End of the Day…

At the end of the day, when we’re slipping away,
I wonder if we’ll wonder what we did today.

My daddy always asked, did you leave it better than you found it?
When I’m hurtling to my death, I’ll wonder that. Did I leave this earth better than I found it?

If we all leave this earth better than when we found it, this world would be a lovely place.

What am I doing right now to leave the world better than I found it? What did I do today? We all know that the sum of our days equals our life. Each day left unchanged will one day equal a life without change.

So what on earth did I waste my day on?


Wife Training – Eh, no…

When I was a kid, I remember my dad saying, “We’re training you to be a good wife.”

I thought of that today, and I don’t agree with the ideology behind it. If you raise children to be good adults, they will be a good wife or husband. No special training needed. 

Venting moment: Don’t train your daughters to be “good wives.” Good wives come in all shapes and sizes, to fit husbands, who also come in all shapes and sizes. Try to show your children (by example) how to follow God and be a caring spouse, pray for them, teach them what they need to know, and let them go.

Simplify: Cleaning out your Closet

I’ve spent the past 2 years carrying my possessions on my back. I now have a massive collection of 3 pairs of shoes and my clothes might be able to fill up a school backpack! (gasp) Now, as Matt and I prep for the next leg of our life, we’ve been accidentally inspiring people to get rid of things and simplify. I’ve done this so much, deciding what to keep and get rid of, so here are my tips for cleaning out your closet.

1. For 2 weeks, put the clothes you wear in one side of the closet (or the clothes hamper). The clothes that are left in the closet/drawers are clothes you don’t wear very often. Some things are seasonal, but look at your jackets/coats. Pick one or two you can wear with everything and get rid of the rest.

2. When buying new stuff, be really picky. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this go with most of my wardrobe?
  • When would I wear this?
  • Is this comfortable enough to walk 2 miles in?
  • Would I wear this for 4 days in a row?

3. “Nice” clothes. How often do you wear nice clothes? I have one “nice” outfit, because I’ll only wear it to weddings or uppidy churches (of which there is an increasingly low number). I’m living proof you can have one dressy outfit and survive. HOWEVER, I know some of you have to wear nice/formal clothes on a regular basis (for work, etc.). So here’s what I do: How many times per week do you have to wear a business/formal/”nice” outfit? That’s how many outfits you should have. Formal shoes should be half that number, at least. Unless you’re a fashion model, people don’t usually notice what you’re wearing, honestly. I also like to leave room for one special outfit that just makes you feel cute, a “date” outfit, so to speak. That’s my church/”nice” outfit.

So how did you do? How do you simplify? What’s your criteria for keeping clothes?

How to be Confident

This is the second in a series I’m doing on the top 4 Google results for “How to be…” 

Realize that most people don’t think about you too much.

971664_10200223032887550_1818749354_nThe people who do care about you do it regardless of your faults. My freshman year of college, a girl told one of my friends that she hated the way I dressed. I was hurt. But she wasn’t the type of person I’d become friends with, anyway. The close friends I had, and still have, love the unique way I dress, giggle at my eclectic hairstyles (and take pictures) and love and respect me for who I am inside, regardless of if I was a beauty or a beast.

Think about something else instead. Regardless of what you know in your head, your self-confidence is shaky at best. But when you have another purpose, something else to think about, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to be confident and at ease. I know many people who are really fun to be around just because they try to make sure everyone is doing okay. They ask about OTHER people, say encouraging things, listen, and contribute only when it will be good for the whole group. These people, no surprise, tend to have a LOT of friends, but not even realize it.

Regardless of how you set it up in your head, though, if you go out constantly thinking about yourself and what others think of you, you WILL be self-conscious and timid. I’ve tried this so many times. The best remedy that I’ve learned is to:

a) realize it doesn’t matter what most people think. They’ll never see you again.

b) have an overriding purpose that trumps being socially successful, beautiful, smart, etc. The fact that God came to earth and saved us is mine. Everything else slightly pales in comparison. When I can focus on that, and what I can do for him (which isn’t always or even most of the time :p), then I’m confident and what others say doesn’t matter. 🙂

That’s all. Are you confident? What helps you have unshakable confidence?

Oh, that’s why we suck…

When I was a teenager, my youth group went door to door to pass out fliers for the upcoming VBS. I remember vividly one woman who, hesitating through her screen door, almost took the flier, but then asked where we were from.

When we told her, she stopped. Her voice turned cold. “Oh, I wouldn’t come.” She said. “I go to (Insert small-town church name). You’re welcome to come to OUR VBS, though.”

When did churches start competing with each other for members? When did it become about what church you go to instead of about all of us serving God and this dying world, TOGETHER? What’s wrong with the church?

Now, obviously, this isn’t every church, or even the majority. But a large fraction of usually dead, traditional churches seem to think that church is a club, where members are coveted from other clubs and loyalties are jealously guarded.

Divide and conquer devil, divide and conquer.

Little Drops

Sometimes I feel so small. Like nothing we could ever do could make any difference. Like we’re just a tiny little drop trying to change the color of the ocean. And even if we make the biggest splash possible for a little drop, not much actually changes.

But my heart was lifted today. We met a bunch of other little drops the same color as us, all marching along valiantly.

We’re not alone. And even if we only change the color of a handful of drops, those drops will go out and keep up the fight, even after the original drops fly to heaven.

Join hands, together we can change the world for the better.

Follow Your Bliss?!?!

Chasing your bliss leaves you tired and worn, with empty hands and a confused, blind heart. For the heart rarely knows the mysteries of the stars, or where this path will take you. Follow, instead, the hands who made you, the heart who knows you fully, the One who formed the stars and aligned them with the moon. Follow Him, and you get more than your bliss. You find peace and purpose. I don’t know about you, but that’s my bliss.

A Russian Orphan Testimony

Note: Kostia wrote this just after high school, a few months after we became friends. We were sharing our stories, and I cherish his young, rough grammar. 🙂 

On October 22, 1988, I was born in Russia, about a train ride away from Moscow (probably 200 miles away).

My first memories were in an orphanage. I remember we had one meal a day (lunch) and it was packed with food. The food I remembered the most there was tomato products. The food was like the stuff you would find in a church pot luck. No hamburgers (sniff) or hotdogs. Mostly food like mashed potatoes, bread, corn, you know, old people food!!

429915_122278191235373_1959725180_nI remember while I was in Russia that there used to be a person who used to visit me almost every week. She was a tall, dark haired lady who took me to her house sometimes over the weekend. This was considered special treatment because nobody there did that. I think maybe that it was my mom. I don’t know, though. (NOTE: we have since found out that this wasn’t his mom, but an orphanage worker who had taken a special liking to him. They are now friends on FaceBook). 

The things that happened in Russia were not so good. If you were bad, they would put this weird plant on you that would make you itch all over. I remember that clearly. Of course, they would spank you mercilessly. Sometimes they would strap you in bed so you couldn’t move. That is why when I was little, I always rocked. I rocked in the van, when I was sitting down, and sleeping. I don’t do that anymore, but sometimes to help me sleep, I still do.

I remember at the orphanage that I had one set of clothes. It was a button up collared T-shirt, slacks and I don’t remember if I had shoes. I remember my best friend. He had a green parka and was a little chunky. I don’t know how I remembered him, but he and I always hanged out.

But one day, while I was in the sandbox, I heard a big loud noise. After that, life went from bad to worse. I was sent to a weird hospital where they would put shots in me.

I remember the hospital quite well. We used to sleep in this big room and people would come play with us. Every once in awhile I would get a lot of shots for some reason. I think the reason for was because of my ear and my blood.

My special person who I think was my mom would still come but only to visit me. I couldn’t go home with her.

One day though, that was the last time I would see her. I cried and cried because even though I probably didn’t know exactly what she was saying, I got the point.

After what to me seemed like an awful long time at the hospital, I remember going on a train. I later found out that I was getting adopted. Julia and I were the first ones in that orphanage to get adopted. Before then, kids were not allowed to get adopted. I only remember the train ride. I remember that room that we slept in. There was a bed that I would sleep with my head on one side and Julia would have her head on the other. My feet would be by her head and her’s by mine. My caretaker would sleep on her chair.

I don’t remember much after that but people tell me that when I got off the plane, I cried. Then a person who knew Russian held me and started to talk to me in Russian and I felt a lot better. I do remember going to a family reunion at Minnesota and then heading off to California. My new family was planning on moving to Portland, Oregon, from California.

Again, I don’t remember much in this time period. I remember that we moved to an apartment in Oregon before we moved to Lake Oswego. Things were not going so well in the family. About this time I felt left out because I was new in the family and I could not relate to anybody. I was very shy and had no friends. I was treated, if you want to say, more like a pet and less as a human. I was just there to look at.

Also, I guess I was something my family wasn’t expecting.

matstuff 004There is a long blank spot now. The next memory is when I started to go to school. I loved school. I loved school so much, too much. I didn’t make many friends and I would spend my time in the library reading. When I got home I would make models with legos and build things. I was a very quiet person and this was something my family worried about. I started to see doctors to try and find out “what was wrong with me.” About my third grade year I got into computers. At the library I would work on the computers, mostly typing and working with random programs.

At home things weren’t good. My mom and I didn’t have the best relationship. She wanted me to be more “outgoing” and she did things that would not be the best for a 8-10 year old boy.

My dad was gone a lot and he was my stronghold. Things were a little crazy now because my sister was going through a phase in her life and wasn’t always there for me. She started to act, can I say teenageish?

I felt abandoned and hopeless.

I didn’t really have a foundation on God, and when you don’t have that, you tend to act how people think about you and how they feel about you. That’s how I acted.

I always knew about God but didn’t fully understand who He was until this next part. One trip, my family took me to Hope House to visit and I wanted to go so bad that I wanted to go now instead of for a summer school. One big reason was because there were horses there. I really liked horses back then.

matt_bicycleI went to Hope House and life started to take an interesting turn. I started to be more social just because I lived with a whole bunch of people and that’s kind of how you survive there. I was still very non-social and it was hard to talk to people. I had an awesome counselor named Jan. I was turning into a “man” now, and I had to switch counselors, which wasn’t the best for me. Jan soon left and worked somewhere else. She was the only person I could tell what was going on.

Things were doing okay. I was starting to have a “normal” life. Do normal boy things and get into a little trouble. I was the kind of person that really never got into trouble. The only truly real trouble I would get into I would accidentally get into. It would be with other people or something that I really didn’t fully understand. I was always used for examples for the older boys of how they should act. GULP!

Well, this is the scary part of my life. I started to hear audible voices that weren’t there and see things. It was very scary. I don’t remember really how it all started but I think it was because I was lonely and longed for something to fill in that area. It started off slow, and nice. I would “see” this guy and we would talk. I would hear him and he would “comfort” me. Then one night it all changed. I was still a quiet person at this point and I was sleeping on my top bunk. I saw this figure with a weird head, horned and small peeking at me from the bed. I screamed, jumped off the bunk bed and started to run, and run and run. I don’t remember much, but people said that I would not stop screaming and shaking uncontrollably. This was only the first of a long time of torment.

The so-called “friend” was now a person that took control of me. Sometimes he would threaten me or my family to not tell what was happening and keep it to myself. I didn’t understand what really was going on but now I think it was evil. Strange things started to happen often and finally I got sent to a hospital to “treat” it. I didn’t really like that place. It was horrible, I would get these shots because the meds that they were putting me on were making my body do weird things. Little did they know that this was more than a physical or mental issue but a spiritual issue. I finally lied my way out of the hospital saying that I was fine and I didn’t hear the voices. That was the time where I started to keep things in. I didn’t have too much problems with the voices and seeing things because to an extent I was doing what they wanted me to do. I was going farther from God and ruining my life by being “secret.”

1098332_10200444433462426_186796677_nFinally though, it happened. I couldn’t take it anymore. By this time I would be having horrible dreams. I would not be able to walk alone, etc. I finally told Christ Coury, who is the only person who I could really trust at that time. If I didn’t have that way out, I probably would not be here today. I was asked to go back to the hospital for them to “try” to fix the problem.

There, they “diagnosed” the problem as schizophrenia, which a lot of people get confused by. Most people think schizo is when a person has two personalities. This is schizo but it’s the rarest kind. Schizophrenia is an illness in your brain that messes with your visual, seeing, etc. part. People would see things that aren’t there, hear things, and random things like thinking somebody talking about them to thinking somebody’s going to kill them.

This seemed strange to me because my only symptoms were seeing things and hearing things. Also, in a schizophrenia person, it would be very random, something from the past or just brief clips of things like a dream or such. Not in my situation. I had full conversations, it answered back, and most if it had nothing to do with the past. When I found out all of this, I realized this might just be a spiritual battle. I heard that you could cast out demons but never really tried it.

That night about five years okay, I tried it. I didn’t just say it and didn’t believe it, I really wanted them out. I asked Jesus to help me because we don’t have any power unless through Him. That night, sitting on that bed, it happened.

When the things came back, it was worse, almost the worst it had ever been. But then I rebuked them with all I had and with Jesus’ help. All of a sudden, it was quiet. It felt like the quiet when a long war had ended. All was peace when I said, “Jesus, help me!!!!!!” I felt this strange peace and that was the point where I truly became a follower of Christ. I got released from the hospital and went back to Hope House.

People at once began to see a change in me. I was afraid of people’s reactions, though, and didn’t really express my faith out loud. I didn’t pray out loud or sing out loud. I started my career as a “Lone Christian.” Did the voices ever go away? No, not really. They would come back and I would rebuke and rebuke until they felt like they weren’t welcome. But from time to time, I still experience them, and it still scares me, but I got Christ whose got POWER!

About my freshman year (high school) I started to program. I made some games and programs. I also loved to draw during my middle school years. When I was a sophomore, I started doing animation. I wanted to make Christian games. I wanted to spread the Word through games. In my Junior year, I started to do movie editing, special effects, and things I’m doing today. My dream job was movie editing because you don’t have to wake up early, you get paid a whole lot, and it’s not as stressful.

But then I realized that it would be harder to witness about Christ as an editor. I am now wanting to become a Director. This was not my first choice because it’s stressful! Believe me! But I feel led to do this and I want to, sort of, and you know that feeling when you’re walking on the right path? That’s how I feel. I started to write Christmas plays my sophomore year because we were going to do this really lame play. My first play was Christmas in the Bahamas. It was pretty good! I was Bad Santa! Then I wrote Have A Madagascar Christmas, which was a major hit! And this last year, The Christmas Rap! Mrs. Dario and I have been having a competition to see whose was the best plays and I’m sorry to say the last three years, I destroyed the middle school class! I say that with all humility! HA HA HA! Nah, it’s a thing we joke around about. 🙂

Let’s see here! I’ve really changed I think in the last 3 years and 5 years of my life. Through Christ I have been a social person, likeable, (to an extent, Mercy? Have I?!?!), and able to share about my life and accept help. God has done amazing things in my life! Wow!! Then it happened. I started to go to VCC. Normally this should be a good thing, but some people at Hope House didn’t like it. At VCC, I started growing very quickly, being challenged and able to open up to people more and more. I became really more social and started seeing the person God wants me to be.

Mercy is a person I have found I can trust and “spill the beans” to. She has helped me out in ways nobody else can. I’ve started to see trust as a two-sided thing. All of my life I was being helped by other people, yet they weren’t sharing things with me. In Mercy’s case, we help each other out. It’s awesome and I’ve seen how brothers and sisters in Christ really do help in our everyday struggles. Yup, she is awesome!

Also, my relationship with my family is awesome! My mom and I are doing great, we’re getting less and less intimidated by each other. We talk about our beliefs and what God has done and also back each other up. She is awesome and my whole family is awesome! God is SWEET!!!!