Thursday, October 17, 2013

First Impressions

There are a million things I could write about right now. My life lately has been a whirlwind of emotion, adventure, and a whole lot of studying! I promised to keep y'all (yes I said y'all) updated on my life here at seminary and I've been really bad about doing so. Forgive me! When I'm not in class or working, I'm usually studying. It's a whole different lifestyle here. But, I think I'm finally getting used to the daily grind of it all. And, I'm loving it!

Here are some thoughts I jotted down after my first day of seminary back in August:

1. Everyone should go to DTS.
2. Hearing everyone's personal journey with Christ just radiates grace (we had to share each of our testimonies in my Hermeneutics class).
3. I am so fortunate to be here.
4. I feel overwhelmed by grace.
5. Just like the Lord washed the feet of Peter although he was resistant at first, I feel like the Lord is washing my feet and reminding me its not about knowledge at all, but about humility. I do not deserve to be here, but for some reason he chose me to be here.
6. The Lord is preparing me for something amazing and I feel incredibly blessed to be the one he uses.
7. God is teaching me to love and accept people from all walks of life.
8. God is bursting my Slavic Christian bubble and allowing me to see the world and His plan for the world as it really is.
9. I don't know anything and I have so much to learn.
10. Seminary is like summer camp (awesome community, the Word, solid teaching, and fun), but it's every day!

More to come! I promise!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Roadtrip Day 2: The grandeur of the Grand Canyon

The second day of the roadtrip was my favorite. That's because it included the Grand Canyon! I've always wanted to visit this world-renowned landmark and this was my opportunity to do it! It takes about 5 hours to get to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas. The drive towards the canyon is mostly flat and deserty (is that even a word?!) with a few plateaus and cliffs along the way. It was so different from the landscape in California, or anywhere else I've ever been to.

After stopping at a country-themed steakhouse for lunch, we drove into the Grand Canyon park in the late afternoon. Until you actually pay and drive into the park, you can't see the Grand Canyon from the road. Once you're in though, the view is breathtaking! We quickly parked our car, put on some sneakers and headed to the Canyon. I couldn't help but marvel at the beauty of God's creation. The Canyon stretched as far as the eye could see. It was deep, majestic, and made you feel very small in comparison. I snapped lots and lots of pictures, so I'll let them do the talking! Enjoy!

Dad being his ol' goofy self!
"Hey Inna, take a picture of me like this!" - Dad

"If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your hand will hold me fast."

This was our view leaving the Grand Canyon that day! Simply phenomenal. 
After leaving the Grand Canyon, we drove to Flagstaff, AZ to spend the night. The hotel (although supposed to be 3 stars on Priceline) was slightly better than a motel and cost more than our nice hotel in Las Vegas. The only good thing was the free breakfast, but oh wait, we slept through that! Thank God for Starbucks!

Day 3 and 4 of the roadtrip were not very exciting. Just a lot of driving through deserts and fields. We did stop at a Native American rest area somewhere in the middle of New Mexico and I bought a really cool Native American picnic blanket/rug. My dad thinks it's ugly but I like it a lot! After driving all day, we spent the last night  of the roadtrip in Amarillo, TX (which smelled like cows). The hotel was really cute and homey, and the staff spoke with a heavy Southern accent. It was so bad that my dad couldn't understand what the guy was saying! I had to translate! Let's just say we were both really amused at how different the English language sounds just a few states away!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Roadtrip Day 1: A night in Vegas

I promised to fill you in on my awesome roadtrip from Sacramento to Dallas, right? Well, here it is, photos and all!

After stuffing (and I mean stuffing!) my car with all my stuff, my dad and I set off on our roadtrip. It was a four-day ordeal with the first stop in Las Vegas! Neither of us have been to Las Vegas so we didn't have any idea what to expect. As soon as we entered the city, the thing that stood out the most is the amount of people EVERYWHERE! It was just about sunset and the people were all coming out for the night. Traffic was horrible and there were crowds of people on every sidewalk!
I've been to the Trevi Fountan in Rome and the Vegas version is just about the same size and grandeur!

To make the trip more of an adventure, we didn't have any of our hotels booked, so the first thing we did was look for a Starbucks so that I could hook up my iPad to wifi and book a hotel. After bidding on several hotels on Priceline with no luck, we gave up, parked our car, and went walking along the Vegas strip. Let's just say I was really glad my dad was by my side. There were lots of shady people around, most of which were high, drunk, or both. Little old ladies on street corners were advertising "Girls in 20 minutes." It made my stomach churn. Prostitution was rampant here, completely in the open, and pretty much glamorized.  No wonder it's called Sin City. It made me sick!

The Venetian! Riding a gondola (but in real Venice) is still on my bucket list.

We walked for a while, taking in all the sights around us. All the hotels are themed and very beautiful. We walked into several of the hotels and just looked around. Nightly rates were in the $300 range for most of them - meaning, way out of our price range! My favorite hotel was the Venitian. With gondolas reflecting on the water surrounding the hotel, it had a magical, almost-Disney feel to it. My dad's favorite was the Rome-themed Caesar's Palace. He couldn't help but take pictures of all the tile on the walls and floor. That's my dad!

Selfies are my dad's favorite. Can't you tell??
Welcome to the Palace!

After walking for what seemed like hours, we were finally tired (and hungry!) so we asked around for the best buffet in town. My dad loves buffets and especially seafood ones! We ended up going to the buffet in the Wynn. It wasn't a seafood buffet like we had hoped, but it was still really delicious. For around $30 a pop, we filled our plates with crab legs, oysters (my personal favorite!), meat, sushi, Italian food, and anything else that seemed appealing! It was overwhelming how much food there was! And, don't get me started on the dessert! I wanted to try every kind of cake, gelato and mousse they had! Thank God they had tiny portions so I tried about 2-3 of each! By the end of dinner, we were both stuffed and very satisfied.

Hooking up my iPad right there in the restaurant, we booked a hotel for the night that was about a block from the Strip. Although not as ritzy as the Venetian or Caesar's Palace, the Westin was modern and comfortable.

Overall, Day 1 of the roadtrip was a success! Although Vegas itself was a bit overwhelming for me, and not really a place I'd ever want to visit again, it was cool to see what all the fuss was about.

I was really hoping to see the Bellagio Fountain rendition of Andrea Bocelli's "Time to Say Goodbye," but no such luck! Still beautiful though!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

One week with a bunch of seminary students

Ok, so I've survived my first week living in Washington Hall - the student apartment building here. Here are just a few quick things I've learned so far:

1. Seminary students are not the stereotypical nerdy kids who have deep theological conversations all the time. Actually, I have yet to hear a single deep theological discussion. I have heard discussions about boys, coffee shops, movies, college days, shoes, culture, etc. Basically, seminary students are just normal people. They just happen to love Jesus and want to serve in ministry.

2. Ukraine is big here. Already, I know a few people who are pretty much obsessed with Ukraine. I guess going on mission trips to Ukraine will do that to you. It's just interesting to find Americans who've been to Ukraine more times than I have. It kind of messes with my mind.

3. The American Christian culture is WAY different than the Slavic Christian culture. So many things that I was taught to consider as "sin" growing up are just part of culture here. DTS has a no-alcohol policy so that's not what I'm referring to. But, things like secular music, movies and dancing are totally ok here. Dating is also big. Apparently, there's lots of that going on. (Not that I think dating is a sin. It's just not as common in the Slavic Christian culture that I grew up in). American Christians are just more chill, and not so uptight about debatable or questionable things. Don't get me wrong. I'm not taking a side here, but just making an observation.

4. Southerners are really awesome people.  Seriously, the girls I've met here are just the sweetest. Everyone is really nice, hospitable and friendly. One afternoon I was leaving the apartment only to find a candy bar and note by the door for me. It was from a really sweet girl (also a DTS student) that I met at the Village Church on Sunday. How precious is that?!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The adventure has begun

Oh were do I even start? The past week has been a crazy blur of activities and of course emotions! After almost 4 full days of driving, my dad and I finally made it to Dallas. I still can't believe this is real.

My dad and I made this trip from Sacramento to Dallas into a fun  little big roadtrip, driving through Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. The last Daddy-Inna roadtrip happened when I was 9 or 10 and it's probably one of the fondest childhood memories I have with my dad. This roadtrip is a close second. More on the roadtrip (and more photos!) in a later post. Back to my reality in Dallas.

Just a preview of the majesty of God's creation - the Grand Canyon!
Just in case you're wondering, I'm writing this from my bed in my new apartment in Washington Hall. And, it's past 3 a.m. One of the wonderful couples here at DTS, who used to live in Sacramento, invited me over for dinner at their apartment and we stayed up past midnight playing this board game called Settlers of Catan which apparently is the new rage among college students. Anyway, I had a great time at Anna and Yuriy's house just enjoying a yummy meal together, chatting, playing with their sweet little baby Gracie, and of course losing at this Settlers of Catan game. Go Anna! Did I mention I drank two large mugs of tea? THAT is why I am still up at this hour. Coffee? Nah. I can drink a whole cupful and doze off no problem. Tea? I'm wide awake, even 3 hours later. Note to self: don't drink tea. Ever. 

Other than not being able to fall asleep tonight, I've been adjusting to life here in Dallas very well. Granted, this is only Day 3. And, it's only my first day on my own. I dropped off my dad at the airport earlier today. By the way, my dad loved Dallas - all except the hot, humid weather. I'm no fan either, but you can't have it all, can you?

Dallas skyline
(from the 12th story of the Crowne Plaza Hotel)
I moved in all of my stuff and still have a bunch of cabinet space in the bathroom to spare! I guess I didn't bring that much stuff after all! My closet is a bit tight but still very comfortable and spacious. The Native American rug that I bought at a rest area in New Mexico turned out perfect for the closet! The floor of my apartment and room is buffed concrete so rugs are a must. Everything else is coming together fine too. All except for my bed, which I'm still waiting to be delivered (hopefully tomorrow!) So, right now, my bed is just a mattress on the floor. It's not ideal, but in a way, I kind of like it. It gives my room a modern edge. I'll post pictures of my space when it's finally all complete. Right now, there are still boxes in the corner and lots of blank walls and empty space. Boring, if you ask me. 

How's my roommate apartment-mate? She's awesome! Kristina has a very fun and bubbly personality, speaks with a slight Southern twang and is passionate about the Lord. She also walks dogs for a living and hates slimy food (like mushrooms). She has been nothing but welcoming, helpful, and sweet! I feel like we'll be great friends in no time!

As far as my emotions go, everything is still new, exciting, and fun. I haven't felt a bit lonely or homesick. Yet. I have a feeling it's all going to come at once in about a week or two. Pray for me! In my world, when it rains, it pours! But of course, God is with me even in the downpour, so I'll be alright. 

So, I guess this is it - as far as an update goes. More details to follow! Stay tuned.

Dallas, here's to the beginning of many adventures!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Step into my shoes (and my kitchen)

Summer is like that one popular (but obnoxious) relative we all have. When she arrives, she makes a grand entrance and steals the show, but then makes everyone go into hiding due to her overbearing and rude personality. Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but this summer kind of feels like that. It's been in triple digits for the past week here in Sacramento. Stepping outside feels like stepping into a blazing furnace. Let's just say, I thank God every day for the person who was brilliant enough to invent air conditioning.

Anyway... I just want to share a few things from this week...

My goal this month is to cook more and go out less. Partly, this is to prepare myself for independent life in Dallas, and partly because my mom (who normally feeds me) is on vacation and so I'm forced to cook. I consider it a win-win. Something you should know about me is that I actually like to cook. I'm not talking about the kind of cooking that requires following a recipe. I'm talking about the check-whats-in-the-fridge, pinch-of-this-and-pinch-of-that kind of cooking that's creative (and kind of risky). So, this week, I cooked almost every day. Sometimes this cooking was nothing more than making a sandwich or salad, but for all intensive purposes, I call this cooking too!

Here's the story behind each one of my meals:

1. I'm a chicken kind of person. I mean, red meat is good but I try not to eat it very often, let alone cook it. But, I wanted to face my fear of red meat and try cooking it for the first time. After spending at least 15 minutes at the Safeway meat section, I finally settled on buying some premium cut beef (whatever that means). It was already thinly sliced so it was perfect for tacos! I skillet fried the meat, added some spicy taco seasoning, and wrapped it up in warm tortillas with fresh avocado, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cilantro and canned corn! The meat was just a bit too tough but it was still delicious. I made enough for dinner and still had enough left over to bring in to work for my coworkers. Cha-ching!

2. My asiago cheese bagel with turkey, lettuce, avocado, cream cheese and pesto was a simple yet super filling meal. I really love pesto, especially on sandwiches. Making my own pesto is on my cooking bucket list. Anyone have a good recipe?

3. When I went grocery shopping at the beginning of the week (which was super fun!), I bought these great spicy buffalo chicken strips. Tossed in an iceberg lettuce and spinach salad with bell peppers and shredded fermano cheese, the chicken added a great kick. Ranch dressing cooled it down. It was a good combo. I ended up making this salad twice because it was so good!

4. Thanks to the wonderful blog of my friend Olviya (, I got exposed to this great way of eating grapefruit! Broiled! The recipe (which can be found here) is very simple and quick but the results are amazing. Who knew that sprinkling sugar and cinnamon on a half-cut grapefruit and broiling it would make it so delicious?! The picture above is from the first attempt of the recipe at my friend Lilly and Vlad's house... We all loved it! I made this again at my own house and shared a grapefruit with my grandma (who loves grapefruit) and it was a great late-night snack for the both of us. We drizzled honey on the sugar/cinnamon encrusted grapefruit and scooped it out with a spoon. Yum.

5. Stuffed mushrooms are kind of my favorite. I usually just make mine stuffed with cheese, chopped mushroom stems, and salt and pepper, but this time I had spinach and bell peppers in the fridge so I made spinach/bell pepper/cheese stuffed mushrooms. The key is in the cream cheese that binds all the ingredients together. They turned out yummy, although I thought the bell peppers took away from the spinach too much. Next time, I'll pass on the peppers. I brought extras in to work and my coworker loved them so much, she asked for a recipe... Umm, I didn't use a recipe! 

6. I work with this older gentleman named Mike, who is quite the ladies man. He always brings fruit, candy and his homemade food for all the ladies in the office. He loves to make people happy and is genuinely kindhearted and sweet. It was his birthday the other day and we wanted to return the kindness. So, we secretly planned a little potluck and invited him into the meeting room for a "meeting." He was definitely surprised and really appreciated all the attention! It was a success! Of course, the night before the potluck, I came home around midnight without a clue of what I would be bringing. After looking through the cupboards and the fridge, I settled on making a pasta. My grandma had some pretty yellow squash and zucchini in the fridge so I decided to make a yellow squash/zucchini and chicken angel hair pasta. I sliced up the squash and zucchini and fried them in olive oil. After a while, I tasted the veggies. The squash was perfect, but the zucchini skin was too tough. I probably should have peeled it. I ended up picking out all the zucchini and tossing it out. The zucchini idea was a fail, but I still wanted to salvage the dish so I cooked up some more squash, tossed it in with chicken, fresh tomatoes, and marinara sauce and voila! I had a pasta dish ready to go! Granted, it was at 1 a.m., but I did it. I made way too much pasta (I always overdo it on pasta portions!) so I had enough for the potluck and for people to take some home for their families. I think cooking for people is always way more fun than cooking for myself. Even at 1 a.m., feeling incredibly tired, I had fun cooking everything up, experimenting, and improvising. Is it just me, or does cooking give off an adrenaline rush?

7. Wait, there was a #7?! Yeah, (un)fortunately, I don't have a picture of this one. That's because it was gross. I made tilapia fish in a clam chowder sauce and it tasted nasty. Whatever you do, don't add canned clam chowder to perfectly good tilapia fish and try to bake it. It doesn't taste very good. Lesson learned.

Overall, it was a rather successful week staying true to my more-cooking-less-going-out goal. I only went out once - to sushi with my wonderful friend Amanda. I couldn't resist sushi (or hanging out with this beautiful soul sister!)
The name tag is from visiting
Bridegway Church's young adults Tuesday
night service (...which I loved).
In other news, my friend Natalie (who blogs with Olviya on had her baby girl Fiona this week. Isn't she just precious? I can't wait to meet her, and squeeze her little dimpled cheeks! 
Congratulations on your
bundle of joy, Roman and Natalie!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jehovah Jireh

Two years ago, I remember standing at kids camp with armed stretched out and tears rolling down my face as I cried out to God, "Lord, be my Provider." I had recently graduated from college, quit my dead-end job and for the first time since age 16, I was broke and unemployed. It was a difficult season in my life and I was desperate for God. I was doing everything I possibly could to find a new job but I wasn't going anywhere. I needed God to step in.

A rendering of the hospital my company in building in midtown.
Three (long) months after that day, I was sitting behind a computer desk at my current job. Not only did God come through as my Provider, but He exceeded all my expectations. God supplied me with all the things I ever wanted in a job... Being able to write creatively? Check. Work independently? Check. Good pay? Check. Vacation and benefits? Check. All-expense-paid travel? Check. What about a Christian boss? Yep, that's a check too! It was almost too good to be true. And yet, it was true; but only because this job was given to me directly by the Lord. And I knew it. There's no way my interview skills were that stellar, or my background and education that phenomenal. This was all God. There's no shadow of a doubt about it.

View of downtown Sacramento from the hospital rooftop
Because I love what I do and the company that I work for, you can imagine how sad I felt about leaving my job to move to Dallas (in 51 days - but who's counting?). So, before I made the bold step of telling my company that I'm leaving, I made an even bolder step. I asked my boss if I could stay with the company, but work part-time and remotely from Dallas. It was a wild proposition. I doubted they'd take the bite, but, I was willing to risk it. And so I did. Breaking the news to the boss went well (or so I thought), and for the next three weeks I didn't hear back anything. I was simply told that management was considering my proposition.

Again, I looked to my Jehovah Jireh, and asked him to be my Provider. He was faithful to His name before and I knew He would be faithful again. Just as God provided the ram for the sacrifice in place of Isaac for Abraham, I rested on the promise that He would provide for me. He was, in fact, Jehovah Jireh.
"And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-Jireh. As it is said to this day, In the mount of Jehovah it shall be provided." (Genesis 22:14)
Yesterday, I came in to work to find the red light of my answering machine blinking. It was wonderful news! The company had OKed my proposition, and they were even giving me an intern to help me do my job well remotely. I was ecstatic! Immediately, the verse in Matthew 6:33 came to mind, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Over and over, God continues to show me His faithfulness and His provision. Praise the Lord!

This whole experience also brings to mind a beautiful old hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness. Enjoy the music here, and be encouraged by the lyrics:

"Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!“
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!