Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Why Did It Happen To Me?!

A couple of days ago my wonderful car started acting up. All the lights on the dashboard would suddenly come on, the car would not lock remotely, and it would make a loud sound when it was not supposed to. I probably should have expected problems with a 200,000+ mile-car, but I hoped that mine would serve me for a long, long time. Of course, as most of us think, bad things happen to others. Right...

As I was getting on the highway on my way from work today, all the lights came on again, and the speed started dropping, even though I kept pushing on gas. I was so scared! I had never been in a dangerous situation before where I had to act quickly. Good thing I remembered where the hazard lights button was! So, I turned it on and stopped on the shoulder of the road. 

What is a normal reaction of a normal person? Probably, to calm down, to assess the situation, and maybe call the road-side assistance. That would be ideal, except for: 1) I was scared, so I started crying immediately; 2) I felt helpless because my husband is in Louisiana and couldn't come and rescue me; 3) I cancelled my road-side assistance service a year ago when I moved to Hawaii, while David was deployed. Not good.

I called David and, thankfully, he was not busy and picked up. He tried to calm me down and called his friend to come get me. Since I was still about 45 miles away from home, I decided to give it a try and drove slowly with the hazard lights on. The friend did not have to come help me. Eventually, I made it home safely. 

It is interesting that this morning I started listening to the audiobook called Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. He uses very strong and good arguments to prove the sovereignty of God. Many Christians thank God for the good things that happen to them, but they refuse to believe that bad things happen to them and to others because God caused them or allowed them to happen. It is difficult to believe that a loving God causes or allows devastating earthquakes and famines kill thousands of people every year. It is very, very hard to believe that God allows our loved ones to become sick and die. However, the truth is, all the things, both good and bad, happen because of the Lord. He is in total control, and everything He does is for His glory.

When I was on the side of the road in my nearly dying car, alone, without my husband being home and without road assistance service available, I started praying that the Lord brings me home safely. In that moment, I understood that He is the only one I can lean on. I could have still been out there at this hour. I could have gotten into an accident if the car started dying, while I was driving at 75 mph. Instead, I was just merging into the highway and had not accelerated to a higher speed yet. Yes, I was stressed out and now have to worry about how to fix my car. I have to take my husband's car to work for the next several weeks, and his car is a manual. And it does not have cruise control (I am really spoiled with my good old car!) However, I do see how this unpleasant event is for God's glory: my husband and I turned to Him and prayed. We thanked Him when I made it home safely. Finally, I am writing about my experience and sharing His glory with you.  I definitely learned a good lesson today: that God is always in control, and that I probably should get the road assistance service again. As we say in Russia, "God protects those who protect themselves."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Delicious Turkey Chili

I found this rather unusual recipe of chili, but it is very good. A little spicy, which we love. You will definitely get your veggies with this one!

You will need:

- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
- 1 (1 oz) package taco seasoning mix
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 (14.5 oz) can beef broth
- 1 (7 oz) can salsa
- 2 (14.5 oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (7 oz) can chopped green chili peppers
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 3 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
- 1 bunch green onions, chopped
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese


1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Crumble turkey into the pot, stirring with a wooden spoon to break apart as much as possible. Season with taco seasoning mix, coriander, oregano, chili flakes, and tomato paste. Mix until meat is evenly coated with seasonings. Continue cooking, reducing heat if necessary, until turkey is well browned. 

2. Pour in beef broth and simmer to reduce liquid slightly, for about 5 minutes. Add salsa, tomatoes, and green chilies and continue cooking at a moderate simmer for 10 minutes. Adjust the thickness at any time by adding water. 

3. While chili is still cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook onion and green bell pepper, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes, or until onion is translucent and bell pepper is lightly browned. Add onion and bell pepper to the chili and continue at a very low simmer. 

4. In the same skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the zucchini to the chili, reduce heat, and continue cooking for 15 more minutes. Again, adjust the consistency with the water as needed. 

5. Ladle chili into serving bowls. Top with sour cream, green onion, and Cheddar cheese. 

Enjoy your awesome chili!!!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

How to Keep the Love Fire Burning

Yesterday, I saw a movie, The Lucky One. It was fairly well-done and had several good themes, but the one I want to write about today is love. More precisely, about the time when love first begins. It was involving to see how love between the two main characters first appeared and then grew stronger. Do you remember the feelings you experienced when you just started dating your significant other? How thrilled you were to see him or her? How nervous, anxious, and excited you were? The sweetest and the warmest feeling pouring all over your body the moment your lips touched... How upset you were to let go of each other, and how it took an hour to say good-bye on the front porch. Butterflies were tingling ever so sweetly in your stomach at every thought of your beloved. Those days were filled with joy, and... they are now in the past.

When I saw the growing love of Beth and Logan in the movie, it brought the sweet memories of the first days of our love to me. It is a little sad that those days are gone. However, I understand that love constantly grows and changes, just as we do. We cannot always be kids, and so can't love always stay at that first young stage. I remember myself at 16, but I am soooo glad I am older now! Today, I am wiser and more mature. I definitely have more taste and take better care of myself. Time has brought me knowledge and experience, and the same happens to love as it matures: it only gets better.

Today, I trust my husband so much more than in those first days when we just met. The fact that he is my husband and not a boyfriend anymore speaks loudly: I feel secure with him and know and love him enough to want to spend the rest of my life with him. Growing together in love is a beautiful thing. You really need to get to know your partner in order to commit your whole life to the relationship.

We have been married for almost two years, yet we always hear from other people congratulations on our recent wedding. We really do look like newlyweds. We always hold hands and look at each other with love. Is it easy to do? Most of the time, yes. I know that many will say that we should wait until we have kids, and jobs, and school meetings, and a thousand of other things to do, all at the same time. I do strongly believe, however, that it is possible to keep the fire burning between you two.

Love is not a feeling. It is a choice we make every day with our spouses. We may not always like each other, but we surely do love each other always. To love is...

- To make your spouse a priority. Always. Before your kids, your parents, and your job. You will live all your life with your spouse. You will change jobs, move away from your parents, and let your kids go off to college. Guess who will stay behind with you?

- To show your respect and love every day. Make him lunch, go to bed at the same time, pray together. Show that you think of your spouse and take his or her interests into consideration.

- Hold hands and do romantic things. We write cute messages to each other on the napkins and hide them in each other lunch bags. When David is gone for training, I write for him every day in our Love Story diary. He makes the bed while I am preparing for work in the morning and makes me breakfast. Well, and dinner, too, when he gets home from work first. We realize that we are in this together, and we are trying to make life more comfortable for each other.

Yes, those butterflies and the exciting sensory acuity may be in the past, but instead, now we have a steady and strong love fire in our hearts. As Brad Paisley said in his song, "And I thought I loved you then..." Today, I love my husband so much more than yesterday.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Practicing Yoga: Is It Safe?

I love doing yoga for exercise. You don't have to run anywhere; you are just stretching on your mat and having a good time. I have been doing yoga on and off for about 6 years now, and it is the easiest fitness program for me to stick to. However, there is a controversy of whether Christians should practice yoga, or if it is absolutely forbidden.

When I was asked this question for the first time, I answered, without a second thought, that, of course, Christians can do yoga. It is possible to use it as a pure system of exercise. I know that yoga is a religion, but I have always managed separating the philosophy and the poses.

How are Christianity and yoga different? First, yoga defines God as an impersonal, spiritual substance and claims that "God" is everything. The Bible carefully maintains a distinction between God the Creator and His creation, the Universe. Second, the two treat man in a different way. Since yoga defines "God" as everything, it, essentially, implies that man is God. However, Christians know that people are distinct from God. Finally, yoga is defined as a "union of the self with the Supreme Being" (thefreedictionary.com). Yoga, therefore, calls people to focus on their inner self and unite with "God" through mental and physical practice, while the Bible tells us that our purpose is to live for the glory of God. I think, this is the key point that helps me answer the question of whether Christians can practice yoga.

If I call yoga "stretching," then the question will be, "Should Christians stretch?" Sure, they should! Stretching is good for the body. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says, "For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." The Bible clearly tells us to take care of our bodies. Therefore, stretching is not against Christianity. However, is it possible to truly separate the physical yoga practice from its philosophy? It depends on every person's convictions. I do not seek to quiet my mind and focus on my inner self, while doing yoga. Instead, I meditate on the Scripture and praise God for giving me a healthy body that is pretty flexible. If you can glorify God through your practice, why not do it? However, if you feel that yoga separates you from God and makes you concentrate more on yourself, then, most probably, it is not a good idea to continue the practice. It is like drinking alcohol: some people through conviction do not touch alcohol at all. Others allow the influence of alcohol to control their lives. Yet, there is a third group of people, who drink moderately, yet still glorify God.

How do you justify what you do when others have such strong convictions against it? 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Deployment Plan

I am a huge planner. I like to plan far, far ahead, and I don't think it is necessarily a bad thing. I like knowing what I am going to cook this week, so that I can get the groceries I need. I would also like to know the gender of our future kids, so that I can paint nurseries blue or pink and not get green or yellow onesies at the baby showers. Therefore, it is only logical to create a deployment plan to help us carry through and to prepare for the separation reality the best we can. 

Today we went to our favorite coffee place and had a conversation about our deployment plan. Since I will have to manage our household by myself, I need to know my husband's thoughts on how I will perform his role. Some of the areas that we discussed were:

Budget: Yes, we actually do have a budget! It must have something to do with the fact that I am an accountant. During David's last deployment, I lived with my parents. Since we did not have to pay rent, I went on a shopping spree. FYI: shopping is a great pastime for those dealing with separation! We decided that I will continue living within our means. 

Legal Documents: It is a good idea to get a power of attorney from your husband. It will come in handy in case you need to do something that requires his physical presence. My example: if you receive a check that is written for both of you, you will not be able to cash or deposit it without the power of attorney. 

Home and Car Maintenance: Since we rent an apartment, our rental company will deal with all the maintenance problems. Leaving your car on the ground for many months is a bad idea. The tires are bound to be dead by the time you come home. That is what happened to both of our cars. This time, we are planning to lift up David's car with the car jacks. 

Support Groups: A very, very important part of your time alone. As I wrote before, I am intending to make new friends. Plus, my co-workers have promised to take care of me while my husband is gone!

There are many other things to keep in mind, such as emergencies, recreational activities, communicating with in-laws, and insurance policies. It is also wise to discuss how both of you react when your plans change. Do you explode, hide your feelings, or understand the need to be flexible? We can plan all we want, but there is He who is ultimately in control of all of our plans. As Proverbs 19:21 reminds us, "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand." Isn't it comforting and encouraging to know that no matter how much our plans may change, it will be for our own good at the end?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Are You a Good Wife?

"Are you a good wife?" - I have asked myself this question many, many times. Even though I try to clean, make lunch for my husband, wake up with him at an early hour, and take care of myself for him, something always seems missing. If I come home late from work and he has already prepared dinner, I feel like I failed. If he has started the laundry, I feel useless! In my mind, I must always be there for him, ready to listen and to take away all his sorrows. All that with his favorite food ready. In a spotless house. Dressed up and with my makeup on. Right after a long day at work. Anything less feels like a complete failure.

However, I am blessed with a wonderful, thoughtful husband who helps me get down to earth by letting me know what exactly I need to do in order to be a perfect wife for him: to submit to him and to respect him. And that's it?! That is when he reminds me of Colossians 3:18-19, "18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them." In fact, if we focus on our roles, it will be so much easier to have a happy and fulfilling marriage!

When I respect my husband, it is easy to submit to him, for in my eyes, he has authority to make decisions for our family. When I follow him, he feels respected and is encouraged to lead me. In response, he loves me and is more patient when I have a bad day or need to share my worries. When I see that he listens to me AND actually hears me, I am eager to follow him. When a husband feels respected and a wife feels loved, they want to do things for each other. Even small signs of attention, such as him washing the dishes or her ironing his shirts, will be pleasant for both.

I cannot always be a perfect wife, but when I know that I should focus only on two things (to submit and to respect) instead of a thousand, it surely makes me feel less stressed. Being a good wife is not that hard, after all!