Running Forward!

Running is a way that I deal with life. God and I have the best conversations when I am running. I solve all of my life problems on my runs (or at least I feel better about them after the endorphins are flowing through my body). I started running about 7 years ago after my boyfriend and I broke up. Emotions are excellent fuel for a good run. After he and I broke up, I was hurt, sad and angry. Sometimes, one does not know what to do with all of those feelings. I could run on my treadmill and work out what I was feeling in my mind and sometimes vocally (it’s a good thing no one was watching me talk to myself). Afterwards, I’d feel so much better. It was at this time that I set a goal. I wanted to run a marathon. Haven’t done that yet, but running the half marathon is a good start. I remember when I got on my treadmill with the intentions to run a mile without stopping. I was running at a 5 mile per hour pace and finished that first mile in 12 minutes. Not very fast, I know! I was very proud of that mile! I went into the house (the treadmill was located in the garage) and bragged to my sister how I just ran a mile without stopping. This is very impressive! Well, looking back at those early running days and contrasting them with what I can now do, it’s really not impressive at all. That is one of the beautiful things about looking back. One can see all that has taken place, the growth that has happened and the cause and effect of decisions. Along with the sudden desire to run a marathon another thing that I resolved at that time was to thrive and not just survive (I’m sure someone else came up with that but at the time I felt very cleaver with my little rhyme). I prayed that God would make me into the “Alina” that he wanted me to be. The next 7 years up to this point were filled with transitions and were transformational and continue to be.

After my heart started to heal, I started to evaluate my life and where I thought it was going. Without my boyfriend my dream of getting married was put on hold. I was working a part-time job at a preschool and though I loved the job, I felt like that was all I was ever going to do. I could not see any opportunities in my futures. But I had a dream, a dream that I had buried. It started to resurface. Before this point there were times when I would hear about people who had gone to Bible College and I would think it would be amazing to go too. But I didn’t pursue it. I had planned on getting married young and working at the preschool. That was going to be my life. Or at least what I thought it should be. I remember this day very well. I was in my classroom sweeping the floor and I had a thought. I told myself, “I want to go to Bible College.” At that moment I started to pursue it.

That decision brought more growth and opportunities, more than I could have imagined. I started at Multnomah University in Reno in the Fall of 2013. Being that the main campus was located in Portland OR, my interest in the Pacific Northwest was born. I made my first visit to Portland during my first semester with my close friend, Kaysi. I remember as I was preparing to head home from that trip feeling so sad. I fell in love with that place. It was weird because I had visited other places but none of them captured my heart like Portland Oregon did. I knew I would come back and I did. I visited 5 times within a 3 year period before I moved to Washington in 2016.

I am so grateful that I did not marry my boyfriend. I am still single. If I ever do get married it will definitely be at an older age than I ever expected. But my life has been full. I have sought the Lord. He has turned to me and heard my prayers. He continues to grow me more into the “Alina” that he wants me to be. He has blessed me with the opportunity to live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I also get to teach kindergarten. Fun fact! When I first looked into Multnomah in Reno, I wanted to pursue Elementary Education but the Reno campus does not offer that major. However, God did not forget that desire of mine. I graduated with a degree in Bible and Theology and I get to use it in a Christian school teaching kindergarten.

I run daily. I want to train for another half marathon. Someday I will run a full marathon. Running has gotten easier through much perseverance. Running is still hard but it gets easier as I get stronger. My strength has grown and I have also grown more into the version of “Alina” that I should be. I am thriving! 40089434_1935359259859814_3424165949501079552_n

Returning to Washington

My goal in starting a blog, was to write a new one once a week. I am strongly driven by goals. I love having something that I am working towards (like training for the half marathon that I just ran). It motivates me. However, like the name of this blog, for the last 2 months I was unavailable to even keep up with my own blog. Life has been a whirlwind. At the end of August I moved back to Washington. I had almost given up on that dream. With all my efforts, it started to look like that just was not what God had in mind for me.

But one day in the middle of August, I was lying on my couch praying. I was in a bit of a mental fog because I was fasting from food and water for the ultrasound on stomach that I was going to have that morning. God says fast and pray. I wonder, does fasting for medical reasons count? It must but I don’t even know if you could count my prayer as a prayer. It was more of a half a thought. I asked God to move mountains on my behalf. Later that day I got a message from the Principle at the school in Washington that I worked at when I lived there. She asked me if I could teach anything what it would be. That was easy! I immediately told her kindergarten! Ding! Ding Ding! Apparently that was the right answer. She had me in mind for a kindergarten teacher position that opened up at the school. Why she didn’t say that first, I don’t know.

There were other applicants and people who she interviewed. She told me that they had the education and would probably make great teacher but she wanted me because she had seen my attitude and character. She told me that when I worked at the preschool, she saw me come into work every day with joy because I was doing what I believed I was made to be doing. To some, they may not consider it that great of a job but to me it was. When you are doing what God makes you for, how could it be anything but a high calling? I had to abandon my calling for a time while my family, their health, and my sister’s wedding was my ministry. God must have honored my obedience because he blessed me with the kindergarten teacher position.

So, the Principle offered me the job. I gave my notice at my job in Reno and in less than 2 weeks I was packed up and moving back to Washington. It was so fast and there was little time. The weekend before the move I was out of town running my first half marathon. That alone was an amazing experience and deserves its own blog entry. However, being away the weekend before moving contributed to the rushed feelings.

It has been two months since my return to my beloved Pacific Northwest. Nevada will always be home but this place is the home that I made for myself. God has blessed me more than I asked for with my new job. I have more than I asked for. I rent a room. I don’t have much in way of things but I have much in that I am blessed to live here, live out the “Alina” shaped job that I have and I am surrounded by people who are family to me. God has been so good. He is faithful! In this new season of my life I have a thankful spirit that is completely overwhelmed but what God has done. God created me with a purpose and I knew that he would work to bring about that purpose. If I ever forget that God sees me or hears my prayer, I will remember that even when there appears to be a lack of movement, doesn’t not mean things are not happening out of my view.

I Became Friends With A Homeless Woman…

The other day Facebook reminded me of an event that happened while I was living in Washington. This was one of the craziest things that has ever happened to me. God’s hand in my life and His amazing ability to orchestrate time and space is the only way I can explain this.

I posted on Facebook on July 26, 2017 about how I saw a homeless woman in Vancouver, Washington on my way to work. However, the significance of this woman was I knew her when I was still in Reno. I never thought that I would see her again and yet while driving on 78th street in Vancouver, Washington, I see her on the side of the road with the same bags of luggage that she always carried. I could not believe it! I pulled over and ran to her. She was so startled to see me. I think that she must have thought that I was stalking her. She asked me what I was doing here. I asked her the same. The answer was the same, we both had moved. However, the reasons why and how were different. I was finishing school, living as a live-in nanny, and working. She hitched hiked, took the bus and ended up there. Of all the places that she could have ended up, she lands in the same corner of the world that I was residing in.

Let me further explain my history with this woman. My heart for the homeless has not been as tender as it is now. A big shift in my feelings took place after taking a class on the prophets while I was in Bible College. I realized more than before that God has a heart for the oppressed and outcast of society. My heart became sensitive to the homeless people I saw on the side of road. On my route to and from home, I consistently would see the same homeless woman standing at the intersection with a sign asking for help. Not being content with just giving her a hand out and wanting her to know that she is valuable because she is created by God, I stopped to talk to her. I approached her and asked if she was hungry and wanted to go to the Taco Bell that was right there. She stared at me. At first, I thought maybe she couldn’t speak. She probably was stunned by the offer? She asked me why I wanted to spend time with her. I told her that I believe that she is created by God and therefore should be treated with dignity and that I wanted to get to know her because I love her. With that, she agreed to dinner but only if I was hungry (I wasn’t but didn’t want to miss this opportunity. So, I lied and said I was.) Our time at Taco Bell was educational for me and moved my heart to care more for the homeless. I learned about her life, the events that lead to her becoming homeless and what it is like to be homeless. My heart broke over the stories she shared. Especially, about how she is treated now. People spit at her, call her names, and steel her stuff while she sleeps. She buys body spray at the Dollar Store because she doesn’t want to stink. I didn’t know that a homeless person would care about that. I was wrong. She is human and wants to gain some dignity for herself by not smelling.

After our first Taco Bell date it became a thing. Every Monday and Wednesday at 6 pm I would meet her at the intersection for dinner. I loved it. I loved her. One day, she stopped showing up. It broke my heart. For a while it discouraged me from trying to reach out to the homeless community. Why? You love them, and they leave. However, we are called to love whether it is returned or whether we think it is deserved. God gave me the gift of seeing her again on that beautiful Summer day as I drove to work 600 miles away from where I first met her. To me this seems impossible that we were to ever cross paths again. But God moved!

As I am in this place in my life, where I am sorting things out and trying to figure out where I belong, I am encouraged by this. God has me right where he wants me for a greater purpose than I can see or understand. He is moving in my life and I will be in the place that he calls me to at the time that he wants me there. That may be here, and in the future, it may be Washington. I’m hoping for the later. In the mean time I will continue to wait. There are moving parts that haven’t settled yet and questions unanswered. There are hurting and oppressed people who need love. While I am not always content with where I am currently at in my life, I’m blessed with a home, friends, family, daily food, and more than I deserve. I have received more love from God, far from what I deserve. Hopefully, I’m sharing that same kind of unconditional love to all wherever I’m at.

5’11” and can’t add an Inch to My Height

My sister’s wedding is this Saturday. In preparation for the big day, My twin and I had a sister date last night and got our nails done. I’m not in the habit of getting my nails done. I’m too cheap to pay for that service but this seemed like an appropriate occasion to get my nails polished. The lady who did my nails was excited to hear that we are twins. However, almost as soon as she expressed her excitement, the statement about our size difference came out of her mouth. “You’re twins! But you’re bigger than she is?” Yes, I am, and I have spent my whole life being asked why that is the case. Well, there is a God who created me in my mother’s womb and before time began determined how I would be formed. I did not tell her that but just smiled and nodded. God did not ask me how I would feel about being the bigger twin. I trust that he knew what he was doing when he set my growth chart into motion. I trust that there is a reason for why he made me the way he did (haven’t figured out why yet but trusting that there is a reason).

Matthew 6:27 tells me that worrying can not add a single inch to my height. I say, “Praise God, because I don’t need any more inches.” I am 5’11” and with the right shoes I might as well be 6’. The notion that worrying could make one taller is absurd. Of course, a person has little control over how tall they will be. This statement points out how ridiculous it is to worry about things that you can’t control. Its unproductive. What does it accomplish? Nothing!

As I think about this, I realize that worry also shows a lack of trust. Sometimes, it feels like there ae bigger things that God would be concerned about other than the areas of my life that I don’t understand. Things like the job that I have right now even though I’m educated in the Bible and Early Childhood Education or my living situation when I’d rather be in Washington. These are details of my life. The God who created me must also care about these details. It mattered enough to him and his plan for me to include how tall I would be. It seems like a small detail but having spent my whole life with my sister and my height being a topic for conversation from even strangers, leads me to think that it is important God and there is a reason. Likewise, the different directions that our lives are taking right now are also part of the plan that the God who created me has for me. So, worrying about this stuff will prove to be unproductive. It’s not always easy to do but I am going to trust that God is working in my life. I’m here for his service and I am certainly god created me with plan for my life and he knows every aspect of my life.

Questions about My Calling

I’m currently reading Billy Graham’s autobiography. I’m impressed by how sure he was of his calling to be an evangelist and how God used events and people in his life to live out this calling. I’m amazed and encouraged by how Billy Graham was used by God in a great way, probably in a bigger way than he ever expected or could have imagined himself. Reading his story reminds me that God is faithful in my life. He is working even when I can’t see. At church the other Sunday the pastor said a quote that hit home for me, “Sometimes the teacher doesn’t talk during the test.” Lately I feel stuck in my life. I can’t see what God is doing. It feels like a test and I just want God to say something. However, in little ways such as Billy Grahams autobiography I am reminded that there is a bigger plan. The way that life looks today does not mean that it will be that way tomorrow. Life can change so quickly.

When I think about what I am called to do, I know what I feel like I was made to do and that is teach small children and somehow use my Bible and Theology degree. However, I gave that up when I moved back to Nevada from Washington. Its not like I can’t return to it. My issue is that I am a single adult that needs to be able to provide for myself. A job in a preschool, though its what I am passionate about is not very sustainable to live on. My current job is a great job and provides me with things such as health insurance, retirement, and other benefits but is far from what I feel called to do. I trust that this is just a season and that God will provide me with a job that is a perfect fit for me and all the aspects of my life.

Pondering these things causes me to wonder if there is a lack of trust on my part by choosing to stay where I’m at because it provides for my needs. Have I forgotten that it is God who takes care of me? It is also God who made me and gave me my passion for teaching young children. Am I not being a good steward by setting that those things aside at this time? But I moved back to help my family and this job was a means to do that. What then is my ministry to be? What I am passionate about or my family. I feel called to one vocation but at them same time I feel called to honor my family and help them. Daily I am trying to serve God in all that I do while I wait for him to move in my life. I pray that it would be like this for long. He knows where I’m at today and where I will be tomorrow.