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I love life! I love the multifaceted things about it and about God.  I love to enjoy each day to it's fullest. I love my boys and I love change!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

"So would you want to marry me then?" (Part 5)

Back in the USA! We were so happy to be back!  We loved our experience in China, and it gave us a new appreciation for America as well.

It was time for our graduation from Youth With a Mission, we did it!  Now we could have guy/girl relationships! ;) And of course had an incredible mind blowing time of getting closer to God (that's another story).  So it was either the evening or the next day after graduation, Ruslan and I took a little walk together ALONE on the base.  We stopped and sat on a brick wall and Ruslan wanted to tell me that he was very serious about our relationship and that he was definitely at the point of not pursuing any other girl, he had only desire for me (blush :)).  Now this is the embarrassing part, like I mentioned before I still dealt a lot with fear of making mistakes and fear of rejection, so I needed to be 100% sure this was the right thing to do.  That being said,  I listened to what he said, and felt so touched and excited, yet still a lot afraid, because I knew how serious he was, and this was the real deal.  So I responded:
"I really like you too and I definitely want to get to know you more and see where this will lead.  I don't know if I can promise the same to you yet (sweating inside)???  I need to see where this goes."
As perfectly calm as he was the first time, he very cooly replied,
"Well, I need an answer from you by tomorrow.  Because I am not waiting around while you decide, again."
I totally understood, and felt really embarrassed, nervous, even a little angry that he would request that of me, and confused all at the same time.  We said goodnight and I went back to my room.  I prayed and cried, and sought God's advice, and realized this guy is very patient with me.  I better not be stupid a second time around! There was no way I was losing him again. "So fear you better shut up!"





Jessica and Jessica, it was a great night of missions, a lot of fun
The next morning I was antsy and ready to tell Ruslan the good news! I was in!  I found him quickly and told him I was in and I wanted us to pursue this relationship.  He was of course, relieved and we talked about some details of our next steps.  He told me that he was considering whether or not to go back home to Lithuania for a while, or go livc with his uncle in Sacramento, of course I was rooting for Sacramento.  I told him of my plans to do the extended night of missions where we would travel around the west coast to different churches and do evangelism and prayer.  Which would be in the following 2 weeks, lasting for about 4 weeks. 

Ruslan fasted and prayed and really struggled with what to do, but he finally felt the Lord leading him to Sacramento (Praise God!) and I felt that I was to go home for a couple months, after the night of missions and possibly come back to YWAM in April to do the leadership school, in 1999.  We decided we would correspond via snail mail and when possible, phone.  It was a stretching time for me to be away from him for so long, but also good to realize even more how much I cared for him.  I even did a little test, in my heart with the Lord.  We were taking a little hike with the team on night of missions and I lost my bracelet from Ruslan that he had given me ( a homemade leather strap with beads that he had given to me for fun, earlier), and I was worried that it was a "sign,"(yes I was a little too superstitious in my religious thinking)  that maybe I wasn't supposed to be with him.  I started feeling sad and worried that I might have to let go, or break off the relationship, I was going through all of this in my head as we walked.  On the way back from the hike, I was asking the Lord if Ruslan was the one for me,  and told him that I was willing to lay down my heart desires if it wasn't from God, and literally at the same moment, I happened to look down, and right in front of me lay the bracelet!  I took it as a confirmation!

In December I ended up staying in Eugene, Oregon with my awesome siblings, Autumn and Doug for a while and then Josh and Karen.  Ruslan decided he wanted to take a bus to come and see me and we would travel to Cedarville,Ca together to visit my hometown. Once we arrived in Cedarville it was Christmas eve and we went to eat at our local restaurant, The Country Hearth (where I used to work), Ruslan bought me a nice dinner and for some reason my stomach was so nervous.  We ended up talking about our desires and possible future together, and we both agreed that we would want to get married someday, so at that point that was when he said, "So would you want to marry me then?" 
"Yes, I would." I couldn't contain my smile from ear to ear.
He asked me if in my culture we do the ring at the engagement?  I didn't want to make him feel bad, but I told him yes, usually you have a ring at the "engagement asking," he apologized for not having one but promised, he would get right on that. :)
Funny thing is my sister Sarah was our server that night, so when she returned to check our drink levels, she was the first person to find out we were engaged!!!

Does he look a little nervous surrounded by the Rivas family?

This was on the way to Cedarville from Eugene


We walked home floating on air, the stars were shining extra bright and the freezing cold wind was music in my ears, I still couldn't believe I was going to marry this man.  When we got home that night I immediately told mom, and she was so excited for us.  She immediately went into her room and got out her journal from 8 months earlier, and showed me the day the Lord spoke to her, that Ruslan would be my future husband. I was so ecstatic, this was a dream come true.  Both Ruslan and I were shocked at Mom's journal but also very thankful for such a confirmation of this next HUGE step.

This is the end of our "meeting love story" but of course there is so much more that has come of this love in the last 13 and a half years, through good times and some very bad times, I think I will have to continue this story some day, for you to see, what happens after the perfect love story becomes some of your greatest challenges? And how we got through.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hope For Ruslan and Jessica Part 4

There were definitely times we connected on a fun level, but I never knew if Ruslan could tell how much I liked him now, because he was really good at completely HIDING his feelings, IF he had any for me??? We played a lot of volleyball on teams, Jeni and I hung out a lot at the pool with Ruslan and sometimes others too. Jeni and I attempted pushing him in, and found ourselves both in the pool and Ruslan with a hurt thumb or something. I pretty much always tried to be near him whether he realized or not, I didn't care, I just really liked being around him. I was always so interested to see when God was touching Ruslan or speaking something to him through different speakers who came to our school I wanted to know God's heart for him too. I was once again even more impressed with this powerful man of God. He was also an excellent speaker. We did this project where we were supposed to write about a characteristic of God, funny, loving, joyful , etc...and then share our insights with the class. We pretty much all felt shamed by our presentation compared to Ruslan's, he had a natural talent for speaking, I was so proud.



Also some really revealing shallowness on my behalf, I remember watching him play basketball for the first time and being unimpressed, and that was one of the first months of knowing him. I hadn't seen anything else yet, but I do remember wondering if I could like someone who wasn't good at sports, haha! (I hadn't seen him play soccer yet) Yes I had some vanity, big time! Thankfully God started revealing to me more of what really mattered.



Finally! It was a week before leaving for our outreach to China and all of our money had come in, which we were doubtful would happen. But miraculously both Ruslan and I received the rest of our money anonymously, and unexpectedly myself, from my Great Grandfather Poppy, whom I don't even think really supported the whole idea of what I was doing...but I knew he did love me, God is good.

I felt released to give Ruslan ANOTHER letter...DONT WORRY!, not a stomp on your heart type of letter, but a letter asking if we could at least still continue getting to know each other as friends and not lose that, which was really valuable to me. I also apologized for hurting him, and said some other stuff. I took the letter to him and asked if I could talk to him. This time I literally read it out loud to him telling him it was easier for me to read the letter so I wouldn't forget anything I wanted to say. I was really nervous and felt kinda cheesy, but I kept reading. I finished it up, and asked,

“So, do you think we could at least be friends?”

Not surprising, he basically said, “Sure.” and walked away.

I know I probably deserved that. But hey there was HOPE!.. I think.



The next week we left for China, Ruslan got stopped in Canada with visa/passport issues again, and he had to fly alone separate from the team, because he actually had to take a different airline. I was so bummed to be flying with out him, (he wouldn't arrive til late after us). I had already concocted a plan how to sit next to him on the plane, darn it!

You can see why sometimes asians would come up to me and start speaking to me wondering why I couldn't understand them! :) I guess I did kinda blend in


The next morning after we arrived in Hong Kong, I woke up and came out of my room anticipating Ruslan's arrival. As I was walking down the hallway I saw his shoes in front of the guys room, I could feel my heart flutter! “Oh, Lord, I so want this to work out?!!”



The first week there were a lot of emotions through out the whole team, people feeling culture shock, issues that weren't discussed with each other back at the base, team mates getting annoyed with each other, missing home, tired of eating peanut butter and jelly toast for every breakfast, 99% humidity and about 90 degrees, (I had NEVER experienced such sweating in my life!) yet still the excitement of being in a different country and bringing the Lord's presence. I remember crying one day in my room on the bunk bed, feeling like it was so hopeless with Ruslan seeing how he still gave so much attention to Jeni and wondering if he had deeper feelings for her. I felt like he WASN'T acting any different towards me, even after the note.



train corridor
We thankfully got to take a 30 hour train ride, I say thankfully because of what transpired. As I mentioned before no exclusive guy/girl relationships, so that also meant no alone time together. Well Ruslan was sitting at a table in the corridor of the train and there was enough space from the open bunks and train sounds that I could sit by him in the open and actually have some privacy. We ended up talking for about 6-7 hours straight! I was able to be totally honest with my whole summer process, and why the note, and where I was at now, how difficult it was to wait and trust God, and how much I was interested in him now. He also shared his side of things and that he did STILL have feelings for me, and that he had chosen to completely lay me down and had asked God to take away all feelings for me so he wouldn't be suffering throughout the school having hope for something he thought was completely dead. We shared our perspective on different incidents, I asked if he did like Jeni (I had to cover all the ground!), it was amazing! I felt like my heart came back to life! I was so excited and couldn't contain my smile from ear to ear.



Suffice to say, the next 4-6 weeks in China were pure bliss! It didn't matter that our bus broke down on our drive to the great wall, and that 8 of us had to push it, it didn't matter that Mcdonalds was like the best treat we could eat because of being so tired of chinese food, it didn't matter that one of our hotels was so bad we found toe nail clippings all over our half brown stained carpet that would become infested with cockroaches once the lights were out, it didn't matter that the guys stayed in the basement of the hotel with multiple other strange room mates,... Ruslan had feelings for ME!!! And he was starting to show them. Thankfully our hotels did get increasingly better as we traveled on. We had so much fun on this adventure together getting to know each other more knowing there was hope for our future...together. We did get talked to a couple times by the leaders, saying we were being a little too exclusive. We continued writing a couple letters back and forth through out that time as well. He even bought me a Mcdonald's ice cream one day, I had no money at that point so that was awesome! He knew the way to my heart, ice cream.



Mcdonalds!!!
Ruslan standing by ME!!! :)
To be continued...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Summer Time Blues (still no Ruslan connection) Part 3

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My Future Hot Russian, with a Sambrero, life guarding during the summer camps




Mom and My brother Ishmael, it was so good to see everyone
During the summer we got to be camp counselors for junior high students from neighboring cities.  It was a lot of fun, but still hard to not be as close to Ruslan as I wished I could be.  I called home a couple of times talking to my mom about the difficulties I was having with Ruslan.  My Mom would very kindly listen and encourage me as best she could with out ever giving even the smallest hint of her insight from the Lord. She told me later that she was starting to question, if she truly had heard the Lord, it wasn’t looking too promising??
There's Faithy Lu (my sister) right beside me on the right

I was so happy to get some of my siblings and youth group come during that time as well, it was a great distraction and so good to see my home folk.  I even got to be with my sister Faith in the same group, that was a treat.  One night we were talking about my experiences and I shared a lot about what was going on (or NOT going on) with Ruslan and I.  Also I was asking if she remembered a couple months before coming to YWAM when I prayed one night:
 “Lord I ask you to bless my future husband, bless his sleep…oh wait, maybe he’s awake right now (time difference in other countries)? Father I ask you to bless his day if he’s awake right now.”
Faith totally remembered it as well, and thought it pretty coincidental. But of course I didn’t want to over spiritualize anything if it wasn’t meant to be.  I told her how I was still so confused and didn’t know for sure if he was the one, and that I didn’t know if it was time to tell him anything differently yet?  Having met him in our hometown in Cedarville, Faith challenged me,
“Well if you aren’t sure, then I’ll marry him.” 
Without a pause, I just blurted out, “NO!” 
She then confidently replied, “you really like him.” 
Little stinker, she got me there.  I did really like him. 
He looked so cute during the summer too, all tan and blonde streaked hair, I was worried other girls were going to fall for him too, with all these new girls coming in for camps and counselors.  And as a matter of fact there was a girl who found him attractive and wanted him to come see her while he was in Sacramento visiting his uncle!  Thankfully he wasn’t interested in her that way.  I definitely had to give it back to God MANY MANY times, worrying more and more that He would never give me another chance.

We also did something called a “Gauntlet” and we were welcoming in a whole new summer team called “Summer of Service (S.O.S.),” more girls too, yes I was often worried he might fall for someone else.  We did one competition where each team of about 5-7 team mates were to follow these orange flag markers on a journey up a mountain.  I was the second team to leave and Ruslan was the first and I tried VERY hard to either stay with him or beat him, and I was a little impatient with my team, who didn’t have the same goal as me, haha.  Sorry team mates.  Nikki probably knew my goal because she was my room mate and I shared some of my struggles with her, she knew I liked Ruslan.
My cutie patooty sister Leah!

It was really neat because we also got a new team mate named Nadia, who was Ukranian and so I grilled her on her impressions of Ruslan, whether he seemed like a quality guy or not, knowing the culture etc…(I was just doing my homework, this is husband stuff, no small thing.)  And I completely remember her telling me one day, after being there for a couple weeks; 
“Ruslan is probably one of the nicest Russians I have ever met, he is so sincere, polite, funny, and such a kind man.”
Thank you Nadia for spying him out for me, hehe.  I knew it! Now if I only I can turn his affections back to me???

One of our teachers during the Discipleship Training School (DTS) was Bill Johnson! I think it was during his teaching that I got seriously rocked by God!  I was feeling His presence so intensely and crying and crying, and I remember thinking it’s a good thing Ruslan is seeing me like this now, cuz atleast he will know the full package he is getting, cuz I am pretty crazy about God!  Also during JerryPraetzel, a very vulnerable heart wrenching experience, where the Holy Spirit basically unravels wounds from the past to shine in light and truth and heal deep root issues.  I thought,
“this is the perfect place to meet your future husband because we get to see all sides of each other!”

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Crush grows stronger, Ruslan and Jessica (Part 2)


Our Team at another orphanage being built

Our awesome hippy skirts and t-shirt ensemble


So I went to my leader and asked for advice, I told her that I liked Ruslan as a friend and wanted to get to know him more, but that I didn’t want to confuse him or lead him on, cuz what if he wasn’t “the one”( I was a bit afraid of making a mistake – I wanted God to tell me what to do, I didn't know if I could trust my heart?).  I loved hanging out with him, but it was now confirmed that he did like me more than a friend, so I didn’t want to lead him on, but I didn’t want to stop getting closer to him.  I didn’t know the future, so I wanted to keep moving forward but I was confused, I felt afraid that I might hurt him if he didn’t turn out to be the one I married.   My leader strongly suggested that I needed to close any doors of "false hope" for Ruslan so I wouldn't be falsely leading him on.  I decided I would write him a letter to clarify things.  At first I wrote that I really liked him as a friend, and that I wanted to continue to get to know him and just see what the future had in store.  I gave the letter to my leader to see if it was clear enough.  She read the letter and said, it left too much of an open door, I needed to make it very clear (She was a VERY sweet leader, but I think maybe she had a few fears herself about relationships not wanting people to get hurt as well). So I rewrote that part and basically said "you are great I like you a lot, but I NEVER see us together in the future." (Ouch! I know ) You would think he would have given up on me forever at that point, well he almost did.  I  thought I had lost my chance “forever” (there’s that dumb word again, that almost ruined my chance with him sheesh)! 
Basically I gave him the note and the next time I saw him he didn’t look happy, I said hi in passing on the sidewalk and he didn’t even answer, my heart just plopped into my shoes.  I felt a little sick to my stomach, what had I done???  I felt horrible.

Well as you can imagine he was devastated, especially cuz my actions showed more interest than that. I was a bit confused myself.  The weeks passed with a lot of turmoil inside, for me, and questions to God.  I tried to still be friendly with Ruslan but he was very emotionless with me and I felt like he was only being cordial.  One thing I noticed right away, was he really did choose to stop caring completely about anything I thought of him; ironically this revealed another side to him I hadn’t seen yet.  He was so much more relaxed and funny he wasn’t at all nervous or trying to act his “best,” which of course, I found even more attractive, this new confidence.  I could tell I was really frustrating him as I continued to be friendly with him, because come to find out he was thinking:
“Why in the world is she now acting like she cares about me when she made it extremely clear that she NEVER sees us together in the future?!”  
So he continued through out the next few months to practically ignore me unless I approached him, and I had a really great friend who I had gotten really close to named Jeni, and the three of us would often hang out, but Ruslan would always give her ALL the attention it was really starting to get to me. 
“Lord, did I truly ruin my chance of ever having anything with this guy?  Is he falling for my friend now?  Were his feelings for me no big deal, and now he ALREADY likes someone else, who is the complete OPPOSITE of me!??”
I had many nights crying out to God asking if I could talk to Ruslan about my growing feelings and yet, I never felt that would help anything except for him to think I was not sincere, or had no idea what I wanted, or was just playing with his heart.  So I kept praying and giving it back to God asking Him to give me another chance to make things right, so that maybe someday we could see if we were meant to be together.

Our team of 17, traveled to Mexico, Vicente Guerrero, together on an outreach and had such a great time, once again I was in the van sitting next to Ruslan having so much more of a crush on him by now.  Seeing his very playful side telling stories of his life growing up and making jokes with the team mates.  I also saw that competitive side come out again when we played volleyball together one evening at the Los Angeles YWAM base, enroute to Mexico.  He was getting pretty visibly angry as he spiked the volleyball at me on the opposing team as they were beginning to lose.  I knew the frustration had a little more to do with than volleyball. 
In Mexico I watched what a really hard worker he was and what a great attitude he had about hard work and serving others, I was even more impressed.  We also went on one outreach to some poor children who had almost no food and we gave them, as a treat, a spoonful of peanut butter and a cup of powdered milk, I held the huge peanut butter canister and Ruslan dug it out by the spoonfuls.  I was wondering how silly he must have thought I looked in my mandatory hippy skirt, t-shirt and tennis shoes.  We were to dress as modest as possible, no tank-tops, no jeans or shorts, they needed to be long dresses or skirts.  I thought it was so funny how much he hated getting “dirty” he couldn’t stand all the dirt in Mexico, and yet, he ended up digging a well in a huge pit of dirt for an orphanage and shoveling huge piles of dirt to bring to other locations, and he still was hardly ever complaining.  I also loved how his hair would get so full of dust it became wiry and would stick up all over the place.  

My future husband working hard ;)
There's me in the back with Ruslan!

Ruslan cracking up some team mates
Peanut butter delight! :)

Well digging

  

Yes I was absolutely falling for him.  I thought it wasn’t that obvious but judging by the comments from the team members later, they said that they always joked about the growing relationship between Ruslan and I, that we both thought wasn’t so obvious, haha, love is blind is guess.

more to come...

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