Saturday, February 11, 2012

Taking the Initiative

This winter, I've been delighted to see my youngest adopted Russian sister make great progress in character and development. Over the past year, her language had understandably consisted of "Ringlish" - a mixture of badly pronounced Russian and English words. This is why I've been so amazed to hear her speak more and more coherent English sentences this winter!

There were other ways in which she was developmentally delayed when she came. The Russian caregivers in her orphanage did a phenomenal job showing love to the kids, but God's design was really that children would develop in families where they could receive more personal attention and love. So at seven years old, my sister didn't understand what numbers, letters or colors signified. She didn't really know how to interact socially in most cases, and even when she did, she was wary and frightened about this new situation in America.

Now I can really see how God is healing her! Developmentally, she understands a lot of social cues, like how to say a cheerful "Good morning!" and how to clean up the toys she plays with. She now knows her colors, and is learning a lot in her schoolwork.

The thing that astonishes me the most is the evidence that God is working in her heart, not just her brain. She's taken the initiative to show others kindness on several recent occasions. One example is in these pictures, when she was eager to help with the chore of shoveling snow all of her own accord. She saw my brothers and me working away, and without being asked, she grabbed a shovel and started to dig into the task! I truly hope this pattern means her heart will be ripe to receive God's Good News in His timing.

Thank you, God, for working your healing in my youngest sister's life! It's really You who's taking the initiative!

- John

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Place Where I Belong

Last weekend I enjoyed spending time with some dear friends in California. Not only did we share laughs and lots of inside jokes, but we also encouraged each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. The refreshment of their company was a little foretaste of heaven for me. Their focus on God and stories of perseverance through suffering increases my longing for the time when we can be with Jesus and each other forever!

The song below, "A Place Where I Belong", captures my thoughts well. Please scroll down and pause the music player on the right-hand side of my blog so you can check it out.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Special Visitors

A wonderful group!
 Needless to say, I've gotten behind in my blogging over the past couple weeks! Before I move on to other posts, I'd like to post a couple thoughts about the new year.

From a personal side, I enjoyed celebrating New Year's Eve with some close friends of more than a decade. When you've been friends with people that long, fun seems inevitable! Our time together included some silliness...

Can imagine resisting a face like that?!

My buddy and me

Andrew getting to know my dog, Sunshine

Katherine was very glad to see Zhenya for the first time in months!

Such a great way to bring in the New Year!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dear Mom...

Dear Mom,

Happy Birthday! What an amazing year you've had, full of blessings and challenges from your Good Shepherd! I'm glad He was with you during the journey. I want to take this special occasion to remember His goodness in giving You to me.

Thank you for the positive influence you have on my life every day! You've made a statement about the value of God's word through your eager delight in reading the Bible. You've taught me so much about living prudently during life's challenges, like Proverbs says a good mom does. Most of all, you've shown me what God's love is like by loving me faithfully through the years.

I pray God blesses you greatly in the coming year!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ethiopia Bound!

Photo credit: Layne & Tanya Henn
 I'm very excited to announce that I will be taking a missions trip to Ethiopia in March! I'm very excited to see what God will teach me about Himself and serving others. In his article, "Big Daddy" (a team member) explains the details of our trip.

Please pray that God would give us wisdom about how to prepare and that he would do amazing things through our time there!

Photo credit: Layne & Tanya Henn

- John

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Surprised by Optimism

Because of Jesus, we can have joy in this dark world

Thank you for looking at my blog! In today’s busy world, I appreciate you taking a few minutes from your schedule to hear what I have to say. In this first post, I’d like to give my reason for starting this blog, but first, let me tell you a little about myself.
My name is John. I’m twenty years old, and I’m finishing my last year of my BSBA in entrepreneurship. I’m also interning with a local company in its marketing department. My family is a wonderful mix of two loving parents, one biologically related twin sister, one older sister adopted domestically, nine younger siblings adopted from Russia, and two dogs! (As you can tell, a family like this makes for a lot of adventures! You’ll get to see some examples on my blog of what life in a family that crazy and fun is like.)
My reason for starting this blog is that I know the crippling power of cynicism, and I want to help others avoid it. Now, it’s not that I always walk around with a scowl on my face, as the song “He’s a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” plays ominously in the background. Instead, as Paul Miller explains in his book A Praying Life, my cynicism begins with my false assurance that “anything is possible”. However, optimism rooted in the goodness of people collapses when it confronts the darker side of life, such as disappointed expectations or downright evil in people (including myself). From the signs I see in our culture, I think that this type of cynicism is becoming a widespread problem.
However, there is a way out of this quiet cynicism. Rather than withdrawing into this negative spirit, we need an optimism that is founded on something more dependable than the goodness of people. We all know deep down that people, including ourselves, aren’t good. Nevertheless, the famous words of Psalm 23 hold the key: God is willing to be our Good Shepherd who won’t disappoint. Jesus proved this willingness when he came to earth to pay the penalty of our corrupted goodness by dying on the cross. Now we have the opportunity to have hope, and even the kind of fun that lasts! There is so much hope and joy to be found in God, and I’d love if you would join me in this journey of learning to be optimistic through Him!
(A final note about my blog title: One of my heroes, C.S. Lewis, titled his autobiography Surprised by Joy. I’m just beginning to learn to put my hope in God instead of myself and the goodness of people. So I’m realizing that even when I can’t feel joyful I can choose an optimistic mindset based on God’s goodness and promises. Thus the name of my blog, “Surprised by Optimism”.)

- John