Troubles of My Heart: Seeking Peace

Psalm 25-17I know I am back in school when I have to write and publish a blog post on the same day. It is challenging to write a post when I have an idea and want to write. It is even more challenging when I don’t want to write.

I find myself there right now. I don’t want to write.

In fact, I have an idea for a post. I thought I convinced myself I would write about it, too! But alas, I can’t do it. It wouldn’t be right or honest in my life at the moment. It is very difficult for me to write about one happy, cheery topic with a heavy heart.

I’d rather tell you I am struggling than make you think I am a stranger to struggle, pride, and fear.

Honestly, all I want to do right now is sleep. I just want to close my eyes and separate myself from the chaos in my life. This week has been a particularly challenging one.

Today, I was more depressed than I have ever been before. Or, at least it felt like it. To tell you the truth, I somewhat know the root of it all. But, not entirely. I hate that. I hate it when I cannot precisely pinpoint what is bothering me.

The biggest reason why I don’t like it, though, is it means I have to deal with some difficult situation or emotion. My body and mind are notorious for practically shutting down when it is time to deal with situations.

Usually, when I deal with difficult situations, I am constantly reminded that there is sin in this world. As I grow closer to God, my heart hurts more and more for that sin. I am terribly pained by sin—my own and others.

I am reminded that we constantly fall short. Even the kindest people in the world sin. Even the kindest people are just as sinful as the most malicious.

I sit here knowing I am going to have to deal with the root of one of my biggest bouts of depression ever. I must deal with it. I ought to deal with it.

But, I don’t want to deal with it.

Perhaps, that is why my heart and mind are so tired and anguished. Perhaps, that is my body’s way of saying, “It is time, Renata. You need to deal with this. You need to pray about it. You need to seek the Lord’s counsel. You need to humble yourself.”

This week, I merely ask you to pray for me. I pray for the Lord’s healing in my heart. I pray that He may relieve my anguished heart

I pray that He may open my heart to what He is trying to teach me in this extremely exhausting week. I pray that I may die to self to know Him more intimately.

I pray for Him to rejuvenate and renew my soul. I pray that I may find joy and peace in Him, regardless of my life circumstances.

I hope to write with passion and joy next week. Today, I write with a heavy heart longing for God’s ever-present peace to wash over me.

Regardless, I sincerely hope and pray you all are well.  I pray that God would protect, guide, and love you in whatever season you are in. Please, let me know if there is any way I can be praying for you in this week ahead.

You are not alone, dear brothers and sisters, whether you be experiencing joy or sorrow. You are not alone.

Blessings,

Renata

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My Kind of Adventure: Trying New Foods

curiousity-quote-walt-disneyI wouldn’t consider myself an adventurous person. I am not an adrenaline junky. But, I would say I am curious. I am a risk taker.

Let me explain.

I know myself well enough to know my likes and dislikes for the most part. However, I know I could always be wrong. Generally speaking, I believe in the benefit of the doubt.

That benefit of the doubt is what motivates and encourages me to try something at least once before making a final decision, before committing to a choice.

I use this mentality in several areas of my life. However, the area I use it in most is with food, as I’ve touched on before.

It is that same benefit of the doubt that convinced me to try sushi for the first time a couple weeks ago. The consensus? I LOVED it. I am a believer in sushi!

In fact, I found myself craving the leftover sushi we had. I wanted to have more sushi. Honestly, I am not surprised by the result simply because of how I go about making said decisions.

I believe in authenticity throughout every portion of my life.

As a result, I always vouch to try something in its most authentic form. I couldn’t comfortably make an opinion on sushi from a Podunk Chinese buffet. It just didn’t feel right or fair to myself or the sushi!

Therefore, I chose the most-acclaimed, genuine sushi place in town. I also invited a couple I know who spent some time in Japan to come along with me and my husband. They helped us go outside of our comfort zone. We got to try a smorgasbord of options, giving us a little taste of everything.

In my limited options, I think I got to try the closest thing to going directly to Japan. However, I do have plans to try sushi anytime I am near the coast. I can only imagine how much better it will taste. I guess I’ll have to wait and see!

Regardless, I am glad I did it. I am glad my curiosity resulted in finding a new food I love! However, I also would’ve been okay if I did find out I did not like sushi. No matter the outcome, I can be at peace knowing I tried something in its truest form.

Nonetheless, it’s absolutely wonderful to know if my husband and I were craving something a little different, sushi is now an option.

I think life is too short to not try something at least once. I have had people compliment me on my willingness to take the plunge of affirming my opinion or surprising myself. More often than not, I prove myself wrong.

The next items on my list are ramen, vegan food, and pad Thai.

I’d love to hear what foods you all love that you didn’t think you’d like! I am completely open to seeing my list of items grow. Like I said, life is too short not to.

Blessings,

Renata

A Tradition of Mine: Thrift Shopping

Thrifty quote - Andra DayEvery school break, I always make a list of things I’d like to accomplish. Some items on this list never get done.

For instance, while I am in school, I always tell myself I ought to take the time during a break to make a mass list of every reference I’ve ever used in my courses, so I don’t have to continually search hundreds of documents.

Like clockwork, I never manage to tackle that feat. A month goes by and it just conveniently does not happen. Since it’s school related, it’s the last thing I’d choose to do on my break. So, it’s usually the one item on my list that just doesn’t get done.

On the flip side, without fail, some items are on the list every single break. And, they are accomplished. For instance, I almost always make a run to Goodwill, especially after the hustle and bustle of Christmas.

Therefore, you can believe I went this past week. I couldn’t resist. It is almost like my break is incomplete without it.

It is at this point I say this blog post is not for everyone, and I am more than okay with that. In fact, a fellow blogger and I once bonded on this exact notion. Not every post or form of content is for everyone, nor does every post have to be the best piece of writing either. Back to it then.

Guys, I am a sucker for Goodwill and thrift shopping in general. I wouldn’t say I am an expert at it. But, I do love it. In fact, I enjoy thrifting more than I do regular clothes shopping!

I’ve shopped at several thrift stores in different cities. Goodwill always seems to be the best option. I’ve found others don’t tend to be as organized or offer as good of a selection. Perhaps, it is just because of where I live. Regardless, my preference for Goodwill does not stop me from giving other thrift stores a chance.

I think my attraction to thrift shopping lies in my desire to not pay full price for something unless I absolutely have no other option, due to size, quality, or time constraints. I’ll wait months to find the perfect item if it means I don’t have to pay an outrageous price for it.

Usually, if I know I need something, I’ll look at a couple Goodwill locations. If I can’t find what I need there, and I really need it, I’ll go ahead and get it at a regular retail store. Nevertheless, I will still look in the clearance rack first.

I mean, for goodness sakes, I found my wedding dress at a local mom and pop bridal shop for less than $100. My accessories were more expensive than the dress!

I’ve learned it’s all about simply being patient with oneself and the options.

For instance, some trips—like the one I took last week—are extremely successful and I find a lot of great stuff for a fraction of the price. Other times, I find hardly anything. Or, some trips, I find exactly what I am looking for. Others, I leave with items I did not think I’d get but I ended up loving.

You can’t walk in there with rigid expectations. Otherwise, you’ll be disappointed.

Regardless of what I find, I have one major rule that I follow with thrifting—I must rid of an item in my closet for every thrift store find. They don’t have to be similar pieces—i.e. a shirt for a shirt.  But, the replenished amount does have to be the same or higher than what I brought home.

Doing so is not as difficult for me as it may be for others. I always tend to have a mental list of items I’d be okay with parting from. Plus, doing so forces me to not have too much unnecessary clutter in my wardrobe.

Also, I know myself well enough to know when I am done looking. For instance, I probably could’ve stayed longer and potentially found more goodies the last time I went, but I wasn’t interested.

I know when my appreciation for the adventure of thrift shopping ends. I know when enough is enough. Knowing that limit is what encourages me to keep coming back a least a couple times a year.

For a lot of people, it can be a bit overwhelming. I do agree, it can be. However, I have figured out if I go with a list of things I’d like to get, it is not as overwhelming. Plus, it forces me to take a good, hard look in my closet.

For example, there are few items that almost always make my list: plain, casual tees, sweaters, and jeans.

I know some people may not like the idea of buying jeans from a thrift shop, but I have no problem with it. Most of the jeans in retail stores are hardly ever in my size. Or, if they are, they have to be hemmed.

Plus, I don’t wear jeans often since I work in a business office. Therefore, I am okay with spending less money on a pair that already has some wear and tear in them. I won’t wear them enough to notice a difference.

My husband, on the other hand, must spend decent money on a quality pair because he wears jeans nearly every single day. On a similar note, because I work in a business office, I am willing to spend decent money on a quality pair of slacks. In my current season of life, I will wear them enough to make it worth it for me.

To me, it is all about practicality, use, and price.

Don’t get me wrong, I observe the condition of an item, regardless of the brand, price, or how much I love it or need it.

It’s a fact of life: Some people take better care of their clothing than others. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just something to make note of when thrifting.

Nevertheless, I will say my least favorite part of thrifting is falling in love with an item that ends up not fitting well.

My most vivid memory of this was when I found a brand new, unworn Maurice’s light gray short sleeve blazer with the $60 tag still on it. I was ecstatic when I saw it. I knew I just had to try it on. To my disappointment, it was one size too small. It was difficult to put back on the rack. I mean, a $60 blazer for $6 is a steal!

My call to you this: If you’ve never gone thrift shopping for clothes, I challenge you to go once. And, I don’t mean antique shopping either. Antique shopping is not the same. Trust me, I went to enough antique stores in my childhood to know the difference.

Your excursion may surprise you. You, too, may make it a biannual occurrence like I do!

Blessings,

Renata

A Profound Truth: Jesus Christ is Lord

Philippians 2-10-11I always know I am not in school when the last time I opened my Word program was for the previous week’s blog post. That is my sure sign of relaxation in full swing. Another sure sign of relaxation and no school for me is I have a lot more time to think and meditate on God’s word.

Lately, I have been meditating on the verses:

“so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:10-11.

To be honest, I still struggle to trust God with certain areas of my life. I continually pray that He may help my unbelief. Nevertheless, the above verses are not one of my areas of lack of trust in God. I wholeheartedly and firmly believe the above occurrence will take place.

I have thought about it heavily in the recent weeks of no school. Perhaps, it is because I have more time to my thoughts. Perhaps, it is because my church has spent some time reading Philippians for the advent season. Perhaps, it is because I am constantly reminded that we are but vapors in this world and our time on this earth will come to an end sooner than later.

Or, perhaps, it is because I am thinking of those close to me and mere strangers who do not know God. From my perspective, we live in a world filled with people who want nothing to do with God. If anything, they want to vehemently, knowingly reject Him.

As Owen Strachan states:

“But here we unlock the true mystery of Christian faith: our God is so great He saves even wretches like us, who oppose Him and His good Word.

It is incredibly difficult to wrap my head around God being so gracious and merciful to sinners, like myself. But, it is not difficult for me to wrap my head around His justice and wrath.

As I’ve shared before on this platform:

“Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.” – Romans 12:19.

In other words, the verse in Philippians alludes to this exact notion of God’s character. God will ensure that even those who have rejected Him the most here on this earth will proclaim He is Lord, even if they come kicking and screaming.

Despite what some may believe, God will not take everyone home in His Second Coming. But, He WILL make every knee bow and every tongue confess He is Lord.

I know what I just said may be off-putting and harsh to some. But, God has placed a deep burning in my heart to share that truth.

For, I look forward to His Second Coming with joy and anticipation. In fact, I often have to remind myself just as Paul told himself in prison:

“But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.” – Philippians 1:23-24.

Therefore, as much as I want to be home with Jesus in eternity praising His name forever and forever, He is not finished with me yet here.

Furthermore, it is at this moment I remind you all again, even though God is a God of vengeance, He is also a God of undeserved grace and mercy.

He is a God who wants to know us intimately and personally.

He wants to put a deep desire in our hearts to know Him more and tell others about Him.

He wants to renew a right spirit within our souls.

He wants to transform our lives.

Most importantly, He longs for us to spend eternity with Him.

My call to you is this: Reevaluate your heart and life. Are you right with God? Has God placed a yearning in your heart to come to Him that you’ve ignored? Please, do not hold on to the possibility of tomorrow.

The Second Coming will come like a thief in the night. I hope and pray that you will not declare His name and bow to Him upon kicking and screaming. I hope and pray you will enter the moment with joy, adoration, and reverence for the great God who loves us more than we could ever deserve.

If you want to know more about God’s greatest gift to sinful, wretched souls like myself, feel free to reach out to me via email at coffee.soothes.the.soul@gmail.com. Or, you can read this post here.

Come to Him with joy, dear friends. Come.

Blessings,

Renata

My Adoption: 18 Years in America

adoption-rescued-david-platt-quoteToday, December 21, marks 18 beautifully sweet, yet challenging years in the United States of America. Eighteen years ago, I was adopted. For, those of you who may not know, I was born in Russia.

As always, I am amazed another year has gone by. I don’t plan on doing anything special. Honestly, more than anything else, I am humbled.

As a blogger, I would much rather tell you my “Welcome to America” anniversary date than my anniversary with my husband. It is another example of me choosing to be private, yet open.

So, you find me here celebrating a unique anniversary that is hard to explain. It is like a birthday, but it is not. As I shared in last year’s post regarding this anniversary, some days, I am joyous about it. Other days, I experience much sadness about it.

This year was different.

This year, I found myself genuinely curious about my adoption and my biological parents. This year, I am conflicted. I want to be upset that my biological mom left me at the hospital. But, I also want to know even a little something new.

When I was in junior college, my mom gave me a single sheet of double-sided paper that had basic information about my biological parents. I know their names. I know their height, eye color, hair color, age, etc. I have never seen pictures of them, though.

I simply know my biological mother signed away her rights because she could not care for me without my father.

So, with that information, a few weeks ago, my husband and I did some Google searching. I simply wanted to see if the information I had could get me anywhere.

I will say this now: No, I do not plan on meeting them or going there. Like I said, I acted on a small dose of curiosity.

Ultimately, the search showed me how run-down the village I was born in is. Also, the search began to plant this notion in me that my mom may have given me up because she loved me too much to give me a bad life. It gave me this notion that, perhaps, my mom did not want to give me up, but she knew she had to.

To say coming to that realization was not difficult or challenging would be a lie. I have spent much of my life, especially before I knew Jesus, angry at my biological parents. I thought being angry would give them what they deserved. After all, they did give me up, right?

I tell you this to say I am still processing how God is working in my heart. I am still processing my adoption. I do every single day in some way, shape, or form.

I tell you this to show you as wonderful as it is to be adopted and to have a family in America, my past is still my past. My life story did not begin in America. It began in Russia. It comes with its challenges. It comes with tears, questions, hurts, trust issues, and more.

I honestly believe if an adopted person does not think their adoption has affected them in any way, he or she is hurting the most. For, no matter how wonderful an adoptive family may be, I firmly believe it is human nature to wonder why we were unwanted. I believe it is human nature to question what we, as sinful humans, do to make others not love us.

Therefore, I personally cannot neglect my adoption. If I neglect my adoption to its fullest capacity, I choose to let go of a piece of God’s plan for me.

Additionally, if I neglect my adoption, I choose to let go of a large part of my identity. Perhaps, that is why God is working in my heart. My last college course deeply challenged who and what I find my identity in, including how and where my adoption fits in.

Perhaps, God believes it is time for me to see a small part of why my life story began in Russia. Perhaps, He is not. I don’t know.

All I do know is, with each passing year, I choose to face it more and more, one small step at a time. In the process, I continuously learn, it is a beautiful picture of God’s never-ending, undeserved grace in my life.

So, here’s to 18 years in the United States of America. I praise God the 18 years have led me to this wonderful platform. Thank you for joining me on an incredibly heartfelt journey of humility and deep reflection.

Blessings,

Renata

My Inner Travel Bug: Flying

Flying Ameilia Earhart quoteThis is something I never thought I’d do: I’m writing a blog post using the notes section of my iPhone while flying on a plane.

Let me tell you, getting to this plane was quite the adventure.

Our first flight was delayed by 45 minutes, causing the airline to have to hold our second flight home for us. We practically ran to the gate for our second flight. And we made it just as they called our names for the final boarding call. Within three minutes, we were off one plane and onto the next.

We didn’t have time to grab lunch. Thankfully, my husband and I got a bag of chips before our first flight for that very possibility. For, once we realized how delayed our first flight was, we knew there was a great chance we wouldn’t have time to get lunch before our second one. Lo and behold, we were correct.

Our comparatively small amount of flying experience has taught us well. As the saying goes, “It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.” So, here’s to hoping my husband ate the chips since they are with his carry-on item, not mine.

Although I find myself hungry, tired, and not sitting with my husband, I’m grateful. I’m grateful we got on our plane. For, I know, some are not always able to. I know some people experience much worse. My little bit of stress is worth it, honestly.

Most importantly, I’m grateful for Southwest Airlines wonderful hospitality. Yet again, I’m reminded why they are our preferred airline. I’ve used two other airlines and they just don’t compare to Southwest.

And even after all that, I still enjoy flying.

Truthfully, for the longest time, I had this idea in my head, I’d never go on a flight again. Obviously, I took a flight (or two) when I came from Russia to America. But, I was five when that happened. I don’t remember it. Therefore, to me, it doesn’t count.

So, now, I can say I’ve been on eight planes. And I don’t foresee that number remaining stagnant, Lord willing.

In fact, with each flight, I get better and better. I learn the process in more detail.

I’m getting used to the take-off and landing even! This flight I’m on now is the true test to that since I’m sitting by myself. Usually, I hold my husband’s hand just to calm myself. Right now, it’s just me and God.

I like the adventure that flying brings. I like the places that flying brings. I like the people watching and people meeting flying brings.

I like the routine, yet unpredictability of flying, surprisingly. Most of our other flights have gone smoothly. I knew I’d have one experience that wasn’t entirely smooth. Today was that day.

Regardless, flying forces me to trust God in all the details. From getting on the plane, all the way to getting there safely.

I understand not everyone can afford to fly. I’m thankful I’ve been able to numerous times. However, if this is my last flight in my lifetime, so be it. I’m still grateful.

I also understand not everyone can handle the motion sickness that can come with flying. Honestly, I get light motion sickness. But, with a bit of ginger ale and a whole lot of prayer, I get through.

I know some people won’t fly just because getting sick is practically inevitable. One is in contact with way too many people and places when traveling by plane to not catch a small something. I was recently sick, so the chances of me catching something are slim.

Regardless, I still think the experience makes possibly getting sick worth it. Perhaps, I’d have a different opinion if I traveled for business often rather than for pleasure infrequently. Who knows? For now, I’ll take my chances.

So, you find me here. Sitting on a turbulent plane ride. Yet, in the midst of it all, I can’t help but reflect on the wonderful, sunny vacation I just took to Southern California.

As always, I leave a small part of me in San Diego.

My call to you is this: If you ever have the opportunity to fly, even just once, please do. It doesn’t have to be anywhere far either. It could just be one city or state over, depending on where you live.

The experience will be just another reminder of how small we are and how vastly powerful God is.

Although I’m not a fan of the window seat, I still can’t help but to see what I can from my aisle seat. For, there’s nothing quite as humbling as the aerial view of the earth.

Blessings,

Renata

Life with Cerebral Palsy: Dealing with People Staring

1 Peter 4, 12-13There are certain parts of my life that I don’t quite know if they will get easier. In a lot of ways, I think growing older can make some parts of life harder because with each passing year, as we learn more about ourselves, we also learn more about people in general.

It is no secret to most people who meet me and who have followed my blog for a while, I have the disability cerebral palsy. Time and time again, I tell you, I firmly believe I would not be who God made me to be without it.  I am grateful for it. But, living with it does have its challenges.

I’ve discussed various facets of that part of my life on this platform, from answers to common questions; to how I face it spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically; to what is like to have people make comments about it.

This time, I’d like to begin to unfold what is like dealing with people staring at me.

As I look back at my previous posts about my cerebral palsy, I’ve discovered that I deal with a noticeably degrading experience about once every six months. Honestly, that is not terrible. But, it does not change the pain I feel.

As I walked around in the mall to do Christmas shopping, I saw a young girl probably about 15 or 16 years old stared at me as I walked passed her.

It was one of those stares where I could physically feel the person doing so. In other words, it was not a quick stare. Instead, it lingered.

Honestly, I usually do a quick look behind me as a sign to others that I do, in fact, see them. Usually, that makes people stop or quickly turn away. But, this time around, the young girl only stared more and gave me direct eye contact in the process.

I write this to you not to belittle the young girl. But, to help myself process yet another experience of humility and grit.

Honestly, it took me a good 15 minutes to be at peace about the situation. This moment stood out more than the others because I honestly thought a 16-year-old would know better.

When I say know better, I mean, stares come across to me as pure blissful ignorance. For instance, I expect little children to stare at me because they usually do not know better. They have not lived enough life to even scratch the surface of its complexity. As a result, to me, little children are always curious in a healthy, “what is this?” kind of way.

I don’t think many little children encounter disabled people either.

Nevertheless, I figure, by the time someone is 16, he or she has not only seen a disabled person but has a small understanding of disabled people in general.

Perhaps, this young girl did not know better. Perhaps, she did not have the proper opportunity to ask. Perhaps, she was not aware of her lingering body language.

I honestly don’t know, and I never will.

Regardless, God continuously uses various moments that are all slightly different, yet vastly similar to teach me about my disability. I think He uses the instances to remind me I am not made for this world, that in this world I will suffer— whether that be when I express my faith, through my disability, or any other area of my life.

It’s interesting, really. I don’t think I will ever fully understand how our greatest sufferings are meant to bring God the greatest glory. I don’t think we are supposed to fully understand. In those moments of weakness and uncertainty, we are reminded of God’s ultimate strength. In those moments of weakness and certainty, God mightily declares, “I am He.”

I tell you this: No, I am not bitter toward this girl. My anger only lasted but a brief moment. My only hope and prayer are that she and everyone else may have someone in their life who can answer their questions, who can help them understand others.

I hope and pray that young girl told anyone close to her, whom she trusts, about the encounter. I hope to start a conversation.

I am fully aware that the looks and comments will not end. Yet, that is not going to stop me from being honest with you all when an encounter occurs. I choose to be rather transparent about my disability to help educate people.

I want people to see just how frequently and to what capacity this may occur. And what it means for the recipient.

Most importantly, I want people to see that some areas of life may not get easier simply because we are called to a life of suffering, intended to bring God eternal glory.

Blessings,

Renata