It is a prayer that my blog will be a blessing, and my story, unpublished and unperfected as it may be, will reflect the glory of God. He has grown impossibly dear to me in these months of quiet, and for that, I am most thankful of all.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

June 26th, 2011

Family gatherings. These two words bring to our minds memories of laughter, warmth, and timeless tradition. Certain holidays have become identified with the rendezvous of relatives, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July. But almost any occasion when a family apart is again united, becomes an occasion to remember.

Every New Year and every summer since I went away to the United States to study, I have returned home for a season. These days are the highlights of my year. In different ways, each return has been memorialized with an unforgettable day celebrating the whole family being together again. This year, my parents took the opportunity to pass down a second-generation O’Brien pastime.


Back in the day, as they say, my dad’s family would cross into Mexico to buy fresh black-tailed tiger shrimp from the fisherman right off the wharf. Then they would return home and make an event out of the meal. My mammott (dad’s mom) was an amazing chef, and she passed her touch along to my mom and dad.

Growing up in Kharkov, far from wild waters, I have never experienced this tradition. But now, with the modernization of the country and the arrival of grocery stores, we can buy imported food… like shrimp from the North seas.

A simple dinner of pasta and shrimp with butter and garlic became an unforgettable family event as my dad taught us how to clean and sauté the translucent crustaceans into a sizzling red entree. YUM! Garlic, butter, and lemon; a hot fire; and lots of napkins! Voila. Meal fit for a king.

Someone once said life doesn’t hand you perfect moments – you have to seize the moments and make them perfect. Sitting at my old place at the dinner table, I watched my whole family laugh and dine and felt that truly, the occasion was perfect.

Now the four O’Brien kids (well, young adults) can shrimp fest with the best of them! And someday, I imagine, we’ll be passing on the tradition to another generation of O’Briens.

I think, up in heaven, my mammott was watching us pull off the steaming shells and squeeze lemons, and she smiled. Because love and unity and family continues.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

June 17th, 2011

The big moments in life should be remembered forever. Like my brother, graduating from high school. In a blink, he went from being the little kid in cowboy boots and hat, to a young man radiating poise and eloquence behind the graduation podium. As I watched him received his diploma, I knew it was a moment I would remember for the rest of my lifetime.

Just a week ago or so, the neighbor across from the church died. As all deaths go, his life of riotous drinking and corruption was transformed, it seemed, as everyone talked about the good in his life and how much he would be missed.
I began to think about eulogies. About the time taken to remember and honor a life, after its passing. But what is the point? It seems so tragic to wait until they are gone to extend this recognition.

So as my brother let loose a flock of balloons into the skies to celebrate his freedom from the school years, I watched and took a minute to think of his life.

Kendon Patrick Arthur O'Brien
Born April 24th, 1993 in Tucson, Arizona

He was two years old when my parents moved us to Wisconsin for Bible college, four when we began deputation, and six when we reached Kharkov. And he's been there ever since.

Kendon used to be my snuggle buddy. =) Back in the day, I remember letting him into my bed so many nights when he would be scared, and we would chase away the shadows together. Those were good days. =)

Lately, Kendon has been working out at the gym with passion. He is strong enough to pick me up and carry me around. So when the shadows come, it is me getting scared and running to Kendon to make me feel better!

The years have changed both of us. Being across the world, studying, has filled our relationship with a great deal of space it seems. But the love is still very much there. And when I got sick last year, and found myself hospitalized, it was my brother Kendon whom God let come to be at my side. I will never forget that, either.

This would be a very long blog post to recount his life.
But I wanted to share just a tiny bit with my readers, so they could say they knew my amazing brother and just how much he means to me... how proud I am of him.

Because I am so, so proud of him!

Congratulations, Kendon.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

June fifth, 2011

It was a bright morning in Ukraine, the kind
where the sun begins rising over the orchards
by 4:00am and the birds flutter from blossoming
rosebush to rosebush, scattering petals on
the dewy grass.

A plane took off in the distant, passengers
sleepy and stewardesses serving hot grindy

But I wasn't in that plane.

For the first time this whole year, I woke up
in my very own bed in the room I shared
with my brother.
Like a bank of mist rolling back from a meadow
into the edges of a forest, memories of this
year chased each other across my mind. Madrid.
Chicago. Pekin. The long drive to Oklahoma City,
The months in Oklahoma.Back to Pekin. Peoria.
Finland. Kiev. And finally...the year half-
spent, I was safely tucked in my very own
It was nostalgically blissful. =)

The judge's parrot was sitting on my window sill,
loudly cawing, and squawking, and occasionally
whistling. I smiled. He was my personal
fascination... I would love a parrot someday
in my own courtyard. It was definitely one
of those simple things that I missed so
much over the months and many mornings waking
up without his whimsical greeting.

I looked around the room. Messy... a dusty candle
on the bureau... trophies and weight-lifting
magazines and my desk, now overtaken with
my brother's affects. If I closed my eyes
again, I could see the room as I'd known it
in December - with glittery butterflies and
photos on the wall in my corner, my corner
with my desk displaying my collection of Tattered
Teddy bears and my book in work, the candle
filling the room with their smell of spice.
Ahh... time is odd.
Unlike last May, when I moved in for 9 months..
this time I would only be sleeping here for
4 weeks.

But I was home, and in this place, I had
grown up and knew that I would always be
safe, be loved, and find a long hug.

Breakfast was coffee and cream, a plate of
fresh strawberries, a piece of hot toast
smothered under honeycomb (no butter), ah -
yes - dried octopus. =D =D Long rubbery strands,
heavily salted, huge energy boost.

Ready for the day, tussle my little old man
puppy Zubi for a few minute. He's gotten
greyer! They grey beard and whiskers creeping
up his muzzle and around his eyes. But
those beautiful eyes still sparkled at me,
tail wagging, patiently waiting for his
breakfast and a little cuddling. Miniature
dachshunds age so sweetly...

Out the door and into town with my mom to
visit building supply stores across the
city. Then looking at interior design. It was
priceless - standing in the marble lobbies
of European design exhibitions, talking
pattern, texture, color. FUN! Getting quotes,
taking notes, making jokes... good memories =)
So many dreams in our heads, talking them
thru, envisioning the day they would be

Off to a light lunch at the Itaiano restaurante
Mafia. Mushroom ravioli. Mokhito, a local
drink, club soda and lime juice stuffed
with a profusion of fresh mint leaves and
lemon wedges. Mmmm. =) Perfectly hit the
spot! I do apologize, but... I really don't
miss cafeteria food ONE BIT!!!! =P

Tired now, but a long day still ahead. Head
to the church site, where the sun is thinking
about sinking towards the apartment blocks
across the street. Sawdust floats like snow
through the air, softly settling on every
exposed surface.
I remember the skeletal building as I left
it in the black skies and ice of December, the
trusses of the roof dominating the workdays.
Now, doors and windows are in, walls are up,
and it is a sealed, clean structure. Interior
walls are the project of the season.
There's not too much I can do with my limited
construction skills (i.e. hitting a nail
straight-on with a hammer demands tongue-
biting concentration). But I can fetch nails,
sweep piles of wood shavings into trashbags,
and hold up the walls. It feels so good to
be helping out. After all, this is my church,
my home... and I missed being here, being
a part.

Go home, and say hi to my turtles Lex Luthor
and Lester, splashing away in their tank in
my dad's office. Pull off my shoes, head
straight for my bed and curl up, tired enough
to rest my head for just a moment.

Quiet moments later, and my sister is waking
me up for dinner. The smell of homemade
pizza (garlic, fresh basil and tomatoes) makes
my stomach rumble, but I'm too sleepy to
eat. The room is dark and the shadows deep.

Even though it's only 8:30, I pull the
blankets up to my chin, say goodnight
in my head to my friends in the USA just
starting their days, and close my eyes.

It was a good day to be back home. =)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

June fourth, 2011

I've revamped my blog!

Obviously, I am no longer "new" to school, or Oklahoma City, or Panera Bread. As much as I detest time, its power to change things is unstoppable. So a little rethinking, reconstructing, modifying, editing... and this is the result.

It was challenging to find a new title. I used to be The Kharkov Girl (fondly reliving my Memoirs of an MK days...) and then The New Girl, but I decided to give that theme a rest and come up with something a little broader. Classifying myself always seemed frighteningly claustrophobic, anyways!

So many people, when they sit down and get talking with me and hear the vast reserves of stories that have been my life, insist I should someday write a book about all of it. Arizona, deputation, the White House, the medical evacuation, the KGB, the university days, Chicago... But I don't really feel I'll ever be able to take those memories and publish them into a real live book.

So here's my story, ever continuing (until, yeah!, God takes me to heaven!) - unpublished, but here for all to read. =)

I hope that it continues to be a bit of a blessing and make a difference in someone's life out there.

To all my friends and my family, thank you for your support. I would not be the person I am, or the writer I'm aspiring to be, without you all these years.

S lubovyu,

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June first, 2011

So and I had a bit of a breakup a while back... but I think we talked it through and it's going to be okay now! =)

Joking aside, I apologize for the blog being down for a few weeks. I assume the blogging site was just having troubles, as I lost access to my blogs and to publishing new posts! It was frustrating, because I'd wanted to post the progress of the wedding... ah, oh well.

For those catching up, I'm home in Kharkov (Ukraine)!

And I'm renovating the blog for the summer holiday. YEAH for classes being out. YEAH for being back in Europe for a while. YEAH to getting done with the wedding. YEAH to sleeping in till 9!! =D

I need a new name for my blog!
Coming soon!

I hope everyone's summer is going well. I know it can be stressful, too... =/

Glad to be back.
Miss the blog.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May 17th, 2011

I used to have this lofty goal, to never have any record of getting involved with the police....
But, I guess that's history now!! =)

Tuesday night a week ago was incredible. When I look back, I can only say that God was looking out for me, protecting me, and teaching me an important lesson!

I am excited to share this story, because it's pretty awesome =)

With only two days left of the semester, and many changes boiling just on the horizon, Tuesday I decided to get away for an hour. It was late at night, after the special preaching conference at church, and I wanted to get off-campus - my roommates had the room a chaotic disaster in their packing. Hopping in the car, I cruised out the gates and onto 10th Street, into the dark.

It was quiet, peaceful, perfect. I pulled into an empty parking lot and shut off the car, absorbing the solitude. It was around 11pm. The city was shrouded in deep darkness. I left my seat buckle on, but reclined the driver's seat and settled back to pray and think.

After just a few minutes, I saw a really awesome spectacle: a helicopter flying low over the trees, coming down the street with its powerful beams sweeping back and forth. It hovered slowly, low to the street, and rumbled along with the steady speed of a dumptruck. I was enamored, watching with the curiosity and fascination of a little child. I'd never see one that close. =)
He passed along the street by my car, moving along on, doing his thing. After a minute, I went back to my own business. Interesting moment over! Or so I thought....
You know that feeling you get when something is just "not right"? Maybe it's intuition. Maybe it's a sixth sense. Suddenly a chill running up your spine, and your little hairs stand up like little soldier, transfixed. You really DON'T want to turn around. Sound familiar?
Well, I did.
Actually, I looked to the left out my window and saw a man.
A BIG man.
A TALL man.
A BLACK man.
A man. About half an inch away from me through the questionable protection of the window glass.
And me, a tiny little girl all alone in a car in a dark parkinglot.
I really can't capture the details of what happened next; I really don't remember through the turmoil of terror and surprise. I understood he was trying to get in; I couldn't find my horn; I dropped my cellphone off my lap; I couldn't find my horn; I couldn't get my seat to pull back into its upright position; I couldn't find my horn!
As quick as the blink of an eye, he was running around to the other side of my car to get in that way. THRILL of TERROR! I was buckled in, and there was no way I could reach across fast enough to try to lock the other doors.
But, Praise God, they were already locked! He tried both doors, determined to get it at me. I wonder what he was thinking; my screams and unintelligable shouts weren't slowing him down one bit.
Suddenly he was gone.
Running off into the night, like a shadow, skirting along the edge of the street as he spanned the distance of the parking lot, he was gone. The greater the distance he put between us, the better. I watched him run, and probably quite idiotically, sat there in my car dumbfounded. What had just happened?
Before much of anything could get processed, a new complication came on the scene. Police cars, llights flashing, raced down the road in my direction. Whoa. Not anything new - 10th Street is one of the roughest neighborhoods in the city - but still an unexpected arrival. As they came rushing by, lights sweeping through the darkness, I had a realization.
Police cars.
Shirtless man running through the parkinglot.
Maybe a correlation?
I sat there, freak out, as I watched the helicopter sweeping its beams of the trees and the cop cars flashing in tandem. Could they see the man in the darkness? Did they know where he was, like I knew? Did they know what he had done?
And what could a man do... to initiate such a response from the police force? Where they... chasing him? Was that a high-speed chase I was in the middle of? Was he a runaway convict? A murderer? Rapist? Worse?!
As I came to the conclusion that the only reasonable explanation was they were, indeed, chasing that man, I had the urgent need to make sure they got him. I knew where he was; I could still see him. But I was suddenly overwhelmingly worried they wouldn't see him. I had to tell them.
Turning on my car, forgetting about the seat or the horn, I sped off after the police vehicles, flashing my lights furiously. As I approached, before I was too close, suddenly the helicopter was above me, bathing the street in fierce white light, and the cop cars swerved onto the sidewalk. Jumping from thier cars, rushing in the same direction - I saw the man materialize in the darkness, throwing up his hands, being wrestled to the ground, cops everywhere.
Hands shaking, I sped by and pulled into another parking lot a few blocks down. I watched, completely unsure of what to do, as the helicopter and police cars converged in a tight, busy little circle. Eventually, the minutes ticked by. And finally... they all left...
I drove back to campus and pulled in the gates at the security tower, where the guard greeted me as per protocol. But for the first time in six months of casually passing by that station, I felt enormous gratitude for the safety it represented.
A long story made short, I spent most of the night in the security tower with the guards. As soon as they heard what happened, they closed down the campus and called Jude Buffington, head of security for the college. He lived just across the street where he could keep endless vigil, and came over right away with his beautiful German Shepherd, Masey, trained and at attention. I felt so much safer with her near me! They called the police, my head RA at the dorm, my sister, and both Dean of Students.

A bottle of water for the stress, a tootsie-roll pop for the nerves, and I was sitting on a stool talking to a serious-faced, midde-aged lady copy to give my report. She was actually one of the officers who had been in the cars that carried out the chase and arrest, and so she was very interested to hear my perspective of the incident.
He was a wanted "gang-banger," she informed me, dangerous and brutal. They'd been trying to get him off the streets for a long time, watching him closely on thier radar, waiting for the opportunity to pounce. That very night there had been a gangfight that broke out across the east end of 10th Street, and this gangster ended up attacking an innocent bystander. When the police started chasing him, he took off into the night.
This man ran through the empty parkinglots until he came across me, and my car. Where would he have stopped? Just dragging me out and stealing my car? Or...?
The police officer was just as moved as I was. "Really, I should not be talking with you right now. If I've ever seen a God-thing in my line of work, I saw it tonight," she said to me. Wow. "It is incredible all your car doors were locked."
What an experience!!!
I don't think I'll ever forget it. I surely learned some things that night, and was humbled that my heavenly Father was watching out for me. Sometimes, just little things count the most. Like locking all the doors, instead of just mine... God knew, even if I didn't. And what seemed insignificant to me, He knew would be ultimately vital.
I'm happy to be alive and around, let me tell you!! =)
Now school is over... what a way to end the year! And, I'm in my beloved Pekin, IL, to help my best friend get married, and just relax for the first time this year.
My next post on all the fun of the wedding will be coming up shortly =) Hope everyone is having a great start to thier summer!
Psalm 4:8 I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me to dwell in safety.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Picture Post!

I went to Nichols Hills, the neighborhood where I work at Panera Bread, and took some pictures with my sister....

The night of the Graduation/Spring Banquet!

The senior guys....

Hanging out later at Bricktown...

Mrs. Jett, dean of women, and I...

Bricktown, Oklahoma City...

Pastor Jason Gaddis and Mrs. Angie and myself (pastor and wife of Southwest Baptist Church)...

Bro. Copes and wife, the executive Vice President of Heartland...

Bro. John & Ms. Grace Lande, college and career director at Southwest Baptist Church....

The last Sunday at church, my Pre-teen Sunday School class went out to watch Bro. Ben kiss a pig....

My Heartland coworkers at Panera Bread!

The beautiful neighborhood of Nichols Hills....

Southwest Baptist Church, view from the balcony....

Hanging with Joy at On the Border....

On the Border with girls from Heartland for my sister's 23rd birthday...

The preaching in the chapel at Heartland Baptist College....

The college choir in which I sing at Heartland....

I know that I have a great story to share... but I promised the photos, first, so here you go!

Enjoy! =)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Last Days!

Hey everyone!

It's summer!! =) It's about 90 degrees outside, the beautiful sun blistering down on Oklahoma City with shimmering, relentless waves of heat. Lovely! I'm a big fan of the heat, and even the humidity - the kind that hangs heavy in the air, like a sinking cloud, and if you stick out your tongue and close your eyes, you might taste it. =)

The semester has only 3 days left. The end is coming so fast, like a train hurtling along the tracks of the countryside. I can hardly catch my breath! Today is the last day of work at Panera Bread. This is sad, sad, sad, sad... I am going to miss my work here so incredibly much! It has been the most exciting part of this new life. Thankfully, of course, I'll be returning someday... but it is still hard to walk away. =(

Friday, May 6th, was the Graduation Spring Banquet at college. It was also my sister's birthday! The occassion was really full-tilt, and a bit overwhelming. I planned to go all semester, but then the plans had changed and I crossed it off my planner. But then when I realized it was my sister's birthday, I ended up going to spend some time with her. It was really an experience, and there were some definitely highlights! The banquet was hosted in a ballroom downtown, decked out with satin-draped chairs, crystal wine glasses, and plasma screen TV's. Graduates were recognized, the White Hot Chocolate quartet sang a special (my favorite singing group here! they're awesome!), and a speaker gave a lengthy charge. The formal atmosphere was lightened when the guys at my table realized I was making my glass sing by absently running my finger along its rim. They went all out and soon got the tables next to us to try it out, too! =) I was amused.

The menu was delicious! My apologies to Terry and Ladeana in the caffeteria, but it was nice to have an upscale meal =) A southwestern salad and sun tea preceded the entree of baked chicken stuffed with tomatoes, spinach, and mozarella cheese; double-baked potatoes and mixed sauted vegetables were the sides; chocolate pyramids drizzled in sauce with fresh berries and hot coffee were served for dessert. Scrumptous!! =)

After the banquet, it was picture-taking time! Unfortunately, I haven't found my cord to download the pictures from my camera onto the computer. But I plan on posting them soon! I actually have several events whose pictures I am going to post =)

Loading up into the car, we drove further downtown to the old historic Bricktown, which is quite incredible. It's impossible to adequately describe this sector; you have to see it yourself! Originally there were huge brick factories clustered in this area of town, way-back-when, as Oklahoma City was just founded. Eventually these wharehouses and factories closed down. Rather than falling to decay and rotting away or becoming haunting skeletons like I've seen especially across the Soviet Union, these mammoth buildings were preserved and turned into a tourist trap and local attraction. A manmade canal was carved along the old streets, floating boat rides to access the different buildings! The canal was lined with waterfalls, gardens, fountains, gardens and quaint bridges. The wharehouses themselves became home for cafes, restaurants and bars, theatres, suvenoir shops, and music academies. Amazing!! Starbucks is one of the businesses off the water =) It is amazing to walk along the canal or ride a boat under the bridges lit up with Christmas lights, enjoying the scent of the fresh spring flowers and the music from the many cafes. So unique!! So magical and fun =)) Along the streets, horses pull carriages and bands perform on the street corners. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people get out to enjoy the lights and food and atmosphere as they stroll through this modernized peice of local history.

I was impressed! =)

So much to write, because so much is going on!

This week is Graduation Preaching Conference. Which means no more finals... no more classes... and no more work. Just preaching and singing and getting spiritually rejuvenated for the summer!! I am really looking forward to this time. I am excited for what God has to teach me. This has really been a revolutionizing semester for me, and although the future isn't necessarily stellar, I am looking forward to it with more confidence. =)

And... packing!! GAH! I have so much packing to do! Probably because I'm an organizing freak, so it's frustrating to decide exaclty how to pack everything. And, it's complicated because I don't have a house to go drop off the books and projects I've completed. All the finished work of the years has to stay with me, and the pile is getting bigger and bigger... a miniature volcanoe. =) I also have to keep clothes for all four seasons, and et cetera. Let's just say it's a real challenge to deal with! Haha. Please pray for perserverance and grace!

So, I'm about to clock into work for the last time... it's sad...

But it means only a few days and I'll be back in PEKIN, ILLINOIS!!!!! -happiness- =)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

May 5th, 2011 - Cinco de Mayo

Happy Cinco de Mayo!!!! =D

I walked into work today, deleriously happy after having soaked in the blistering sunshine during the 20-minute ride from college, feeling energetic and rejuvenated and on an early-summer high. Sang out hellos to the guys on The Line, dropped off my personal affects in the lockers, and then skipped across the Back of the House to take a glance at the deployment sheet (fingers crossed I'm not under Production...)

I was stopped in my tracts by the baker's table taken hostage in a Mexican party theme, complete with nacho chips, taco shells, and bowls of fillings - ground beef, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, refriend beans, cheese, etc.

I've never observed this holiday until today, but, boy, my day shot sky-high as I scooped up some DELICIOUS Mexican food and decided this was a great day to celebrate! =D

I hope everyone else is having such a good day!

On another note, today was the last chapel service for the semester! Tomorrow is my last final!! And in only 6 short days, this chapter of life will close forever into the slot called history. WOW!

Looking ahead to summer and beyond, I really want to take a hold of this blog and revolutionize it a bit =) You can perhaps feel my enthusiasm with the energetic sunshine of summer. So much to do!! But writing has always been my first passion, and I want to try to focus more here.

How about input? I'd love to meet my readers! Really. I know that I have quite a few "silent" readers out there, who follow my posts but don't comment. And I don't want anyone to feel pressured to comment, though I love hearing feedback through the comments, I do want to encourage some participation for the direction of this blog =)

So, step up and say hey! =) Drop me a line at and let me hear from you! Some questions I'd love to hear answers for are

-How did you hear about this blog?

-What do you like best in the posts?

-Anything you would like to see change?

-Longer, more detailed posts or shorter, more frequent posts?

-Anything I haven't covered that you would like to read about?

-And of course, I'd love to hear about what's going on in your lives for the summer 2011!!!!

So, looking forward to hearing from you all!!

On my front, things are looking crazy busy for this summer. In exactly a week, I'm driving up to Chicago (Pekin) Illinois for two weeks to help my best friend and her fiance get MARRIED!! Woot woot! =) Yup, I'm the maid of honor and it's crazy, but so much fun!

Next, I'm meeting up with my sister at O'Hare and flying to Helsinki, Finland! =) After a quick tour there, it's finally hope to KHARKOV!! And boy, I absolutely cannot wait! Which, actually, this is a very new feeling for me, being the little girl always ready to fly the coop =P Homesick? Haha, yes! I'm finally experiencing it, and have found myself SO GRATEFUL for my wonderful, imperfect but perfectly mine, family! Hopefully, I'll be giving a Bible study with the young ladies of the church, and helping in the deaf church, and the Sunday School, and evangelism!!!!!!

Then the beginning of July will find me hitting the road again, flying to London! =) I love, love, love that city! It's amazing, really. Go visit if you get the chance! From London, I'll return to Oklahoma City...

And the rest of the summer I'll be (Lord willing) happily back at work at Panera Bread, a certified trainer, living oncampus at Heartland. I'm looking into a second job right now to fill in the hours that currently are occupied by studies. And

Please pray with me as I consider several aspirations for the future. Lots of avenues to follow, and the decisions are all weighty. I want God's will for me, and I'm excited to see what He's going to do with my life! It's not all easy. It's not all bright and beautiful. But I'm trusting that, ultimately, it's all a pattern for an exquisite dream that God set into action when he created me. =)

Leaving you with a verse: Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end."

Monday, May 2, 2011

May 2nd, 2011


(to me, from me)

Because my bio may say I was born September 8th, but as of yesterday many many years ago =) I was given a second birthday, a new family, and a fresh life! Yes, I've been born again. And that reality makes every day worth living. Because I have someone to live for - God! He's my father, and my friend, and I have his eternal love.

God's love has really been something that I have come to a greater appreciation for during the course of this semester. God's approval on my life, his patience with my shortcomings, his encouragement with my growth to higher peaks in the future. I have an awesome God, and it's really sad today to think that many of the people around me (at work, at the mall, etc.) have lives void of his fulfilling presence. Earthly love has its ups and downs, its thrills and its anguish, its triumph and its failure. But God's love for me? It's perfect. It's never going away. And he only offers me more of it, each day, as much as I would like to claim.

What could be a better inspiration to wake up each day, looking for ways to please him and make him smile that, yupp - I'm his daughter, and yupp - I love him, too!

Over the weekend my college hosted a Southern Gospel Jubilee, during which I heard a very sweet, touching song about Tomorrow. The lyrics were so perfect - Fear not tomorrow, God is already there. He's already plotting the course I will take, he knows each hidden snare. Fear not tomorrow, God is already there. I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand!

I liked that thought that he's already planning out tomorrow, and he's already experiencing everything that he will let me go through. What a thought! This really makes me wonder why I may think I have a right to complain, be frustrated, disappointed, or upset. Can't I just trust God and accept his plot for my life?

Well, it's been a really long semester. =)
At the same time, really short! Time is funny that way.

More recently than not, God has put in my path a young lady with an incredible story. She has been such a help and encouragement to me, in a way I was unexpecting could happen. I have felt very honored that she's opened up her past, and the lessons learned, in order to strengthen my own present & future. I feel sad because our ways are parting.

Today I opened my mailbox, and I found a note with her handwriting. I often laugh because people misspell my name (the masculine, German Noel, rather than the feminine, French Noelle). She seems to be creative - she took my name, and made an acronym of it, perhaps to remind me that my name (who I am) is a perfect plan of God, with a perfect story in His eyes. I was tickled, and thought I'd share:

N - never underestimate your worth to God!
O - only worry about what God can't handle!
E - enjoy the blessings that God sends your way!
L - live for God and life won't be wasted!
L - lean on God and he'll carry you through!
E - every day is a chance to make a difference!


Onto a livelier note,
Has anyone heard of Route 66? It's one of the old highways, as seen in the Disney movie Cars, and it runs through Arcadia, Oklahoma, about forty minutes away from my new college. Well, situated on the side of this old highway is a gas station/local landmark, called POPS.

This over-sized petroleum transfer station has an exaggerated amount of parking space off to the side cut into a green field, and if you go near the lunch or dinner hour - it will be full to the brim with visitors from all over the area. Erected near the entrance, just off the graveled edges of the highway stands a tall metal sculpture of a soda bottle, complete with colossal straw! It is 66 feet tall!! And the walls of the gas station are a story and a half high, sheer glass, lined with miles of shelving. Proudly displayed on all these shelves, visible through the glass for all the cars driving by to see?
Soda bottles!
Literally thousands and thousands of them. Every jeweled color - orange, blue, green, pink, yellow, red, purple, glinting and capturing the artificial lights.


For real. =)

Pops is just a gas station that houses a collection of old-fashioned, modern, and imported sodas. There were probably upward of 300 soda brands being sold. I can't even remember them all! Jones, Crush, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Love Potion 49, Leningrad, Fizzy Lizzy, Old Brooklyn, Berghoff Chicago, Dang! That's Good, Nehi, etc. You could pick anything you liked, from hundreds of flavors! It was amazing =) =)

Pops also has a mom-and-pops old-fashioned style cafe, which serves amazing classic American cuisine like an Edmond burger (my choice!) - 1/4 pound beef, sliced hot pastrami, sauteed mushrooms, swiss cheese, bacon, mmmm!!! =) Chili cheese fries, hotdogs with saurkraut, grilled cheese, onion rings, etc. Such a great atmosphere! =)

So for the fun of it, I included the website for Pops. Go check it out! =) Be sure to open the tab "Landmark!" It has all the fun info!

On a different note, today is the first day of finals! They will last this week, and that's the end of the academic year... wow...

I hope that this is a good month for all my readers. I hope you see God's love for you. I hope you trust in his steady hand. I believe the biggest lesson God has taught me at Bible college can be simply explained in 3 verses.

1 John 2:8 "...the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth." What a praise! When God brings blessings into my life, and shows me his goodness, and leads me up onto a mountain top.

Job 30:26 "when I looked for good, then evil came unto me: and when I waited for the light, there came darkness." When Satan attacks, when God sends me through a trial, when the valley is low and the sadness or fear intense. When there seems to be no end.

This semester, God has opened up his key to survive between these two extremes. A balance, I said when I voiced what I was seeking. Balance for my spiritual, emotional, and even physical state.

The answer is in Psalm 139:10, 12. The first, a verse that has long been fiercely dear to me; the latter, a new revelation of God in my life. Because there will always be darkness with the light...

"Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee."

God will never change. In the light. In the darkness. The circumstances, the giddy happiness or excruciating grief, do not influence the character and presence of God. The balance is in trusting in God. A hard thing to do! But the only way.

So with the new month, May, I wanted to share these thoughts with my dear readers. I hope that they will work some difference in someone's life and perhaps be an encouragement. Summer is on the doorstep, and with all the inevitable changes life will soon undergo for everyone, I pray that we will all remember Psalm 139: 10&12