Thursday, January 30, 2014

a fork in the road...


Another year has flown by... and what a year it has been!

Alexei is finishing up 1st grade at Sterling, Anya has been in Pre-K at First Foundations Preschool and Katya is getting into everything she possibly can and charming us all with her precious personality.

I never did write more last year as I was hoping to on this blog - lots of journaling in my time alone with God, but I think my desire to write more will be put to use here now as our family is entering a new chapter and we need to be in touch with our friends and family to share updates and ways that ya'll can be lifting us up in prayer.

If we haven't talked in a couple of months, you might not know that Nick's last day at Dell after 14 years is THIS MONDAY!!!! We took Dell up on an opportunity to voluntarily leave and saw it as an instigator in all you will read below. 

For those of you who know us well, you have probably heard of us dreaming of working with youth in Ukraine, where Nick is originally from. That was one of the many factors that drew us to each other when we met 11 years ago: our similar hearts for youth who have no support system, no relationships, no hope as they leave the institution they have called home for their short lives and head into an uncertain future. Nick's past of violently loosing his dad at a young age and wanting to pour the comfort and hope he received from his american family that took him in, modeled Christ's love and grace and provided stability and encouragement are one of the many reasons we feel drawn to serving this demographic of youth aging out of orphanages/ foster systems

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 speaks to this: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 

This past year God has taken us on an amazing journey of learning about the youth aging out of our local foster care system and the needs they have. Several of us from our church, Grace Covenant Church, were seeking the Lord on how we can minister to this demographic, and He opened countless doors with an amazing model called Open Table (, given us favor with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and provided us with an incredible referral partner in the non-profit LifeWorks ( By helping to launch this model in our church of  mentoring/board of advisers for youth transitioning out of the foster system, we have learned so much more than we knew about the needs of this demographic. While we are thrilled to be a part of what is going on locally, we can not get the idea out of our heads that as hard as it is for the kids here in the states that are aging out, there are still resources they can access if they can navigate the system. In Ukraine, there are no resources. The statistics are staggering for prostitution, sex trafficking, drugs, mafia related activity, early death... they have no hope, no advocates, no healthy relationships. We are struck again by God's heart for the orphans, the oppressed and those who are alone in this world and His provision for them evident all throughout the Old Testament. As believers and part of the body of Christ here on earth, we are called to have this same heart our Father has.(James 1:26-27, Psalm 68:5, Micah 6:8) A couple of years ago, I realized I was quite passive when it came to actually loving the least of these. I talked about it with the best of them, but it wasn't playing out in my life except for occasional transactional types of interactions. He convicted to me to pray that God would change my heart to be more like His - that I would care about these the way He does. Wow - has He answered that prayer big time over the past couple of years. It is now at the core of who we are and decisions we make as a family. He is so good. It's all Him. God has been teaching us about transformative relationships and how that is how we are to live out the gospel.

We had been praying and seeking the Lord about if this is the time that we are to start pursuing going to Ukraine to work with youth aging out of the orphanages. This has come up for us several times over they almost 8 years we have been married - in fact we took a vision trip through Ukraine while we were engaged to check out different non-profits and ministries running effectively in Ukraine and to visit Nick's family in Odessa. However, we have had a lively blessing added to our family every 2 years or so and have just now come out of that sleep deprivation fog with our youngest just now turning 2 years old. 

We have been feeling the Lord tug at both of hearts - reminding us of that passion He has placed within us to serve these kids.  He has been challenging both of us to not be sucked into the routine of the american culture and pursuits that is so easy for us to slide into without even being aware of it. (Matthew 6:19) He has placed in us a burning desire to live a life that is fully and completely surrendered to His will for our lives and to recognize that His best for us will probably not be the most comfortable or easiest path to take. However, when we look back on our lives we will see how because of this unknown path He has beckoned us towards, we will have an intensity of relationship with the Lord as we have learned to let Him take away our crutches and rely on Him for our daily bread. Here in our comfort zone, we are not currently depending on Him for our daily needs. It is scary to think that we have created so many safety cushions around ourselves - even with things I have always taken for granted and have considered mandatory and the responsible thing to do (such as traditional medical insurance), .now He is asking us to hold open handed and trust Him with our health, our needs, our kids' futures. 

This idea of a path He is beckoning us toward has been one He has brought to mind over and over again. Early December, when we were praying through whether or not to take the opportunity Dell was offering and if God was in fact leading us to check out missions in Ukraine, a devotional hit me square between the eyes as I was spending time with Him. It is the December 9th entry in the book by Sarah Young, "Jesus Calling" :

" Be willing to go out on a limb with Me. If that is where I am leading you, it is the safest place to be. Your desire to live a risk-free life is a form of unbelief. Your longing to live close to Me is at odds with your attempts to minimize risk. You are approaching a crossroads in your journey. In order to follow Me wholeheartedly, you must relinquish your tendency to play it safe. Let me lead you step by step through this day. If your primary focus is on Me, you can walk along perilous paths without being afraid. Eventually, you will learn to relax and enjoy the adventure of our journey together. As long as you stay close to Me, My sovereign Presence protects you wherever you go." - this is based off of the passages in Psalm 23:4, Psalm 9:10, and John 12:25-26.

Within a day or two of God impressing the above passage on me, I had a conversation with our missions pastor, Tom, and he also used the same terminology of a cross roads or two diverging paths and the sense He is asking us to choose between the more predictable/less risk route (which is not at all risk free as we don't ever know if one of us could be in a car wreck or come down with cancer today), or the path that is unknown but smack in the middle of where He is leading us and we know we will look back at our life with no regret and a much closer walk with Him because we have learned to depend on Him and die to ourselves. It's the life that is fully alive. It's scary, but man, is it fulfilling!

As we have sought Him and His leading, the Lord has made it abundantly clear through time in His word and prayer, the counsel of others, and specific people He has brought along our path in uncanny ways that keep pointing us to working with these youth. We stepped out in faith, accepted the opportunity from Dell and are planning on taking our family of 5 to Ukraine for a vision trip of about 4 months to check out current works that are going on to serve the aging out population. There are some amazing ministries we have been in contact with over the years and we are excited to learn from them and see if God might have a place for us to serve there long term, or if He can better use our family and meet the needs of our kids stateside but with Nick just contracting or consulting here and then using the more flexible time to focus on short term ministry opportunities. Another possibility is to be advocates for local ministries in Ukraine through HART (Humanitarian Aide Response Teams and raise funds and awareness for what they are doing... basically the plan is to go and check it out with open hearts and minds and ask the Lord to show us what He wants our family to do at this season of our lives. 

The weird thing is just after we got the ball rolling to leave Dell and were super excited to be moving forward, Ukraine destabilized to the brink of a potential civil war. hmm. so we are still praying and seeking Him. The area we were planning on heading to in April is in eastern Ukraine and has seen minimal protesting and violence, but the whole country is on the edge of knife. Please be praying for peaceful resolution, for laws not to be passed that would make it much more difficult for westerners to live, work, travel there, and for God to guide us one step at a time. We are facing many transitions - this is the first time Nick will not be working in 28 years (his first job was at age 15 and he hasn't stopped since). The dynamics of our family are going to change day to day. We don't know what this unrest in Ukraine means - are we to wait for things to die down?, is He calling us to serve another pocket of Russian speakers in a different country?, or taking us a different direction we never would have gone or been sensitive to had we been in our routine at Dell and our normal daily life of homeschooling and all. 

so lots to pray about :) 

I will post regular updates here for those who care to know what in the world is up with those crazy Vyssotskis :) Also, I am going to be putting together a list of people that want to receive prayer updates via email as things arise. Please let us know if you would be interested in being on this email list. 

That's enough for now, don't you think? ;) Thanks for caring enough to read! 
- Morgan  for the Vyssotskis

 a few pics from this past year:

Saturday, January 19, 2013

And i'm back...

Many seasons have come and gone since my last posting.
I have wrestled and prayed with the decision on whether or not to once again pick this up. There are a number of reasons i want to do so, but several that have caused me to hold back: i fear the broken parts of me i know so well:
 -that part of me that is always seeking for other's approval rather than my Lord's approval
- the ugly tendency i have to compare myself - usually my weaknesses to other's strengths which leads all too often down the familiar path of perfectionism: my hyper-awareness of all the areas my performance or character lacks in, areas i wish i were stronger/different in, constantly "should-ing all over myself" (where is the grace in that?), a twisted pride where i expect myself to be perfect when only God is perfect, (who am i to think i should perform on His level?)...
 and there it is again: my eyes are on myself rather than on my Lord and the grace which He so lavishly pours out on me. The truths ring in my soul as He reminds me once again what He has been whispering to me and taking me deeper into over these past months and years: that my true identity lies in Him and how He sees me, what He has done for me and not what i do for Him- i am His chosen, His beloved- even when i mess up regularly and often, He still whispers His love for me if only i will listen. As He has walked with me farther on the path of shepherding and loving my 3 little ones (yes, we've added another beautiful daughter to our brood), i glimpse a little more of His Father love for me, one of His daughters. He has also given me my Love- my precious husband who i have been honored to be his Ezer - his helpmate - these past almost 7 years. My Love's consistent forgiveness, patience, and willingness to go deeper into knowing me is a daily choice on his part and a gift that is also a reflection of the love that the Lover of my Soul offers me daily should i choose to recognize and delight in it. I don't have to be perfect for His love to be.The Lord is so tender. a verse caught my eye this morning in Hosea, chapter 11, verse 4: " I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yolk on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them".
and from Isaiah the verses that i meditated on a lot during the end of my 3rd pregnancy and throughout my labor with our little one: "Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and His arm rules for Him: behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him. He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms, He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young." Isaiah 40:10-11 and Isaiah 40:27-31"Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength. Even youths shall faint and  be weary, and young men shall fall and be exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." These verses are like water to this parched traveler. I am weary. I have no might on my own. I am learning to wait on Him. I have a long way to go. Thank you, that you are the Provider of the strength and grace i need for each day, Father!

And so in the knowing of myself and all of my tendencies i wrestle, i pray, and God keeps bringing this blog to mind.
i am tentative - i don't want it to keep me from the priorities of first: time with my Lord, second: time with My Love, third: time with my little ones, fourth: time managing our home, fifth: time spent in outside ministry. I stepped back from blogging and general amount of computer/phone time when our first daughter was little as i started to see that i do not do well at being fully present with my little ones if my eye is constantly tracking to the computer or phone screen and i am half listening to their beautiful questions and musings. i was convicted about the importance of being fully present with those God puts in front of me, and so i stopped blogging, i don't use my facebook page for anything but the basic keeping track of announcements in a couple of groups i am in or tracking down a couple of long lost friends. i will not be writing during the week in their awake hours so we will see how often i actually get around to it. it will not be consistent and i need to give myself grace in that, not add one more should to the list i am constantly trying to beat down. i find myself excited about writing again.

He made me with a longing for the written word - i am a journaler. it's how i process and pray. it is how i am refreshed and ministered to. i am a list maker - it's how i keep from forgetting the items i need from the store, what was i going to  make for dinner tonight?, when is that assignment due for my son's kindergarten, what items did i need to get at hobby lobby for a rainforest diorama?, which notes do i still need to write (all of them) for the sweet blessing gifts we received from so many at Christmas - tokens that remind me that we are loved by so many. writing helps me to be more intentional, more aware, more thankful. and so i write.

so where is the time going to come to do this? i need to have an outlet for being refreshed, for thinking out loud, for pulling together all of the threads of thoughts and verses God whispers to me through my daily journey in the events and people i encounter and give Him the opportunity to weave them together into something that makes a bit more sense. it may not be understandable - a lot of life and why God allows things to go a certain way often remain a mystery to me - and yet i can rest in knowing that God is in fact good.

Another big factor in making me hesitate on returning to the blogging world is the never ending list of chores to accomplish, tasks to complete, prep for homeschooling or meal planning, friend i should write a note to, or whatever other thoughts press into my awareness in the quiet moments once little ones are sleeping and my sweet husband is working on some project - i wonder  "is it wise to start this up again? "
He seems to be continuing to impress upon me the need to write my thoughts out here through this blog.  i will need to walk with Him daily on this to know when to sit and write or when something else needs to be done. this provides an opportunity for this doer,  this Martha, to try to practice the sitting at my Lord's feet that has been sorely lacking as of late. i have been feeling the need to record those things i am thankful for - those gifts of God's grace He pours out on me throughout the day if only i lift up my eyes to look.

i just started reading ann voskamp's "one-thousand gifts".  it seems like all but one of my friends have mentioned this book to me. i finally got around to calling all of the half price bookstores on my side of town to no avail and ended up turning to amazon to be able to cross off the "order 1000 gifts " from one of my post-it lists as i had decided to buy it for my american mother in law for Christmas. she had mentioned on  a camping trip recently that she wanted to read it (we have an eerily/refreshingly similar interest in books) and so i ordered both of us a copy. God has a way with timing, you know? i can not tell you how much ann's honest poet-thoughts have ministered to my thirsty soul. so far i am on page 58. there is hardly a page thus far that does not have something starred or underlined or been reread several times. she speaks my language.  i know that not all people's brains are wired to appreciate similar styles of writing, but it sure has blessed me. i am going to include a couple of excerpts here that i have reread probably 20 times and continue to roll around in my soul like a smoothed pebble on the shoreline. you really do just need to go on your own hunt for this book.  She talks about accepting God's grace - His gifts to us in the beautiful and the hard things and choosing to thank Him for all of it. Learning to be content in every situation. she writes on the miracle of Eucharisteo on pages 32 and 33:

" in the original language, "he gave thanks" reads "eucharisteo."
I underline it on the page. Can it lay a sure foundation under a life? Offer the fullest life?
The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning "grace". Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks.
But there is more, and I read it. Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning "joy". Joy. Ah...yes. I might be needing me some of that. That might be what the quest for more is all about - that which Augustine claimed, "Without exception... all try their hardest to reach the same goal, that is, joy. "....
Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo - the table of thanksgiving. I sit there long... wondering... is it that simple?
Is the height of my chara joy dependent on the depths of my eucharisteo thanks?
So then as long as thanks is possible... I think this through. As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible.  Joy is always possible. Whenever, meaning - now; wherever, meaning - here. The holy grail of joy is not some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the messy, piercing ache of now, joy might be - unbelievably - possible! The only place we need see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now.
I whisper it out loud, let the tongue feel these sounds, the ear hear their truth.
Charis. Grace.
Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving.
Chara. Joy.
A triplet of stars, a constellation in the black.
A threefold cord that might hold a life? Offer a way up into the fullest life?
Grace, thanksgiving, joy. Eucharisteo.
A Greek word... that might make meaning of everything?"

and on page 57:
"Gratitude for the seemingly insignificant - a seed - this plants the giant miracle. The miracle of eucharisteo, like the Last supper, is in the eating of crumbs, the swallowing down one mouthful. Do not disdain the small. The whole of the life - even the hard - is made up of the minute parts, and if i miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole. These are new language lessons, and I live them out. There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up.... I testify: life-changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time."

She goes on to share about a challenge she received from a friend to make a list of 1,000 gifts - be thankful for the blessings in life. I have been challenged along the same lines lately from another great book i am reading and discussing with some girlfriends: Linda Dillow's "What's it like to be married to me? and other dangerous questions" - to have a thankfulness journal - focus on the blessings and allowing joy and contentment to take root and flourish, recognizing God as the giver of all good gifts.

so... all of this to say, i believe the Lord is allowing and even leading me to pick this blog up again. i pray for wisdom in how i approach it. i see it as largely a tool for me to process and bring some thoughts together like i said. if anyone reads it, it will probably be my mom or my sister - which i am great with as little people, while bringing huge amounts of laughter and delight to our lives, make it a little difficult to have a lengthy in depth conversation about things the Lord is showing us. so mom or sister,  if you read this or any other fellow sojourner out there - i hope you are blessed in some way and that the Lord would use it in your life somehow to be a sip of  refreshing water in a very dry world. i have a strong sense He is going to use it in my life and i am excited to see where He takes me next. to Him be the glory.

Here are some recent pictures of the 5 of us that my sweet friend took in our backyard for us. Nick is more handsome than ever ;),  Alexei is now 5 1/2, Anya is now 3 1/2, and our precious Katya just turned 1. these 4 members of my family are the first on my list of gifts from God.

Monday, October 12, 2009

9 bidgillion pictures

Hello, all~ I hope this finds you all doing well! We have been super busy with adjusting to life as a foursome, dealing with various and smallish frusterating scenarios that add up to be a big headache and a really good opportunity to trust God, look to Him for provision, and a reminder to count our blessings - as they are many. I won't go into details about the frusterations, but i will share about the blessings. Going through our photos since the last post brought a smile to my face today and i was so hard pressed to pick out some to put here that i ended up just including alot and if you get bored, you can just stop reading. how about that? ;) Some of these won't be in chronological order, but oh well. you'll figure it out.
Our little man and Daddy were out riding his bike yesterday. He is getting pretty good at going on his own. He has to stretch a little bit to reach the peddles, but he puts forth a valiant effort.
Here, Daddy is giving our Anya a bath. Boy, does she love her bathtimes! It is one of the quickest ways to get her in a happy mood if she is irritated at the world ~ though those times are few and far between. She is such a happy and laid back kid! we are so blessed. every time you look at her she smiles at you.
our two precious goofballs. Alexei and Anya are already super tight. they smile every time the other one is around. Alexei is constantly wanting to kiss and touch her and she is usually up for it. She is already laughing at his antic.
We have discovered the wonders of playdough. Alexei usually doesn't sit still for 2 seconds together, but if playdough is on the agenda, he will sit for an hour and a half playing with it - usually this entails you sitting there and creating whatever he requests. the usual fair is a rocket, a car, airplane, semi truck, a dog, a bowl for the dog to drink from... and then there is the occasional demand, err, request for something totally abstract that really makes mommy stop and think for a minute, such as the island of madagascar. he literally wanted the shape of the island. hmm. sometimes it is an action verb and that really gets the creative juices flowing. I bet my skills at the game cranium have improved dramatically. oh the minds of two year olds, especially mine. ;)
Grandpa and alexei creating a race track. "Grandpa is fun" - alexei.
I love Nick so much. I don't know many dads that would initiate a water war where the kid gets the elephant trunk from the slipping slide (thanks aunt kristin) and the daddy gets a bucket for a helmet and a pool for a shield. daddy doesn't get a weapon. i don't know who had more fun - judge for yourself.
one of our weekly visits with great-grandma kathleen. every time alexei walks in the door he asks for "grandma cookies" - he knows she has some waiting for him everytime. i think her house is one of his favorite places. it was one of mine growing up too. and it's the same vanilla wafers. :)
alexei with two of his favorite buddies from playgroup and church: jonathan on the left and logan on the right. they are all within a few months of each other and boy, can they get each other going. when logan's mom picked him up from church nursery a couple of weeks ago, she said logan and alexei were side by side on two rocking horses rocking as hard as they could with one arm flailing in the air and both gleefully screaming "woohooo!! woohoo!!" i think they should be on a lacrosse or hockey team together when they get older.
aunt kristin loving on miss anya. i love anya's little sundress - it's one of the two outfits i have ever bought for her. the day that i found out she was a girl.
Dell had a "take your kid to work day" and alexei had a blast! i think he thinks daddy gets to go to a fascinating and fun place every day. they had computer games and icecream. can't be that.
hanging out at central market enjoying 30's music. alexei is a good dance partner. his little feelings get hurt when he gets refused by older women (5 year old girls). it makes me sad as his mommy.
we are trying to put the idea in alexei's head that pooping on the potty is alot of fun and worth stopping what you are doing to go. i don't think he is at the point of agreeing with us yet. maybe before he is 12. oh well.
she seriously does smile at you every time you talk to her. too cute.
yes, that is a smiley face sticker on anya's forehead. do all second born children just get used to that? i have a feeling she is going to have to. it doesn't seem to bother her too much.
the wonders of playing in the rain. it is funny to me that when nick and i first got married, he didn't get that i wanted to go out and play in the rain with him. now he is the one who is out splashing in puddles for hours on end.
for some reason, when i ask alexei to smile for the camera, he interprets that as, cock your head to one side and give a goofy grin.
we just got back from our annual family vacation to port aransas. we had such a blast together. we really needed that time away as a foursome and then really enjoyed grandma and grandpa and mr. phil and mrs. barb joining us for the second weekend. God was so sweet to give us that time together.
the weather was really nice for the most part. on the two rainy days we went to the USS Lexington and to the Texas State Aquarium - both of which fascinated alexei.
alexei was a little ticked off that they wouldn't let him fly a plane off the deck. he finally settled for a flight simulator.
alexei should know all about this equivalent of time out. we need a brig at our house.
there is a picture at my parent's house of me on this same anchor in front of the USS Lexington with my family and some friends when i was just a couple of years older than alexei is now. time sure does fly.
life for a two year old is so easy.
flying a kite together. alexei is tired after a long day of playing at the beach. those moments are so rare and so sweet when he actually cuddles up against you and wants to be held. gosh, i love that kid.
alexei was fascinated by the dolphins.
and the stingrays. one little one kept swimming to him to be touched. don't worry it was at the aquarium and there weren't any stingers - we are not that nuts. well, actually... ;)
this is the first time anya ever reached for and held a toy. this is right before she turned 4 months. and she also rolled over for the first time on the trip. super exciting!
enjoying lunch and conversation on our porch overlooking the beach. alexei was napping.
alexei got so tan from playing in the sun, it was really funny when we took off his diaper at one point - his little white butt almost blinds you. ;)
grandma and anya hanging out at the beach.
it cracks me up that alexei always holds the bat backwards. unique, but then again, that is just alexei for you.
Far-Mor (Bobby) came to visit a couple of weeks ago. we really enjoyed hanging out with her for a couple of days.
the first expedition in our double jogging stroller. it was so sweet when alexei voluntarily put his arm around anya, i had to take a picture. i hope he is always a little protective of her.
a couple of days ago mommy was about to go nuts. i think God put this idea of making vegetable soup in my mind, b/c it went from a very frusterating afternoon to one of my favorite pretend memories with him. we got his play food out and talked about the difference btwn vegetables and fruits and then we fixed a vegetable soup and fruit salad for grandma to enjoy when she came to visit. after we made the pretend food, alexei helped me cook his first dish - cornbread. he took his role of holding the bowl while i dumped ingredients in and then stirring it up very seriously.
who needs expensive toys? card board boxes are all you need to make wobots (robots), tanks and tunnels. what more could a kid need?
you get a gold star for making it through this mega post! until next time....