Monday, December 27, 2010

From Russia With Love

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:13

Thirteen years ago today (Man, that seems like a LONG time!), I married a Russian college student whom I had known almost six months. Our first date had been on June 30th, when I took him fishing at my grandpa’s pond. We caught lots of sunfish that day. He cooked me spaghetti a few nights later, literally spaghetti and sauce, and we ate it at his college apartment out of margarine tubs. I told him about Hamburger Helper. He asked me to go shopping with him.

While at the grocery store I introduced him to things like yogurt, cottage cheese, and sour cream. He’d known all these things before, but didn’t know the name for them in English. I also told him about whole milk. He said that’s what he’d wanted, but didn’t know what the red cap meant. I offered to cook him a roast with potatoes and carrots, and the next thing I knew, we were getting married.

Some people said he married me for his Green Card. I think it was because I could cook and he couldn’t at the time. Russian men usually have a woman to take care of them.

We went to a pawn shop in Galena, Kansas, and bought my wedding ring for $140.00. It had been welded together at one time and then ripped in half and had a jagged edge and a small chip in the diamond. We bought his ring at the Miami Coin Shop for $40.00. The shoes he bought to get married in cost $46.00. My dress cost $50.00 at the going out of business sale at the Miami Bridal Shoppe and my mom made my veil attached to a headband of fake pearls we bought at Wal-Mart.

We had $110.00 in our checking account that first day we were married. And that was pretty much it in the way of assets between us. Of course, there was the harvest scene couch he’d bought at a garage sale that you had to be careful when sitting down on because a nail might poke you, but aside from that, our checking account represented all our worldly possessions that had value to anyone else besides us.

He didn’t tell his parents he was getting married. His mother would call in the middle of the night screaming and crying. My husband is an only child.

Needless to say, I went over like a lead brick. They wanted to know what color I was, was I pregnant, and what was my name? I passed on all accounts except they didn’t like my name. We sent pictures after the wedding and his grandma decided that I was too pale so I must be sick a lot, I was too thin so I must not know how to cook, and I was older than him (2 ½ years) so I must have MADE him marry me.

Then the paperwork began! YEARS of paperwork to be exact. I didn’t make enough money so my uncle had to co-sponsor my husband with me, making the both of us financially responsible for my husband. My dad wouldn’t do it. My husband would finally receive his Green Card just after we purchased our first house, three years plus after our wedding day. He would become a US Citizen when our first child was eight months old.

Eventually I won over my Russian in-laws. I guess they got used to the idea that my husband wasn’t coming back. And that maybe not all American women were what they thought they might be. They eventually gave me credit for my husband graduating from college, for him getting a job, for us buying a house, for our first child. Before she died, his grandma even decided that I looked a little like their Northern people. What a turnaround I’d had!

I cannot fathom that there would have been any more perfect a person for God to have chosen as my spouse. My husband gets my sense of humor, he’s smart, and cute, and all that, too. He’s even keeled when I freak out, and he still likes my cooking.

It is strange to think that my husband didn’t even speak my language until he was 15 years old. It is strange to think that he had to travel halfway around the world to get here. It is strange to think that he ended up going to the junior college in my town because his test scores were too low to stick with his friends and go to the college where they went. It is strange to think that he ended up unloading the truck with me on Saturday mornings at Arby’s in my hometown.

What a logistical nightmare for anyone else but God! I guess I was a hard order to fill!

Happy Anniversary to my big strong Russian husband!

He loves it when I call him that!

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Ephesians 2:19-20

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Imperfect Christmas

“O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.”

Picture it. Christmas Eve service. The church is packed. Nearly every seat is taken. The service has been carefully laid out in the bulletin. Easy to follow along for those who aren’t Regulars.

And then, with the first song, clearly marked “O Come All Ye Faithful” verses 1 and 2 in the bulletin, the organist begins to play “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” We all know the tune, yet can’t find it in the hymnal fast enough and muddle through the first verse confused by the song change.

A few more Christmas passages are read, and we are supposed to follow up with “O Come All Ye Faithful” verses 3 and 4. Since we started out on “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” the congregation could not be steered from that first verse of “O Come All Ye Faithful,” then as some finally noticed what was printed in the bulletin, we finished strong with verse number four.

Then the sermon about how we are all connected to the baby in manger. During the first five minutes, someone’s car alarm went off in the parking lot. Whoever the culprit was must have noticed their error because the horn only honked 10 or 12 times. Then I began my sermon dig for my checkbook so I would be ready when offering came up, and I had no pen in my purse. Then as if on cue, all the children under five in the sanctuary simultaneously lost their wonderment over being in church and began to protest. I look across the aisle and two teenagers were drawing comics. The family in front of me gave a stick of Chapstick to their 2YO son to amuse him, only recognizing their error when he was out of arm’s length and wielding a fully extended glob of Chapstick.

But then, the cloud of chaos lifted just in time for the individual candles to be lit for the “candlelight” portion of the service. My children held theirs in such a way as not to threaten burning down the church, and my now 6YO really belted out “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World” with me. A perfect ending!

Perhaps a few people at the service were first time visitors this evening. Perhaps they didn’t even notice the things that I did. Perhaps our service having several imperfect moments was much like Jesus’ birth, where nothing seemed to go right for Mary and Joseph. But, wow, what a perfect ending!

Merry Christmas!

“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:4-7

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Run, Run As Fast You Can...

“Do you know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24

In the past week, I have been a witness to a couple of occurrences of a gingerbread man running away while he was supposed to be in the oven baking. The first instance was at my son’s Kindergarten, where the kids were just walking back after not finding their gingerbread boy in the oven. They were aghast, confused, in denial.

“Mrs. Teacher put too much LOVE in him and he became real and ran away!!” they lamented.

Well, way to go Teacher! I told the teacher not to put so much love in him next time. It was all her fault, they concluded.

For the rest of the evening, we watched for the gingerbread boy. We were all instructed to call the teacher immediately if we had any clues. Occasionally, one of the kids would swear they saw a flash of brown somewhere out of the corner of their eye.

We went to our 4-H meeting at the local community room of the bank and the kids baited the gingerbread man outside with their rice krispie treats they had for snacks. They left a piece for him on the handrail outside and were all watching for him to take the bait so they could run out and catch him.

They also brought signs to hang up like a Missing Person poster with the gingerbread man drawn in their rendition of his likeness.

During the meeting, I slipped out and removed the bait, throwing it into the flowerbed. When they saw that the rice krispie treat was gone, it freaked the whole bunch out. The funny thing was that even older siblings who were present, who had been in the same class for Kindergarten, and had had the same experiences, didn’t remember. They were just as intrigued by the disappearance of the gingerbread man as the little ones were.

The good news is that the next day, the gingerbread man was found... by the POLICE! Officer Boggs brought the gingerbread man back to my Kindergartener’s class, lights flashing and siren blaring. He’d had to put a piece of plastic over the pan to keep the gingerbread man from escaping after chasing him into someone’s yard for running down the street WAY faster than the posted speed limit.

Our small town is a speed trap for even a Gingerbread Man!

Anyway, thanks to all involved for making the day of at least 24 Kindergarteners, a few 4-Hers, and I’m sure for all of their parents too!

May all our holiday experiences contain too much love, even if we won’t necessarily remember the details!

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Adventures of Baby Jesus #1

“Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, ‘What then is this child going to be?’ For the Lord’s hand was with him.” Luke 1:66

Last night (I know… FINALLY!), we broke out the Christmas decorations and the kids and hub put up the tree while I was at a church Christmas function – think desserts, desserts, and cheese dip by candlelight. Anyway, they broke out my foam nativity guys that I purchased off the internet a few years ago on an after Christmas clearance sale. I think it might have been marked down to $2.99 - a bargain considering these guys are about 6” tall and are very cute. The downside was that their sticky had long since died and I had to hot glue all the parts together. There’s not much I can’t accomplish with a glue gun, so that really wasn’t an issue.

The company graciously (and probably accidentally) included two nativity sets with my order, so one was given as a gift to a pre-school teacher at the daycare with whom I’d had a tumultuous relationship. Hopefully, that gift mended a few fences with her. Hard to say. I never saw her again. Maybe in Wal-Mart…

The second nativity set included an extra baby Jesus, again, I’m guessing by accident, unless there was an overproduction of foam baby Jesuses that year. Anyway, Baby Jesus #2 had never seen the light of day, until last night.

While the kids were breaking out the ornaments and such, they ran across the nativity set. Of course, they got everything out and set it up under the Christmas tree. Then they ran across Baby Jesus #2. The hub reports a deep discussion between them ensued.

“Look, it’s another baby Jesus!”

“Well, there’s only one baby Jesus. We can’t have two!”

“Who is it then?”

“It must be John the Baptist.”

Now, I’m not sure if Jesus and John the Baptist were close cousins or not growing up, but Elizabeth was one of the first people Mary told about her pregnancy. And John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb, excited about his boy cousin, who would be his Savior. John even eventually baptized his cousin, in what was undoubtedly his most spectacular baptism ever!

Anyway, I’m not sure when Elizabeth and Mary ever got together when the kids were little, but this year John is visiting in infancy, without his parents, our nativity. Both he and Jesus appear happy about it!

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means, ‘God with us.’” Matthew 1:23

Thursday, December 2, 2010

One Size Fits Most

“But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” 1 Corinthians 7:7

It’s the holidays! Let’s talk about gift cards for a moment.

I was given a gift card approximately four years ago to a major retailer, but had never used it. The gift card resurfaced in our home sometime over the summer and I called the number on the back and magically it was still good. I made a conscious decision that I should use it as soon as possible since I was pretty sure I’d had it nearly forever in gift card years.

But it was to a store that we don’t frequent very often, and is at least 30 minutes away in the big town.

Anyway, the moment finally presented itself a couple of weeks ago. Leaves had been blowing into the garage and the leaf blower we’d had for 10+ years had a locked up motor from last year and hadn’t been fixed. I never liked that leaf blower anyway. It was a gas model and hard for me to start. I decided it was time to put my gift card into action and buy an electric leaf blower.

I started online. I found an electric model that was 5 lbs. lighter than the gas counterpart and would blow 225 mph. And it was on sale. Sold! I decided at this time too, that when I visited the store I would also purchase the gutter-cleaner-outer attachment for the leaf blower to make our lives easier. I had brief daydreams of being able to purchase these two items together and have the gutters cleaned out by nightfall, making my husband so proud of me!

Those dreams were squelched when I actually went to the store and found that the gutter attachment was not available for in-store purchase. I took my on sale leaf blower and went home, slightly disappointed.

Upon arriving home, I promptly ordered said gutter-cleaner-outer attachment off the internet. The description said, “Fits most….”


Kind of left it open, didn’t it?

But in my eyes, most says majority, and majority says a lot, and a lot seems to be readily available, so I clicked the “confirm order” button for my site-to-store pickup.

I got a little anxious and tried to click on the link in my order confirmation email a couple of days later, so I could see the status of my order. It took me to a place to login to my online account. I entered my email address, the one just used to confirm my order, and the site told me that email address had not been registered with an account. Hmm. First bad sign.

Then about a week later, I received another email confirming my gutter-cleaner-outer was ready to be picked up in the big town. I also got a call from a nice computer generated lady telling me the same thing, but I had to listen to it twice to be able to understand the whole thing.

The following day – yesterday to be exact – I traveled to the big town to retrieve my order. Sure enough, they had it and were able to retrieve it for me from the bowels of the store within 5 minutes – a sign said that was their goal!

When I arrived home, I began to understand what “Fits Most” meant. It meant it would fit gas models with threaded flanges, gas models with a button to secure attachments, electric models with a button for attachments, and electric models with threaded flanges – that were all ROUND.

Unfortunately, I had purchased the readily available blower with the RECTANGULAR flange.

So, this morning I took my third trip to the big town to exchange my blower for one with a round flange that would work with the attachment. I was assisted by one of the very helpful associates in my return and exchange of blowers. He took my $35.00 extra dollars, as this blower was NOT on sale, and told me this was the only one that was electric with a round attachment flange. Should definitely work.


We’re back to that word again.

A little voice in my head said I should try it before I left the parking lot since I’d had the forethought to bring along the gutter attachment. But there were a lot of pieces, and I had my kid with me, and my husband had actually tried it before and knew what piece should go directly on the blower. I was just sure it would work, drunk with the associate’s confidence.

I sobered up when I got home and actually tried it.

Most apparently means – will work for most everyone else, except me.

The flange was the right shape, but was just slightly too big. Big enough not to work. Big enough to require lots of duck tape alteration to get it to work. Big enough to send my blood pressure rising into the sky and a few choice words to come to mind.

With that, I resolved to return the whole mess of frustration and call it a day. I resolved to muster as much grace as one with an aggravated temper can, and not unleash my wrath on the next available cashier. I resolved myself to the fact that I was going to have to drive to the big town ONE MORE TIME!!

The fourth time at 60 miles round trip, but who’s counting??

I also resolved that they could figure out how to put everything back in the box the way it should have been as I did not have enough patience left to mess with it. Shoving it all in with my foot, and stomping on it while jumping up and down on the box, would probably have resulted in breakage and would have made returning my burden unlikely.

And so, after much gas guzzling and several scenic trips, a few choice-word thoughts and a credit on my credit card, I have nothing to show for my Plight of the Leaf Blower.

So, when you give that gift card this holiday season, remember the Plight of the Leaf Blower sparked by an old gift card that resurfaced after years of not being spent.

And remember not to give me a gift card. Sorry. Bad taste in my mouth.

And remember the perfect gift of Jesus, who truly is “One Size Fits All”, not “Most”.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23