Superheroes Live in Our House.

Sometimes I don’t know completely what I’m thinking or feeling until I write it out. You’ve been warned. 🙂

When we moved to Ukraine 5 years ago our mission was clear: to bring hope, love and dignity to people with disabilities. Our main goal was deinstitutionalization.  We dreamed of this work. We dreamed of this reality. We dreamed of the day we would begin to bring our guys out and have the opportunity to show them the love of a family. I dreamed of being a mama to them- to those who had no mama.

Now we are living that dream. It is a reality!

Four of the very ones we dreamed of setting free are downstairs drinking tea at the kitchen table. The ones who can speak call me “mama”. I dreamed of that. 🙂

Yes, I dreamed of it, but now that it’s here, I struggle with the reality of it. The day to day of it is harder than I imagined- much less romantic than I imagined. The reality of deinstitutionalization of adults who are so very broken- body, mind and spirit is non-stop work with very little reward. Yet I longed for it. I wept for it. I dreamed of it. But it’s so dang hard. So.dang.hard.

Where’s the disconnect? I love our guys. I can’t imagine not having them with us. Then why do I struggle so bad with their behaviors?  Why am I so often annoyed? Why do I (too often) wake with dread in my heart over the hardships I know the day will bring?

I can tell you why. Two reasons:

  1.  Far too often I try to do this work, live this life, without Jesus.
  2. As much as I fight for our guys to be included and seen as equals by the people around them, in my heart, I still see them as “less than”.

Friends, this work will bring you to your knees. Spending your life with the broken, teaching them to become human is a work that will break you. Well, I guess I can’t speak for you, but it’s definitely breaking me. Every single day I’m confronted with my own weakness, my own ugliness. It’s so yucky. Here I am fighting for justice for our guys; trying to show Ukrainians a new way, and yet I know that I don’t value them the way they deserve to be valued. Somehow, even after knowing all they have suffered, I still have a bit of my heart that looks down at them.

God forgive me.

I put my agenda before them. I dismiss their feelings as less important than my own. I shower love on them when they behave more human, but when they move into old behaviors I withhold my affection.

God forgive me.

I find myself realizing that those who are “lower functioning” (I hate that term but don’t know a better one) are generally easier for me because they require less of me. I can care for them more on my terms- when it’s convenient for me. The “higher functioning” of our boys demand more. Their struggles, feelings and hurts are presented in more complex ways and I’m exhausted with trying to make sense of it all, so I sometimes give up.

God forgive me.

As you’ve figured out, if you’ve read this far- I am far from a superhero (I’m sure you already knew that). I am a super flawed human who screws up on the regular. I function too often out of my own strength, which is consistently running out.

I need Jesus. Guys, I have zero business getting out of my bed and letting my feet touch the ground without first talking with Jesus. I’ll tell you what happens when I try to do my day in Kim’s strength. I’m short- like I have zero patience. I’m easily annoyed. I find more joy in my coffee than in the people around me. I’m discontent. I search for approval from others. I look for distraction. I compare my life to the lives of others and I either envy them, judge them, or puff myself up. Bottom line: Kim minus Jesus equals HOT MESS.

I’m not sure why I think I can do this on my own when I so clearly stink at it.

And yet-

His power is made perfect in my weakness. God has called us to this work and I know that I know if I turn to Him He will give me everything I need. Tomorrow is a new day and His mercies are new every morning. Amen?

I’ll tell you who the superheroes are around here: their names are Ruslan, Anton, Boris and Vladik.

Our guys have endured unimaginable pain, abuse and neglect. Their childhoods were stolen from them. Their teen years were stolen from them. So many missed opportunities, missed birthdays, missed cuddles, missed “I love you”s, missed adventures, missed family dinners, missed holidays, missed moments of peace and joy. Ruslan, Anton and Boris spent 3 decades as prisoners, innocent of any crime.

They came to us afraid, diseased, malnourished of body and spirit. But every single day they wake up and they try again. They are survivors. They are learning to give themselves to others, learning to become human. I’m certain it hurts them far more than it hurts me.

Our guys are deserving of the best- not because of what they have endured and not because of their likability, but because they are children of God, created in His image, just like you and me.

I’m done. I’m done holding back a part of my heart and selfishly longing for something different. I’m done parceling out my love to those who “deserve it” in that particular moment.

I’m here. I’m planting myself. No matter if our guys are every fully included into society here in Ukraine, they will fully be included into my heart. Not everyone is lucky enough to live with superheroes, but I get to live with 4. I’m one lucky lady. 🙂

BeLOVE[d]

 

8 comments

  1. Laura Sparjs · 7 Days Ago

    So beautifully written…so greatly understood. It gives me such a better way to pray for you and your whole family.
    We can look at pictures of smiling faces, those who look like they have easily integrated into family life-yet, how can that be when they’ve got nothing to draw from for experience as to how to receive love or how to cope when that which they’ve longed for for decades is finally presented to them.
    It’s evident that God is working in their lives, slowly, I’m sure, but it’s clearly a Divine work that restores the broken. Thank you for being so raw and showing us how God is working in YOUR life. May we all be as open to His pruning as you have been! My prayer for you will always be that you never grow weary in well-doing!
    You are BeLOVE[d] in California, and I happen to think you are SUPER!

    • kimnjed · 6 Days Ago

      Awwww Laura. Thank you!! You the always such an encouragement. Blesses my heart!

  2. Kiimber joy · 7 Days Ago

    I remain in awe of Gods grace lived out every day in your home. Good days and bad ones. I stand with you entrusting our God to care for, strengthen, support emotionally-spiritually and physically your beautiful heart. I love you Kim Johnson. steady on friend!

    • kimnjed · 6 Days Ago

      I love you Kimber! Can’t wait to see you soon. 🙂

  3. Jenny · 7 Days Ago

    Thank you for your post, it is nearly an echo to one I wrote a couple of days ago. I am not yet in the mission field of Ukraine – my departure date will hopefully be June 19th. Like you, I intend to minister to people with special needs. Our ministries are a bit different – I will be splitting my time between interacting with children and young adults with special needs in one of the area orphanages and also working with a Rotary International club in my area to try to get some things done within the community (local policy, education, healthcare, etc.) Anyway, I’m down to about 49 days before my fundraising deadline and Satan has been throwing about everything he has at me. I have felt defeated, unable to move on, alone, tired and for the first time since this journey began – I questioned if it was worth it. I have forgotten that not only am I not alone, I’m not really the one doing this ministry anyway. This is all about Jesus and His desire to reach these precious individuals.

    You may think, that someone like me who is struggling even before I get to Ukraine would be discouraged by a post like yours, talking about the realities of the task you are undertaking. But I am not discouraged by it at all. I know there are very hard times ahead, I know that there is so much I DON’T KNOW yet. I realize that I will be facing some of the most horrifying, heartbreaking, and unimaginable situations that exist in this world. What your post said to me was this: Jenny, you aren’t the only one. Jenny, I never promised easy. Your post has encouraged me to move from the fear and over come Satan’s attacks so that I can join you and others like you in the ministry field. The more of us there are working for change, the more likely we are to see success. Plus, by being aware of your presence in Ukraine as well as others I have met and learned about – I am reminded that God is already there and working.

    So, thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. Thanks for reminding me that I’m not the only one for whom this process is difficult. And truthfully, thanks for reminding me that the difficulty isn’t going to end anytime soon. That reality encourages me to take the time I have right now to draw closer to God, put on his armor and lean into him for all the provision I need.

    Please know that I am praying for you and your family, that I am asking God to give you strength, endurance, energy and peace. I am praying for those He has placed in your care. With your permission, I would like to place a link to your blog on my own blog – so that those who are lifting me up in prayer will have the opportunity to lift you up in prayer as well. My blog address is http://www.jennysjourney.blog – I understand that you may wish to verify who I am, who I represent and what my beliefs are before you would want to give me permission to post your address to my own blog. By the way, I have recently been in contact with the young women from New Song International, who are serving in the same town that I will be in, they told me they visited you one time. I would love to look into doing that as well. I would love to hear from you, whenever you get a chance.

    Many prayers for you,

    Jenny

    • kimnjed · 5 Days Ago

      How exciting that you’re moving here! I think your city has a pretty big expat community, so hopefully they can be an encouragement and support to you.
      Thank you for your prayers. 😊 Fir sure there will be hardships you aren’t expecting, but there will also be unexpected blessings.
      God bless you on your move!!

  4. Denise · 7 Days Ago

    Thank you for your honesty. Even though I am not walking the same walk as you I see similarities. Praying for you sister. Your know superwoman but you are doing a holy brave work!

    • kimnjed · 6 Days Ago

      Thank you, my friend 🙂 Thank you for praying. Praying for you today as you are knee deep in brave work yourself.

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