Should I start vlogging again?

This is a bit of a rhetorical question… I already know the answer, because my wife told me: David, you should do it!

I got out of the habit of vlogging about our shortfilm, because the process started to slow down with the milestones that I wanted to feature on the vlog. We are still making great progress, and I’m proud of where we are; however, things are going slower than a “video-topic-per-week” speed right now.

One of the things I noticed, though, is that the videos I made about filmmaking only have about 40-50 views, while the videos that I made about being a missionary in Ukraine have between 100 and 300 views.

I think that means that I should probably change the focus of the vlog and stick vlogging about missionary life and include filmmaking in there rather than focus on filmmaking and stick life in there.

So, what do you think? Are you interested in bi-weekly videos about missionary life in Lviv, Ukraine?

How do you deal with disappointment?

EDIT: God did a miracle! Katya got a text last night that her passport was ready and that we could pick it up this morning. God is good! We’re going! Praise the Lord!

We just had a disappointing situation with a retreat that we were supposed to fly to tomorrow morning (January 5th, 2018) in Croatia.

And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.

1 Samuel 30:6

This retreat was a big part of my vision for 2018, but God took it away. I’m choosing to encourage myself in God. Let’s talk about what that looks like.

We bought the tickets, applied for visas, and applied for a new passport for Katya with expedited service back in November. The visas didn’t work out, though, because we found out that Katya would actually need to apply for two different visa’s, one for Poland, which is part of the Schengen Area, and one for Croatia, which is not. (The Schengen Area is a bunch of countries with the same visa agreement in the E.U.)

We thought everything would be fine, because we applied for her new biometric passport in time with expedited service, so we should’ve gotten it before “Catholic Christmas” (December 25th… The “normal” Christmas here in Ukraine is January 7th.)

We waited, checked the status online continually, and never heard anything. We wrote an official complaint, and the officer Katya talked to said that it might be in this week. Well, we went to the office today (like I said, we were supposed to fly tomorrow morning), and they said that her passport wouldn’t be here until about a week and a half from now.

We’re pretty disappointed, but this would be much harder if we weren’t going through a season where God has repeatedly shown us that “His ways are higher than our ways” (Isaiah 55:8-9). I, in particular, love to control; I love to have a concrete plan for where we’re going and how we’ll get there with things I care about. God has been teaching me in these past few weeks that His plans are better than mine and that I should trust Him, even if my plans fail. That’s how I encourage myself in the Lord: I remind myself of His character and His gracious love for me in Christ.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

He really does have a plan! If that’s true, then it doesn’t matter that we don’t get to go to the retreat. It doesn’t matter that the tickets were non-refundable. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know what to do with the next two weeks, because I was supposed to be out of the country. God. has. a. plan. Period.

The verse above (1 Samuel 30:6) talks about how David encouraged himself in the Lord. It’s part of a really cool story where David tried to do something, was shut down, went home to a disaster, found strength in God, and was able to praise God at the end when God saved his whole family and his men. If you’re getting discouraged because some plans of yours failed, go and read 1 Sam 29-30.

P.S. – I’m not trying to sound spiritual with this blog post… I’m processing this through writing and reminding myself of these truths, hoping that others will be encouraged along the way.

When can you drink eggnog?

I (David) was asked to speak this past week about the meaning of Christmas at an English club. I got to talk about my family’s traditions around the holiday season and about what I believe Christmas means for all of us. I started out with talking about how I’m from Texas, which is only one of fifty states. There are so many different Christmas traditions in the U.S. (talk about yours in the comments below!), that I couldn’t begin to expound on all of them, much less pretend to be a representative of what “most Americans do” between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day.

I don’t think that our family’s traditions were much different, though, than what you see in movies about American family Christmases. We had stockings on the mantle (which we opened on Christmas Eve), presents around a tree, drove around singing Christmas carols while looking at lit-up houses (are we the only ones that did that?), and had a big meal on Christmas Eve / Day, depending on when the family could all be over.

One of my family’s old traditions centered around eggnog (or “egg nog”, if you like). We weren’t allowed to even open the bottle of eggnog until Thanksgiving Day, which was really, really hard for me, because the mighty nog was my favorite drink growing up. I could down a half-gallon in a day or two. Thanksgiving was also the official start of the Christmas season. We didn’t go “black Friday” shopping every year, though. I don’t think many of us enjoyed that too much.

I also got to share about why we give gifts on Christmas. It’s not just an “eating holiday” or a “seeing family holiday”. Why? Because God first gave us a gift: Jesus. Jesus Christ is God’s gift to us. I shared about how we normally read from Luke about the nativity or another passage.

Since moving here to Ukraine, it’s been harder to keep up some of those traditions. Things like that are meant to be done with other people that also sense the meaning of the traditions. I do enjoy my in-law’s traditions, but there is a sense of “I’m not home” sometimes during the holidays. I miss riding around singing carols, seeing the extended family, rushing downstairs on Christmas morning only to be told that mom and dad hadn’t gotten up yet and that we needed to wait to open all of the presents.

I’m still able to have my eggnog, though! I found a recipe on Allrecipes.com that does the trick. I don’t put the rum in, but I keep everything else pretty much according to the recipe, adding a little more cream, because I like it thick!

Here’s a link to the recipe. It’s called “Amazingly Good Eggnog”, which is a fitting title, I think. I have some chilling in the refrigerator right now, waiting for us to share it with our friends at our youth group new year celebration tomorrow.

So, what does Christmas mean for you? What odd and interesting traditions do you have?

(Here are some pictures of us on Christmas!)

 

David acted in a video for PromoRepublic!

One of the things that I’m privileged to do here in Ukraine to better my contacts in the film industry and gain more experience as a director is acting in local ad’s for startups. I haven’t done it very much, but I’ve already been in three different videos. Here’s the most recent one and probably the one I had the most fun with:

The company that produced this clip is Perfectionist.video

Christmas Cards for Soldiers

Our church just wrapped up a really cool project to bless the soldiers that are defending Ukraine in the East right now. (BTW – please pray for them! This war is far from over!) We sent them several pounds of dried fruits and Christmas cards from our children’s ministry, a local Christian school, and from individuals in the church. Here are a couple of pictures of the stuff we sent them:

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Katya has been getting better and better at watercolor painting lately, and she decided to make several cards for the soldiers herself. I’m so proud of her! Here are a couple more pictures of her work:

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Please keep praying for Ukraine and for the war in the East!

The Importance of Application

The leadership team from our church and I went to the Global Leadership Summit this week. We had an amazing time. There were lectures from Juliet Funt (from WhiteSpace at Work), Laszlo Bock (former Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, co-founder of Humu), Fredrik Härén (author of The Idea Book), Angela Duckworth (Professor at the University of Pennsylvania), and Gary Haugen (CEO of the International Justice Mission), among others.

It was an excellent opportunity to reconnect with leaders in other organizations, companies, and churches. I was even able to introduce one of my friends, Zoryan Hudziy, the CEO and co-founder of InVeritaSoft, to Lilya, a 14-year-old girl from our youth group, who wants to someday own her own business.

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The folks from our church that went to the conference. Lilya is the girl to the left of Katya.

The lectures were amazing. In the two-day summit, we received so much information that it’s a bit of a blur as to which lecture happened on what day. This leads me to the question: What should I do with all of this information? If we do not apply the principles we learn at conferences to ourselves and our organizations, the money we spend on registration and the time it takes to go is a waste!

Anatoliy Sapsai, a local leadership expert that works with Innovista, reminded me on the drive back from the conference that approximately 90% of the people that were there will make virtually no application from the things they learned. For one thing, there was so much information, that it was often hard to keep up; however, that is not the only factor. We also simply have a tendency as human beings to hear something, agree, and just walk away and forget. James in the Bible even warns us about this:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Jamess 1:22-25 ESV

This is a problem that predates leadership conferences, that is for sure.

So, how do we break this cycle? How do we actually make use of the information that we learn at conferences, at leadership summits, or even just at church or in our daily devotions when God shows us that we need to do something? The answer: application.

Application

I like to define the process of application as three things: learning well, planning well, and executing well (which is the hardest part). This is why I actually come with two different notebooks when I go to a conference or summit. The first notebook is a knockoff of a Moleskine classic notebook. I love Moleskine notebooks, but they are even more expensive here than they are in the States, so my wife usually buys the much cheaper versions. I use that notebook to just take general notes and use as my prayer journal. I have a stack of them about a foot high at home that I can look through to see what prayer needs I had, sermons I listened to, and where I was over the past few years.

Learning Well

This first notebook helps me to learn well. I don’t remember what study it was that “proved” such a thing, but even just my own experience shows me that, when I take notes while listening to something, I retain the information and even understand it better than when I just sit and listen. We as human beings need some form of engagement in the learning process, and, for me, that at least requires me to be taking notes.

Here’s a quick link for that Moleskine note book. These are affiliate links, so a portion of the sales price goes to support our family and ministry.

Moleskine Classic Notebook, Large, Ruled, Black, Hard Cover (5 x 8.25) (Classic Notebooks)

Planning Well

This is the part that James in his epistle leaves out, but I think it’s implied. This is why I have my second notebook, which is much simpler. It’s a spiral-bound, graph-ruled notebook. I use this notebook almost exclusively as a to-do list. Here is a picture of one of the pages that I wrote notes on after the conference:

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In addition to the pages upon pages of general notes I took in my “almost Moleskine”, I wrote down three full pages of notes like this of things that I can do to apply what I heard in the lectures.

Someone might say, “Well – there you go! You planned.” I don’t think so, though. I have it on my schedule this week to go through this list and pick the most important things on the list to do, either personally or as a leadership team. Why only the most important things? It’s because of the 80-20 rule. The top 20% of things on the list will give me top 80% results.

Execution

Here’s the hardest part. I don’t think it’s just hard for me, but for everyone. This is what James was talking about in the end – be doers of the Word! Execute! This is why I’m thankful for tools like smartphones and Google Calendar. Life has been going at a furious pace this year, and I have started to plan my schedule for daily activities up to a month in advance, thanks to having these tools.

Since I began this practice of having two notebooks and planning out my time in advance, I’ve become much, much better at executing the things that I’ve planned. Although just sticking something on my calendar doesn’t guarantee that it will get done, planning a specific time to do something makes it much more likely that it will get done. The most precious resource we have is time, as Moses wrote:

So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

One of the things that helps me to actually get the things done that I schedule is not overloading myself. This is why it’s so important to pick only the most important things on that list. Also, I try to be intentional with planning areas in my life other than work and ministry. I try to plan in time to rest, time to do family stuff, time to go on a weekly date with Katya, and time to pray and read my Bible. We live in such a fast-paced world that, if we do not plan these things, we are asking for our spiritual and family lives to fall apart.

It’s as Benjamin Franklin said:

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

Please pray for wisdom for us. Pray for us to execute the things that we learned from this conference, so that we can grow individually and as a church team.

Pictures from Missions Trip (Novhorod, Nov 2017)

We had an amazing trip to Novhorod-Siversky. Here is what Anastasia, the local coordinator, wrote to us after we left:

Hey, guys! I wanted to tell you about what happened “behind the scenes” while you were here.

My boss at the hospital (Anastasia is a surgeon there), is a strong atheist. When he heard that you all traveled here to do concerts for the youth, he said, “Wow – your friends are amazing.” It doesn’t make any sense to him that friendship can be so strong and sacrificial.

The security guard who locked the doors for us after one of the youth groups was so shocked that we left everything clean, cleaned up their equipment, and didn’t steal or break anything, that he told the guard at the next shift, saying that he’d never seen anything like it.

The pastor of the local church never hugs anyone, especially girls. I was amazed at how strong and naturally he hugged David, Alex, and even Sophia and Oksana while you were leaving.

Grandma (the pastor’s mother-in-law, who is well over 80) and the pastor were literally glowing when you came over for dinner on Friday. It’s been a long time since grandma was that happy. She has been weak for the past few weeks, but she was running around and even dancing like a little girl.

My landlord said that the girls that stayed with me were great. They didn’t make any messes, didn’t invite boys over, didn’t burn the place down… Haha!

Two of the girls at youth group are just on fire with the idea of continuing youth group with me. What’s even better is the pastor is trusting me to lead it! He is even letting us play games before worship and the Word! He will even be there to support us!

You guys may not be able to see the difference before and after the trip; however, I feel a huge difference between before and after the trip. You brought a lot of new light into the city (the concert was called “Turn on the lights!”). Thank you all for being a part of it! You are all very close to my heart!

Here are some pictures from the different outreaches we did:

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Road trip! After taking the train from Lviv to Kyiv, we drove from there in the Kyiv church’s van to Novhorod-Siversky.

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We ate dinner together at the church once we got there with a couple of women from the church.

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Band practice!

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Concert #1 – That was so much fun!

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I (David) got to preach at the concert with Anastasia translating.

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Youth group on Wednesday with Volodia (on the far left) teaching.

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Games at youth group!

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Playing worship at youth group.

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Group picture!

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Praying at another youth group on Thursday afternoon.

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Concert #2 on Thursday evening. That was the most fun!

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I played a song specifically for the soldiers in the east right now, and I was shocked that one actually came to the concert. He thanked me for the song, and I thanked him for his service.

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My friend, Conor, an American missionary that pastors a church in Chernihiv, preached the Gospel on Thursday at the concert.

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Having dinner with the pastor and his family.

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The man that has his face covered was the security guard from the hall where we had the concert the previous day. He told us that he was amazed that we left the place clean, didn’t steal anything, and even cleaned up the cables that someone had left before us.

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Friday youth group! Alexander, Conor’s assistant from Chernihiv, preached the Gospel there.

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Dancing and playing games at youth group.

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A funny picture of Sophia, the drummer / singer from our band. Sophia – you know I had to put this one in there! 😀