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[here one day...]

I heard a crash, sitting at the office.

I looked out of the window and couldn’t see anything but men walking nervously there and back again. There’s a restaurant on the second floor of our building, so I attributed the sound to them because through closed windows it sounded as if someone dropped a bunch of dishes.

No one besides me seemed to be interested in finding out what happened. I don’t know why I was so interested.

I went to meet with my hubby, his brother and brother’s girlfriend for lunch and walked past the place where I heard the crash.

A big maintenance truck was standing near the entryway into the inner courtyard. Metal gates stood nearby, crumpled like a fan made out of paper. Several people, along with an ambulance and police cars were there as well, all seemingly at loss.

“Probably just crashed into the gates. It happens.” I thought.

On my way back to the office from lunch, the situation near the archway didn’t change.

“Does anyone know what happened there?” I asked in our company’s Skype chat.

“A man was killed. Crushed by a truck that accidentally started moving backwards and the brakes didn’t work.”

That explained the blank looks of the people who stood near the place of the accident. What can you do when someone dies so unexpectedly?

I sent a message to Sam, telling him of the accident. We both fell silent for a bit, digesting the information.

You live.

You die.

Recently I have read a quote…

Human mortality is not something scary per se. What is scary how suddenly your time comes.

There was a man. Mid-thirties, working as a guard. Probably complained about the heat like we all do at the moment.

One moment. One truck.

A man is no more, sandwiched between a steel gate and a truck’s rear.

You live.

You die.

Carpe diem.

Don’t waste your time today.

Tell your loved ones that you love them – even if you have already done that.

Do your best at work today – because you’ve got time right now.

Look out of the window, inhale, slowly exhale – and marvel at the fact that you’re alive.

Carpe diem.

Athena

[new family member]

Last year, I had to say good bye to one of my family members – albeit four-legged – my kitty Liz.

It so happened (God’s perfect timing, no doubt) that I could fully grieve for one day and then I met Sam – back then a friend, now a husband.

We kept talking about animals at home, and I missed Liz, so I talked Sam (and he allowed himself to be talked into) getting a kitty. Next was choosing what kind. He likes the breeds with no hair (Sphinx), I prefer cats to be warm and fluffy (and Sphinxes for me are like Joey from Friends said: “It’s inside out!”).

The compromise was a Devon Rex. They have hair like people (and poodles), so they are hypoallergenic, and also their hair is very short and curly.

About a week ago, we started looking at ads for the kittens and stumbled upon a couple that intrigued us. One turned out to be something weird (the ad said the owner’s from Kyiv and turned out she’s from southern Ukraine). Considering the political situation in Ukraine at the moment, I was wary of getting entangled with another region. The other ad interested me more and the lady I exchanged messages with was far more friendlier than the first one. The only thing was that this cat was already 2.5 years old.

“But they live to 10 years or longer… That’s at least 7.5 years together.”

Sam agreed to go look and make a decision. We borrowed a basket for a cat from my coworker, and went to a little town near Kyiv to see the cat.

However, when we came to the building, I realized that I don’t know the apartment number. I knew the building, I knew the entrance number, but no apartment number and it’s a big building. The lady didn’t answer her phone.

Whoops.

We sat next to the entrance, slightly crestfallen because both didn’t want to give up so easily, but had no idea what to do.

A man walked out of the building.

Sam jumped to his feet. “Excuse me, sir, do you, by chance, know any people in this building who are selling cats?”

“I’m renting the apartment and moved in just recently.”

We continued sitting on the bench. A lady and her daughter walked out.

“Excuse me, do you by chance know anyone who’s selling cats here?”

“No, I’m not from here.”

“Oh, okay, sorry.”

We sat back, feeling more and more defeated by the moment. Here we are, with a pink basket, on the street, 50 kilometers away from home (without a car), waiting for something.

One more lady walked by, towards the entrance. Sam and I looked at each other. “Shall we try? I’ll go.”

I ventured… “Um, excuse me, maybe you can help us. Do you, by chance, know if there’s a lady here who sells cats? Her name’s Elena.”

The lady looked at me, smiling wryly. “Would you also like to get a couple of dogs? Come on, I’ll show you where she lives.”

Turned out it was her neighbor. (Thank God for sending her.)

Finally we were in the apartment. Lena brought out Zara, the kitty we originally wanted to get. She’s a red haired Devon Rex, 2.5 years old, and sterilized. Since we didn’t really have any time for kittens, the fact that she already was sterilized was a good thing.

I took her in my arms.

“The only thing is, you should feed her twice a day and watch that she doesn’t overeat, or else she’ll have health problems.”

I looked at Sam. “That might be a problem because then we won’t be able to even stay overnight somewhere because we’ll have to come and feed her. And asking someone to watch over her would be a hassle too.”

The air started slowly leaving my happiness balloon. The other kittens were way too expensive for us…

“We have another cat.”

Elena went and brought Athena, Zara’s daughter. I took her in my arms and she immediately cuddled there and started purring.

“This is her daughter. She is about one year old and also sterilized. She was already bought before, so there was no ad on the website about her… but the owner returned her.”

Turned out, the gal who got Athena wanted quick money (Devon Rex kittens are not cheap) and had Athena pregnant at 8 months old (that’s pretty much the same as a human girl of 12 getting pregnant these days i.e. way too early.) Because the cat was still a kitten herself, she had rough time being pregnant and afterwards, the gal who bought her wanted to get rid of her – either sell her on the usual market or return to the original owner.

The other factor that helped that decision was that the new owner lived in Crimea (southern peninsula in Ukraine) and the political situation there was really unstable (right now, it’s annexed to Russia all of a sudden…)

So Athena, after spending three months in a place where she was just a money-making incubator, returned back to Kyiv.

After hearing this story, all the while holding a purring Athena in my arms, I looked at Sam. “Let’s take her?”

“How much do you ask for her?” I asked the owner, in my thoughts already counting the cash that we had to buy Zara.

“Same price as for Zara, since she is also sterilized. I just want her to have a good and loving home.”

The decision was made.

1.5 hours later, we were finally home with our new family member – Athena, our super-social, fun-loving, purring, talkative cat.

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[surgery: update]

First of all, thanks to all who prayed and helped either with an encouraging word or financially. Whatever you did – it was really appreciated and both Sam and I are grateful for all the friends who said they’ll lift him and the surgeons in prayer.

Now that it is the evening of the Surgery Day, I can finally breathe somewhat calmly. (After being to the hospital three times, with two times at the office and two visits to the store in between.)

My honey is still at the hospital and will remain there for at least one night, possibly two. This is because he needs meds and just so doctors and nurses can watch over him as he recovers fully from the general anesthesia. He’s weaker than usual right now, but he can walk and sit so that’s already awesome. Thankfully no fever.

As for what kind of surgery he was having – many people have asked me. When he first broke his wrist two years ago, after two months in the cast, he got a false joint as a result. Considering that little navicular bone (which most people break when they break wrists), false joints are rather common. One can live with it, but it limits the movement and is somewhat painful.

When we went to check why Sam’s hand started hurting worse all of a sudden, turned out there was problem with this new joint. It developed osteoarthritis as well as beginning stages of tissue necrosis.

So to fix this thing, the doctors took away this false joint completely, cleaned the bones from the remains that didn’t belong, took some bone tissue from Sam’s hip bone (since it regenerates well), stuffed it into Sam’s wrist, and fastened it all with a nice little bolt.

Sounds scary, if you ask me. I know people have traumas way worse than Sam’s, but I have never been admitted to a hospital myself (even though I’ve spent a few years there because of my grandma and aunt who spent most of their last years in hospitals) so I can only imagine what it feels like to have a bolt in one’s wrist or have a cast.

However, the surgery is behind us and now we’re off to rehab.

Keep praying please. And thank you!

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[surgery]

One day, years from now, I envision Sam and I talking to our kids, telling them our story.

“Well, we got married and enjoyed a wonderful honeymoon in Carpathian mountains… then came back and started remodeling the apartment. This included not having doors anywhere, and also no kitchen and no toilet. If that wasn’t enough, your dad’s left hand suddenly started hurting bad and he needed to get the surgery.”

That’s years from now.

But back to the present.

Sam needs to get a surgery next week. He broke his wrist a couple of years ago and while the bones healed, they obviously didn’t heal properly. So a few days ago, the wrist suddenly began to hurt more than usual (usually it only hurt when he attempted to twist it).

This morning we went to the doc (I tagged along because I didn’t want to sit at home, wondering what they are doing to my babe) and he said Sam needs a surgery.

As if we weren’t stressed enough after the remodeling of our home.

Oh well… Better now than later, I guess. Besides, there’s not much choice – either he gets a surgery (that involves the docs taking a bit of his hip bone and inserting it into his wrist) or his arm will get weaker and weaker.

So all this to say, we need prayers.

We need prayers for some rest before the new stress (the remodeling should end this week – woo-hoo!)

We need prayers for the surgery and the doctors, for God to guide their hands as they perform the operation

We need prayers for financial support for this. It’s not a cheap surgery (although thankfully we’ve got some savings and there are surgeries that are way more expensive than this one.)

And finally we’ll need more prayers for the rehabilitation after the surgery. Thankfully, Sam’s right-handed and it’s his left wrist that was hurt.

UPDATE: Thanks for the prayers, y’all. The surgery went well and now we’re onto rehab process! The docs are positive that it should heal well and work even better than before the surgery. So woo-hoo!

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[a year ago]

Two days prior to this day, Sunday.

“Hey – how about we meet in real life?”

“Let’s do it.”

We have chatted online for two weeks now, every day increasing the amount of time spent chatting together (while doing all the necessary work at the offices). Every day had at least one “What? You too?”

“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…”

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

“Let’s meet on Tuesday.”

“Deal.”

July 11, 2013

I was wearing a long skirt and it was a rainy season, so I was worried my skirt would get wet. I tried my best to be calm, yet the emotions inside were a well-shaken cocktail mix of excitement and anxiousness.

We agreed to meet at one of the subway stations near both of us and later go to the Da Vinci Engineering exhibition.

I was running late and then got a text message from him. “Sorry, I’m late, the bus didn’t come on time.”

So I stood waiting, trying to guess whether he would look like his pictures from Facebook.

Five minutes later, a guy walked to me.

“Hi.” He smiled.

“Hi.” I smiled back and, like old friends, we went to the exhibition.

Being an introvert, I expected we’d have lulls in conversation. However, it felt indeed like we were old friends who haven’t seen each other for a long time. We laughed, discussed Da Vinci’s models, and talked about serious things. A pleasant mix of various topics.

That was the first time I saw my now-husband. It was exactly a year ago that we have met face-to-face and we haven’t spent much time apart since then.

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[a month and three days]

Until mom reminded me of the date on Monday, I totally forgot what it was.

June 2.

A month has gone by since Sam and I got married.

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My cousin’s husband Martin walked me down the aisle.

WOW.

We have traveled to gorgeous Carpathian mountains (no Dracula where we were), visited Sam’s parents in wonderful and cozy Lviv (and I met some relatives I haven’t met before… it’s a good to have a big family once again), started remodeling our apartment (again… the rooms were done in the fall, but we needed to do the rest of the apartment), and generally enjoyed life together.

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The ceremony at my Church with both Sam’s and my pastors present.

How’s married life?

Many things I expected and many things I didn’t expect :D

We have moved into this married life so comfortably that, to be honest, I didn’t feel that big of a change. If anything, it feels as if we’ve always been married (or at least for a long time).

With "XX Century Fox" music in the background, we were pronounced husband and wife.

With “XX Century Fox” music in the background, we were pronounced husband and wife.

One of the things I love – there’s someone to come home to. Someone to share my life with (even when I might not be in the mood for sharing – haha). Someone I love and someone who loves me.

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Happy.

I was thinking the other day… My “conversion” into the married life happened just like decision to become a follower of Christ. It wasn’t like my life was completely overhauled. It wasn’t a dramatic change.

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My definition of happiness.

On one hand, it’s probably good that it wasn’t a big change because I am tired of changes. But at the same time, it leaves me feeling sort of… I don’t even know how to describe it. Feeling like I missed something.

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We love riding bicycles. Sam’s got a fixed gear one and I got a usual mountain bike.

I felt that way with me being a Christian – going to Church (voluntarily, not because someone made me) since I was 6 years old, my mom becoming a pastor and because of that, us spending more time at the Church.

It was a smooth transition from someone who enjoyed Sunday School for the Americans who came and for the candies they brought (seriously, that’s what kept me at Church in the very beginning – I could have fun with someone who was older and foreign) to someone who consciously made a decision.

No drugs, no smoking, nothing like that… My life was good and it became even much better.

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We both wore exactly the same Converse for the wedding. I was so happy (and still am) that Sam doesn’t like girls wearing high heels.

And pretty much it was the same here. Smoothly and comfortably, we entered the new life of the “25.” (2 for Z and 5 for S, i.e. Zee and Sam.)

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Our family.

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[may I?]

Lately I was wondering…

Can I enjoy life when there’s a near-war situation in my country?

May I live and laugh and thank God for the blessings He is sending me every day?

At the moment, weather is incredibly nice. Perfect temperature for a T-shirt and a hoodie.

At the moment, since last week, I have changed a place of work. Now I am a PR manager at a new software development company. I love this team and the type of work and the location.

At the moment, it’s a month until I marry the man I love.

At the moment, there is no war yet.

At the moment, my relatives are healthy and everything is okay.

At the same time… the political situation is as confusing as ever. I stopped reading the news and now get a digest version from Sam in the evenings or mornings because he understands more about it.

At the same time, there are people still captured in Ukraine by the Russians.

At the same time, no one knows what information is correct and what isn’t, because every side shows itself in a better light (it’s only natural), so I realize that probably even “our” (read “pro-Ukraine”) mass media are not telling everything straight.

The dilemma?

Is it okay to enjoy life? Because I really do… but feel somewhat guilty at the same time because there are people who say that this is only the beginning of the bad stuff. But if you don’t rejoice and enjoy life now, then when?

And another thing… call me weird, but when everything is good, I feel more tense than usual because I feel as if I can’t relax. Because I feel as if I relax and get comfortable in the surroundings as they are right now, something will happen and I might lose one of the components of what I’m so enjoying right now. Know what I mean?

Anyway… angst moment is over. (Thanks to my friend Natasha O. for this phrase.)

What do you think? Ever been in a situation like this?

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[please pray for Ukraine]

Once again, I come to you with a humble request.

Please pray for my country, the country called Ukraine.

The country of people who want to be free and to be treated as a nation of people. People who want peace in the country and government that respects the citizens.

Since November 30, when the first attacks against the peaceful people have started, there have been protests downtown. They were peaceful on the side of people, yet from the side of the government, they were quite aggressive.

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There was a battle on January 22, which became one of the black days in the history of Independent Ukraine.

On Tuesday, February 18, the time for battles was over and now it’s a war.

Over 25 people are dead since yesterday, and there are at least 10 more shot by snipers this morning.

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For all to see… this is a sniper from Ukrainian special ops… shown on Polish TV

As I am writing this, my mind cannot even contain it all. Heart cannot contain it either.

SNIPERS.

Against simple people with rocks.

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I am not saying the protesters are all peaceful. They gave up being peaceful and being like sheep, led to slaughter. In some cases, this allegory works well, but not when our nation is being cut down mercilessly by its own government.

Yes, we fight back.

Many people keep saying “Well, how about loving your enemy and turning the other cheek.”

I don’t think that works in the situation of a war. And I actually get mad whenever people tell me that we should just love those who are killing us.

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Since Tuesday, the subway system has been shut down. Many had to walk for hours in order to get home, since there were incredible traffic jams all over the city. I myself walked for 2.5 hours and then, miraculously, got in a bus that stopped right next to us and drove us the remaining way home. Otherwise, we were facing another 1.5 hour walk. Thankfully the weather is nice and actually warm. Not like a February at all.

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Today, they are talking about shutting down all the gas stations too. This would prevent Molotov Cocktails from being made as well as prevent people to drive to Maidan (since right now it is pretty much the only normal way to get there, unless you live near and can walk).

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This is war.

War of the government against its own people.

I don’t even know what to write…

This is my first time living under a warlike conditions (even if I am not at Maidan myself) and I so wish my grandma was alive and I could ask her for wisdom. She lived through the WWII and so did my grandpa. But I never knew my grandpa and my grandma is 12 years gone…

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I believe God has a purpose for Ukraine.

I believe that one day, some of us will be able to tell our kids about this and share our experiences and lessons we’ve learned.

I hope that Ukraine will still be a country after all this and there will be people left…

I hope that I will be able to write cheerful posts once again.

I hope. I pray. I believe.

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[don't crawl off the altar]

Don’t crawl off the altar.

That was a phrase our youth pastor mentioned in his sermon on Sunday. During the entire service, I finally felt like I am there for a reason, after a long drought period. And the sermon was the culmination. It wasn’t that he said something nice, which made me feel all fuzzy inside. Instead, he talked about the troubles in our lives and how God uses them to shape our character.

If there are no trials, how can we grow?

This is a time of trial for Ukraine.

The political situation is quite dire at the moment, and some say we are on a brink of a civil war. I am hoping and praying it won’t come to that, but I don’t know the future. For more information on what’s going on, you can read this and this article. Suffice to say, my country is in an uprising.

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Me on the left and a few guys from Sam’s Church were at the Maidan (c) Yevgen Shatalov

As with most of the conflicts, I tried to avoid it because I simply had no idea what is the right thing to do (besides praying).

On one hand, the first reaction is to go out there, join the multitude of people, and protest against the injustice of our government.

On the other hand, a passage where Paul talks about earthly governments comes to mind.

Anyone who is against the government is really against something God has commanded. Those who are against the government bring punishment on themselves.

Romans 13:2 ERV

I avoid conflicts because I hate answering “I don’t know.” Especially when I am asking myself. I think, that was the original motivation behind reading so many books – I wanted to know all the answers. Oh, if I were Eve, the serpent would be able to sway me even faster than he did her. The knowledge is my strength and my incredible weakness.

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Future Mr. and Mrs. Gimon / These days known as Sam and Zee

So what is a Christian to do in a situation like this?

A situation where you cannot find within yourself enough strength to pray for the men who turned into animals and brutally beat up peaceful demonstrators.

A situation when the government is saying they got rid of people in the main square because “New Year is coming, and it’s important to get the city’s Christmas tree and ice-skating rink installed.” (Seriously, that was their explanation why security guys attacked people.)

I fought with these thoughts for several days. Poor Sam got to bear the brunt of my frustration on Saturday, and that only added to mine – not only I was mad at myself for not knowing the answer, I was somewhat angry with him for feeling passionate about this whole thing and then extremely sorry for being short with him the entire day. It wasn’t the easiest day we had in all the time we’ve been together. I know it won’t be the last, but still.

During the weekend, I felt the need to pray for wisdom about what to do. I was tired of being unsure and wanted to finally have an opinion that was based on His will. And God answered in the form of a sermon.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.

James 1:2-6, MSG

Don’t crawl off the altar.

Paul calls us living sacrifices. When we give ourselves to God – completely, truly – we give Him the power to do what He wills. Well, I guess it would be better to say, we acknowledge His power to do His will. So when we are on this altar of a sacrifice to Him… we should trust Him to do what needs to be done.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

Romans 12:1-2, MSG

I still panic when I am in a crowd, but it felt good to be among 1.7 million of other demonstrators on Sunday at the main square in Kyiv called Maidan Nezalezhnostee (Square of Independence).

And while I don’t cheer for the fact that there are people who were hurt in the process of these demonstrations, I cheer for the fact that we are still alive and care for what is going on in OUR country.

There is a quote from Dune that I often am reminded of at times like this.

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear.

Maidan Nezalezhnostee (Square of Independence), Kyiv, Ukraine

Please keep Ukraine in your prayers.

Specific needs:

  • It is cold right now in Kyiv, and those demonstrators are there 24 / 7. So pray for health and places for people to get warm. Already numerous cafes and restaurants downtown are offering free tea and coffee to protesters as well as places to sit down and get warm.
  • Please pray for peace. The main thing about the demonstrations is that they are supposed to be peaceful, and that’s what all the politicians are reminding people of daily. However, there are a lot of provocations from the politicians at power as well as from the “bought protesters” (i.e. people who are paid to protest… yes, there are those too, and it’s not even a secret.)
  • Most importantly, pray for a godly leader for Ukraine. It is one thing to get rid of our current president, but what is even more important is to have a leader to replace him who will take proper care of the country and not just want to get all benefits for himself / herself.

Thank you.

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[Halloween]

I tried to resist writing this. I tried to reason with myself and two quiet voices inside of me: one saying that it is my own life  I am living and the other whispering that my life is not for me.

Yet the daily verses kept coming and I felt the whispering voice grow stronger.

Couple of weeks ago we celebrated Halloween with friends.543865_10151999702858923_695118045_n

The entire celebration consisted of getting together, sharing food, enjoying conversation, and pretty much the only Halloween element was the pumpkin we carved. Oh, and meat balls shaped like mice.

Yet when I posted the picture of our Jack the Pumpkin, I got a ton of opinions regarding whether Christians can celebrate this pagan holiday.

My first reaction?

I do what I want, and  the more people tell me I cannot do something, the more I want to do it.

I do not worship that pumpkin; we did not have any other ceremonies connected with the holiday; what is the big deal?

But then the other voice I mentioned piped in that reminds  me of a passage in Corinthians we discussed just a few days before Halloween at a small group.

For instance, say you flaunt your freedom by going to a banquet thrown in honor of idols, where the main course is meat sacrificed to idols. Isn’t there great danger if someone still struggling over this issue, someone who looks up to you as knowledgeable and mature, sees you go into that banquet? The danger is that he will become terribly confused—maybe even to the point of getting mixed up himself in what his conscience tells him is wrong. Christ gave up his life for that person. Wouldn’t you at least be willing to give up going to dinner for him—because, as you say, it doesn’t really make any difference? But it does make a difference if you hurt your friend terribly, risking his eternal ruin! When you hurt your friend, you hurt Christ. A free meal here and there isn’t worth it at the cost of even one of these “weak ones.” So, never go to these idol-tainted meals if there’s any chance it will trip up one of your brothers or sisters.

1 Corinthians 8:10-13 MSG

“But… but… but…” The first voice tried to find a foothold.

“But what?”

“But… Yes, you are right.”

I am not saying my friends are weak, and I am oh-so-strong. But while for me, Halloween is just a reason to get together with friends and  have fun, it might hurt other friends I care about.

And that’s the last thing I would want.

What do you think? Do you celebrate Halloween?