How to begin? We head back to Ukraine in 12 days. What the what??????
My last blog post was June 3rd. I have known I needed to write, but it felt like there was too much in there to adequately put into words. Also, I realized that at some point over the past couple of years I started censoring myself. I’m not sure exactly why. I think a big reason is because the more I grew to know and love our Ukrainian friends in Zhytomyr, and the more time we spent away from our beloved friends and family in the US, the more I have wanted to make sure nothing I say is misinterpreted by anyone on either side of the ocean.
That’s the struggle of this cross-cultural life. Everywhere you go you are missing one person and glad to see another. Every time you go you are sad to leave one place but excited to reach another.
All those feelings could be taken the wrong way, misinterpreted, hurtful…if you are the one being left you may feel rejected because we are excited to see the other. When we are excited to leave Ukraine and get to the US I’m afraid it will appear that we don’t like Ukraine. When we are excited to leave the US to get back to our life in Ukraine I’m afraid it will appear that we don’t appreciate the US and are “above” our old life. Ugh. The people-pleaser in me does not have a clue how to navigate that, let alone write about it. So I go silent. Sorry for that.
It’s just a fact that living between two worlds is very sticky business with no instruction manual.
How do you leave a place and people well?
How do re-enter a place well?
How do you leave a place where you are outgoing and confident, a fixer, and a leader and return to a place where you are a learner, an outsider, a person on the fringes of society with a first-grade handle on the language- and not crawl into a shell and hide?
How do you maintain friendships from across multiple time zones while also being fully planted and rooted where you are?
How do you invest in new friendships without feeling like you are letting your old ones slip away?
How do you fully embrace your overseas life without feeling like you are a traitor to the ones you love across the ocean?
How do you look at pictures of your old friends and their kids all together and not feel guilt and sadness that your kids are not there to join in and grow up together?
How do you leave your mother and father and take away their grandchildren without feeling massive guilt?
How do you be fully where you are when you feel like your heart and life are split in two?
I don’t have a clue.
One thing I know is that I failed in many of those areas last time we were in Ukraine and I am hopeful that this time will be better. Last time I lived with A LOT of guilt. Everyday. No one put that on me; I’m awesome at doing that to myself. 🙂
I felt like I was a bad friend to my American friends, but my Ukrainian life took so much energy that I simply couldn’t be the kind of friend I wanted to be to the ones I have loved for many years.
I allowed all my confidence to be stripped away and socially became a shell of my former self. (Lack of fluency will do that to ya) Making friends was hard for me and I’m not used to that. I ached to be understood and known. (See, just writing that makes me worried that my Ukrainian friends will think I’m saying I had no friends in Ukraine. Ugh! Ha! )
We spent those first two years just learning how to survive and didn’t really get the chance to become fully planted. Our kids felt that. I know that couldn’t really be helped. We had to learn to survive and the learning curve was/is steep. Grocery shopping, banking, post-officing, cooking, schooling, transportation, church, utilities, LANGUAGE…everything was new and we were like aliens on a different planet. There was a lot of everyday living to figure out before any roots could begin to take hold.
But this time, I think this time is going to be different. Our mindset is different.We are purchasing land and settling in for the long-haul. We have committed our lives to these boys and once we begin to take them out everything changes. Of course we’ll still come to the US for visits, but my heart and mind need the opportunity to settle in and make a home in Ukraine. I need pictures up on the walls. I need to know in my heart that until God says differently, Ukraine is our home. No guilt allowed.
So, if you see us in the coming days, just know that our hearts are confused and there is no easy answer to the question “How are you?” We’re so happy and so sad. We’re excited and dreading. We’re confident and scared. We’re ready and we’re not.
I’m only resolute one thing: I know that I know that this is the life God has created us for and I WILL NOT allow guilt to rob me of the joy that comes with following Jesus and saying yes.
So there. That’s the *pretty much* uncensored version of my heart. If you are a person who prays we would sure appreciate your prayers over the next several weeks. The kids are struggling with all the change and the chaos in our home is great at the moment. We need peace and knowing and joy in the journey.
Thank you for walking with us!