We are rapidly approaching our one year anniversary of life here in Ukraine.
Has it already been one year? Has it been only one year????
So much has happened in this past year it feels like a million lifetimes have passed since we touched down in Kyiv that cold November night.
Before we moved we’d been warned by other missionaries and in missionary books and missionary blogs that the first year overseas is a beast. We tried to prepare ourselves for that, but how can you really prepare, emotionally and spiritually, to leave everything you have ever known and held dear- and start over? How can you prepare to go from being a pretty smart person to feeling pretty much dumb pretty much all the time? How can you prepare for what it will be like to watch your children hurt and struggle and feel lonely? How can you prepare to go from being a vital part of a vibrant community of like-minded people to living on the fringes of society?
You just can’t. You can try, but you just can’t be prepared. You just have to jump and trust that your loving Father will catch you.
This first year has been the hardest time of our lives. It has stretched us and jostled us and turned us upside down.
How can you prepare to have your heart invaded by 80 boys tucked away in the middle of nowhere? How can you prepare for the joy of knowing young men and women with special needs who can light up the room with a single smile? How can you prepare to watch God fling open doors that have been shut for years? How can you prepare to feel the absolute smile of God and joy of the Father as you walk right down the center of His will? How can you prepare to watch young men and women loving your children with utter abandonment?
You just can’t. You can try, but you just can’t be prepared. These things are what you experience in that catch of the Father.
My heart came to a new place this past week. I was washing the dishes and thinking about our upcoming Ukraine-iversary, and I realized that I’m good. I’m okay. We will most likely live here for a very long time, and I’m okay with it. When we moved here we sold everything except what we packed in our 12 suitcases (and a couple tubs in storage). We came here with the mindset that this is our new home until God says otherwise. We knew then that if we came for a set amount of time we would forever be looking at that deadline and we wouldn’t settle in for the long-haul. We know that about ourselves.
I can’t know the heart of God, and His ways are higher than mine. Maybe He’ll have us leave here next month, but I highly doubt it. I can’t say I know the future, but I can say that the dreams God gave us are big HUGE dreams that are going to take a loooooooong time. So, as things stand now, I expect us to live in Ukraine for many, many years.
We are here for the long-haul, and I’m good. I’m sad, but I’m good. Thinking about the long-haul a few months ago only made me cry. I’ll be honest. Now it makes me cry and it makes me smile. It makes me cry because I miss my family and my friends across the ocean. I saw pictures of a bunch of my family all together last weekend and I bawled my eyes out. I should be there with them. How can I not be there with them? How can we raise our children so far away from family? How can we bear all the missed holidays, all the missed birthdays, all the joys of daily life? Christmas is coming. How will we bear it? I don’t know and I don’t even want to think about it. I guess I have to trust that God will catch us then too. It’s so hard, but we just have to trust Him that He will fill those empty places- for us and our family in the US. That part is incredibly hard. I can’t even tell you how hard.
The long-haul also makes me smile. It makes me smile because of our dear ones here. How could we ever leave our Boys???? How??? How could we leave and not be a part of their lives? How could we walk away and not know what happened to them, where they lived out their days? How could we stop fighting for them? And what about our young adults with special needs? We love them! How could we leave? And what about all our friends? Our church? Leaving here would be just as devastating as it was to leave Salem. I’ll even dare to say it would be more devastating deep down, simply because our loved ones in America are daily loved and care for by many, but our Boys are not.
Sigh. There just aren’t any simple fixes. It’s just painful and joyful and trustful and tearful. All we can do is trust and keep hold of the hand of our Father.
So, I’m in a new place. I’m in a place of seeing the long road stretched out before me and feeling okay with walking in that direction for many more years. There will be plenty of tears and joys along the way, I’m sure of that. But oh the peace that comes from saying YES to Jesus- one step at a time. There’s just nothing like it.