Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Song of the Week: Waiting, Not Complaining

Song: "While I'm Waiting"
Singer: John Waller
From: Fireproof, the movie

This week features a song from the movie Fireproof, with Kirk Cameron. Directed and produced by the Kendrick Brothers (Facing the Giants, Courageous) this movie is a family favorite. In short, it tells the story of Caleb and Catherine, a married couple, struggling in their marriage. When divorce seems inevitable, gradually, Caleb's heart for his wife changes. I won't tell you how (though the video gives some spoilers). If you've not seen the film, I recommend it!

This song comes at about the halfway point through the film and while the context is waiting on the Lord to restore Caleb and Catherine's hearts and marriage - it can be applied to all other areas and times of our lives where we are called to wait. My family re-watched this film for the first time in a while recently, where I was reminded of this song. 

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

How easy it is to get impatient with Our Lord - yet, when we get to heaven, I wonder how foolish our worrying will seem, as we are able to peer outside of time and realize how He orchestrated everything according to His plan. We've probably all heard this before. But how many times have we actually taken it to heart?

As we wait... for a relationship to heal... for loved ones to come to Christ... God does not promise us that when we believe in Him, our lives will be without pain. Only that when pain comes, we have a firm foundation in which to place our trust and hope. 

Even further, the song points out, these times of waiting are often painful in themselves. We see ourselves where we want to be, where we are sure the Lord is leading us to be, but still remain in the routine of every day life. For example, as I wait for the adoption of my two sisters to be completed, how I long to have them home already! Our girls are part of our family! Even though it might not make sense to some, imagine it this way: When a family adopts, they love a child like their own. Imagine being separated from your son and daughter for months while you work to bring them home.

I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it's not easy
But faithfully, I will wait
Yes, I will wait

Whatever we are waiting for, it is what we do in this time of waiting that matters.

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience

How quickly we can lose our motivation while we wait; how quickly we forget why we started praying, seeking, searching fervently with the Lord in the first place. Yet, it is in these times where God calls us closer to Himself. In order to draw closer, we must move ahead, pressing on with the goal given to us.

Like Joseph or Abraham, who were given a vision and held onto the promises of God, even when they could not see them. Surely Joseph did not see himself sold into slavery by his own brothers, far from home, to a foreign people and place. Reflecting on his suffering, what we may be facing today seems smaller in comparison.

Or like Noah, who listened to God and not man, when he was instructed to build an ark. Though his neighbors jeered and called him foolish, he moved ahead, trusting the Lord's instruction. As he waited for the rain to come, he remained steadfast - realizing, in the end, listening to God's voice was more important than becoming discouraged by others. 

While I'm waiting
I will serve You
While I'm waiting
I will worship
While I'm waiting

I think this song is an excellent reminder that we should not become complacent in our times of waiting - in our relationship with the Lord and with others. Oftentimes, when we aren't seeing God move as we would like Him to, our tendency may be to complain, to turn to Him in frustration. When we do so, we miss the opportunity to grow in our relationship with Him and to draw upon our only source of true joy and strength. 

My dad Brian is the wisest, most selfless man I know. He will be the first to tell you that in times of waiting, whether it is for the next part of the adoption process, for the next step of development for one of our girls, he continually turns to the Word of God, to be "transformed by the renewing of your mind." It is this constant communion with the Lord in the midst of every day life, that gives him a spirit of worship, rather than a spirit of discontentment. By focusing on worshiping his Savior, as my dad tells audiences when he speaks to audiences as the director of Ting Ministries, that in response, the Lord changes his heart to become more willing to serve others and care for the Least of These. 

If we only looked at waiting as a gift more often than we complain about the delay, what might the Lord be able to accomplish through us?

Final thought: God has placed us where we are for a reason. While we see our end goal, the Lord sees every step along the path. He places people in our lives, perhaps in these times of waiting, so that we are able to focus on showing Christ to them. Yet, if we are only impatient to get through the waiting, we may miss the very people He placed in our path to serve. Are you missing someone today?

Saturday, March 10, 2018

A Favorite Romantic Moment - From Tiempos de Guerra

Read the complete, original article here. 

Saturday means it's time for the next Romantic Moment of the Week over at The Silver Petticoat Review. I just finished Tiempos de Guerra (also known as Morocco: Love in Times of War). This Spanish war-time drama, set in the 1920s is reminiscent of Season 2 of Downton Abbey and it's attention to medicine in this time period and the personal toll of war on relationships are the two things that drew me into the series. (Plus, the dynamic between Luis and Pilar really brings meaning to "opposites attract.") Read an excerpt below!


"Pilar and Luis almost got married eight years ago [...] Pilar is level-headed with quiet grace, giving her the perfect combination of steadfastness and compassion to be a nurse. Meanwhile, the lean and lanky doctor, who talks a mile a minute, wears his heart on his sleeve. Both deny any lingering feelings, but when they are together, sparks still fly."

Find out what happens in this emotional exchange between Luis and Pilar by heading over to my article on The Silver Petticoat Review!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Song of the Week: Raj'een Ya Hawa

Just recently, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. While I plan on writing about this experience in a separate post, I wanted to share the next edition of Song of the Week! 

I heard this week's song, Raj'een Ya Hawa, on my trip to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. in the exhibit dedicated to the ongoing crisis in Syria. The fourth floor of the museum is periodically dedicated to an ongoing genocide or humanitarian crisis. While walking through the exhibit, there was place where this song was sung by a Syrian man undergoing extreme persecution. I was enveloped by the tune with its distinct Middle Eastern style and jotted down the title to research when I got home. 

I was able to find this cover of the song by Lina Sleibi, a Lebanese singer. Her voice with its haunting lilts captured my breath. The freedom of the melody travels with a hint of nostalgia through each verse. Raj'een Ya Hawa is both love song, and a farewell song. Yet it is also about returning home. Its very title, "We are Coming Back, O Love," is a promise of hope.

Oh you are the flower for the poor / We are coming back, oh love / To love's home / filled with the fire of love / coming back

Those of you who know me, know I sing in a variety of languages including: Russian, German, Italian, Korean, Hebrew, and Chinese. I decided after hearing Lina's version of the song that my next language will be Arabic. 

After contacting a friend, I was able to find out a bit more about the song, namely that it is a very popular song originally by Fairouz, a famous Lebanese singer. Since then, besides working on learning Raj'een Ya Hawa, I've been listening to other songs by Lina Sleibi and Fairouz. I even found Lina's performance of an Aramaic Syriac Christian hymn, At Your Doors! (English translation available here). 

Raj'een Ya Hawa is a song to be savored.I am so glad I heard it for the first time with the experience of the Holocaust Museum. The museum emphasizes what it means to be a "witness." Now that we know about the Holocaust, what will we do about it? In the same way, when we see the poor, the orphaned, the Least of These lead off to slaughter - what will we do? Like the song, we may say we are leaving, but in reality - we are drawn to come back. Love should compel us to return and make an active difference. (James 1:27).

It is our responsibility. We can no longer stay silent. 

English Translation: 

We are coming back, oh love
coming back
Oh you are the flower for the poor
We are coming back, oh love
To love's home
filled with the fire of love
coming back
We bid an age farewell
And go to another age
It forgets us upon the land of forgetfulness
We say that we are leaving
but in reality we are coming back
to love's home
And we don't know it
We are coming back, oh love
To love's home
filled with the fire of love
coming back

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Countdown the Romance in "Ode to Joy" - My New Article on The Silver Petticoat Review

Read the complete, original article here.

A few months ago, I wrote a post over at The Silver Petticoat Review about a Chinese drama called Ode to Joy. The series caught my attention because of the adoption story of one of the five main women in the show. I recommend the show for those looking to start a new series and delve into the world of Asian dramas! You get the stories of five distinct women and their joys and trials navigating the workplace in Shanghai. 

As someone who loves romantic stories, and with so many romantic moments in this length drama, I knew I had to do another post on Ode to Joy. Today, you can check out my post about the top ten romantic moments from the series

A peek at one of the romantic moments - head on over to The Silver Petticoat Review to read the rest!

"With all her friends gone on vacation, Xiao Xiao is sitting outside with the stray kittens she looks after. She complains to herself that she can’t believe Dr. Zhao didn’t come for her. As she’s looking at the ground, we see Dr. Zhao’s feet appear. The two look up at each other, smiling knowingly [...] 
"So I came for you," he says.
Xiao Xiao jumps up into this arms, wrapping her legs around him as they laugh and kiss amidst the spring leaves."

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Song of the Week: А Напоследок, Я Скажу, A Classic Soviet Film (Song and Review)

It's been busy around here since returning from Bulgaria! But as a short Song of the Week feature, I hope you enjoy "А Напоследок, Я Скажу" or, "And as I Leave, I Will Say." It is a lovely song from the classic Soviet film, "A Cruel Romance." The film tells the story of Larissa Dimitrieva, a young woman who falls in love with Sergei Sergeyvich. When she gets engaged to another man who has pursued her for years, will she find love? What will become of Larissa and Sergei's tragic love?

I reccommend this film if you are looking for an introduction into Soviet films, especially if you enjoy historical or period drama pieces. This is just one of several songs throughout, which are all enjoyable. The film also provides an interesting introduction to the subject of Roma culture in the Russian tradition of song and music. It deals with themes of: love and honor, women's independence, and pursuing our desires (and what consequences may follow). Also, it's just over two hours long - short by Soviet movie standards! 

English Translation (Credit to Lyrics Translate):

And in the end I want to say...
And in the end I want to say
'Farewell, don't feel obliged to love me,
I'm going crazy, or I'm reaching
The highest level of a craziness.'
Oh, how you loved, you tasted
a death, That's not a problem;
Oh, how you loved? You have ruined me,
but you have done this so bunglingly
And in the end I want to say...
My temple's doing yet little work,
Still works, but hands are fallen,
And all the scents and sounds are gone, as if they were a flock, they're leaving
And in the end I want to say
'Farewell, don't feel obliged to love me,
I'm going crazy, or I'm reaching
The highest level of a craziness.'
So in the end I'm going to say...

Let me know what you think of the "A Cruel Romance" below! Or, leave suggestions for other Russian films.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Song of the Week: Sacrificial Love Through Trauma

Video Credit to Owner

Wow, I forgot how much I loved this drama.
Picking a song for this week's installment of Song of the Week and finding this video of Baek Ji Young's song, Even Today, I'm Loving You made me remember why. 

The Story (Mild spoilers below)
The Princess's Man is a Korean historical drama, with a sweeping epic feel. It tells the story of Kim Seung-Yoo as the son of a nobleman and Lee Se-Ryung, the daughter of the Grand Prince. Much like a Romeo and Juliet story (with a well-deserved happy ending) the two lovers come from rivaling families. When his family is killed, Seung-Yoo escapes death in-country and is sent aboard a criminal slave ship. When he makes his way back, he's not the same carefree nobleman and tutor his friends and Se-Ryung knew. 

Se-Ryung's position as the daughter of a prince changes as much as Seung-Yoo's standing. Throughout the show, she is royalty eventually becoming the Princess - but her sense of justice and right and wrong won't let her take a position she knows isn't rightfully hers. Throughout 24 episodes, she is held as a hostage, disowned by her family, even becoming a slave and more. Se-Ryung is brave, refusing to get caught up in her family's wrongdoing, even though it would benefit her. She chooses what is right, even at the cost of her own comfort and freedom. Though it is a drama, such lessons are thought-provoking and applicable to real life.

Letting Life Change You - But Not Damage You
What I loved about this show (besides the grand soundtrack) were the transformations of the characters. I chose this particular music video (with the English translation to the song) because it shows the most depth of Se-Ryung's and Seung-Yoo's journey. If you love romantic dramas, this one is definitely a must-watch; their love for one another is undying, even in the midst of their personal and shared grief.

Se-Ryung doesn't know everything that happened to Seung-Yoo when he was away, but even today, she loves him and shows compassion, determined that the kind man she knew before is there somewhere. She gives up her privileged life to live beside him. I don’t like being behind you / I want only to be next to you everyday. 

 Seung-Yoo is changed after the traumatic experiences he endures, but gradually learns to open his heart again and to see good in the world again. Park Si-Hoo gives an incredibly emotional performance in this drama. 

Even when I see you I miss you
Even when we're together I'm lonely
I don't see an end to this one-sided love
Although it's hard and although it's upsetting

Even when tomorrow comes, I love you
I love you more than yesterday
Without being able to express what's in my heart
Again today, I love you

I only love you

This drama deals with some hard subjects about suffering and family. It is a beautiful picture of sacrificial love and the consequences of becoming calloused to wrongdoing. Through it all, we see how the two main characters' love both changes as they grow and mature through heartache, yet remains pure and strengthens as a result of their hardships. This song is one I can listen to again and again. Let me know if you decide to check out The Princess's Man.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Going Down This Road: The Priceless Reality of Leaving Normal Behind

Thanks to some great friends, I got the opportunity to see Priceless, the film that was popular last year. It is the story of a man named James who unintentionally gets involved in the lives of two sisters, Antonia and Maria, who are being trafficked across the country. When he realizes what is happening, part of him wants to ignore his part in the atrocity. But a voice keeps calling him back until he can no longer ignore what he must do. James, along with the help of his newfound partner, Dale, an older man hiding a past of his own, set out on a harrowing mission to free the sisters and shut down the trafficking and prostitution in the area. While some plot points of the movie are dramatized for the sake of film, it is based on true events and stories of human trafficking survivors - and this knowledge adds all the more depth to the characters' plight.

Image result for priceless the movie
Photo Credit:
Going Down the Road...of Special-Needs Adoption

There was one part of one conversation that stood out to me in the movie. Dale tells James about what he will encounter if he chooses to rescue the girls.

"If you go do this, it's all in. You go down this road, the things you'll see, the things you'll do - you can't go back to normal life again. It'll change you."

"I didn't start at normal to begin with." 

This. This is the reality of special-needs adoption. 
Any adoption is a compassionate commitment to a child. Yet, I think nothing changes a person as much as special-needs adoption, both when travelling to bring the child home and later, when the trips are done, the rescue mission complete, and you settle into a new everyday routine.

I traveled to Ukraine in 2014 amidst the EuroMaidan protests to bring home two of my sisters from a дом инвалидов (literally translated: Home of the Invalids, ie. special-needs orphanage). Looking back, Dale's words to James could have easily been said to me, both then and even now.

Sasha, if you go to this orphanage, it's all in. When you step in those doors, you will always carry part of it with you. You will dream it, write about it, talk about it - until all your friends are sick of it. But you will keep screaming for those who cannot, even when it seems like no one listens and you are so tired. Still, you will carry it with you and keep on.

You go down this road, lined with dying children, lonely souls who have never been touched....the road of advocacy, with hundreds of pictures of children whom you will never meet, but who grab your heart. You will weep over some and wonder what it is that has pricked you heart so deeply for those you never met.

My sister Lina in Bulgaria
Weighing 12 pounds at 5 and a half years old.

the things you'll see...blind children tied to their beds...teenagers the size of four-year-olds, graying skin stretched over the skull of a boy only a year older than you, with deep, hollow sockets...

the things you'll do... I remember holding hand of a seventeen year old with a shaven head. I stroked the top of his hand, but even this gentle movement did not bring comfort to him. Instead, his eyes clouded and his face winced in pain. Or, how I was approached by translator when we came into the room. I heard one voice chattering in a room full of forty children and found out what the boy was saying through our translator. "Sasha, he says he wants the pretty girl to come sit next to him." So I sat and smiled and kept the company of a boy who was my age, with pale skin, a gaunt face, and bristly short hair trapped underneath a mound of comforters. At that time, he could still talk and smile and his laughter brought smiles to everyone else.

The reality is, when you embark on a journey of special-needs adoption - you can't go back to normal life again. It'll change you, whether you are prepared or not, whether you think it will or not. And most likely, even if you are prepared, it will change you in ways you never planned.
What is normal life anyway? Do you mean that other families have parents who have weekly date nights? Or have annual vacations? I often find myself forgetting that most other families don't get a row of children in diapers ready for the day or down for bed every day. Or that I'm the only family I know with six daughters who can't walk independently, some who will need lifelong care. It's not normal, I suppose, to have to help almost all your sisters eat all their meals, because their special-needs make it hard or impossible for them to do so themselves. The time spent in doctor's appointments and wheelchair fittings is more than usual.

No, it's not normal. 

And it most certainly is changing me. Yes - it is a process, every day. I don't think I will ever reach the point  of saying I am done being changed by what I've seen or my sisters' lives. I recall different moments from my trips at different times, some memories more emotional, more stirring than others. I can close my eyes and picture myself back in the дом инвалидов and the weight of the experience still makes me cry, four years later. 

And each day, my sisters teach me about selflessness, patience, and compassionate understanding in a deeper way than I could ever learn on a missions trip. I watch more Peppa Pig and Paddington than most of my peers and have learned to do my work amid constant interruptions. I am teaching English to my teenage sister and sign language to another. All while being a honors student at Bucknell University, double majoring and looking into graduate programs. And, after all, isn't a child's life worth much more than the cost a fancy vacation which will come to an end?

No, my life as an adopted sister is definitely not normal - it's so much more exciting than that!

Adopted from a Russian mental institution at 17 months old because of my mild Cerebral palsy, I, like James, have had my own journey.

So, you see, I didn't start at normal to begin with. It is amazing to see how the Lord is weaving my story together with those of my sisters and how my own adoption and disability has prepared me for their needs.

Some may look down this road and decide, as James could've, it's not for me. 

I wouldn't blame them. As Dale says, you gotta do what you gotta do. Family is important. 

But, he also says, if you are hearing a small voice inside of you saying, don't forget - listen to that Voice. 

The road of special-needs adoption is long.

It's filled with equal measures of joyful blessings and painful lessons.
But any heartache is overshadowed every time you think of the rescue - once seemingly impossible, now complete. A life given a new chance.

This is the priceless reality of leaving normal behind.

Lina this Christmas, home for over 5 years.