Stream of Consciousness

Yesterday I tried to get up the gumption to make a video, and then again today, but I just can’t seem to do it. The war rages on. So many lives lost. There doesn’t seem to be any end in sight and we are just hurting so deeply over it all. Words can’t express it. It’s a deep, deep ache at the core of me. I don’t know how it will ever heal. I only read Ukrainian news because any news from the west makes me want to scream and cry. Does anyone truly have Ukraine’s best interest in mind, or are all the people who hold the power only interested in preserving their own self-interests?  I think we all know the answer to that by now. Ukraine continues to defend the free world, at the cost of so many innocent lives. How can this be? I’m tired. 

It’s been seven weeks since we left our home but it feels like a lifetime has passed. The 5 months when Jed lived in the duplex with Anton and Sasha and I lived across the yard in our house with our family were hard. It was one of the most challenging and exhausting times of our lives. But I would go back to that life in a moment- in the blink of eye. We were tired but so happy. We were at home, in the place we love. Our kids went to school and youth group. We walked in the city and went to church. We dreamed about the summer garden and prepared the soil. We planned for the future and looked ahead with hope. Life in Ukraine was not without its challenges, but those challenges feel like nothing in comparison to what life has become.  

Now our hearts are broken. We have survivor’s guilt and we mourn what was, knowing it will never again be the same. I hope and dream that we will go home, but it will be different. Will we feel safe there again? Will Ukraine ever truly be “safe” again? How will we even know when to go back? We lived in Ukraine for 8 years while the country was at war..but now things are different. German lessons are offered to us and I refuse to go because something inside of me feels like trying to learn a new language is accepting the fact that we are here for a long while and I don’t want that to be true. So I stumble along with my smattering of German words and mostly get by using English. I don’t want to ingrain myself into the culture here, not because I have anything against Germany, but because my heart longs for everything Ukraine. It feels like a betrayal to accept a life here while Ukraine fights to survive.

I see others going into Ukraine, delivering humanitarian aid and volunteering and I feel jealous that they are there and I am not. I also feel guilty that they are there and I am not, although I am a mom of (now) 11 and my obligation is to my children. Living in a church in Germany isn’t as sexy as being in Ukraine, at the heart of things, and I run out of things to say about life here. I change diapers. I take our boys to the doctor. I cook food. I buy groceries. I mourn for what was and worry about what will be. It’s not exciting or necessarily helpful to the cause of Ukraine, but it’s where I need to be. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

I am thankful to our friends here in Germany who have helped us so very much. I’m thankful that we have a place to all live together because living apart would never work. I’m thankful that my children are safe and have food to eat. I’m thankful that our two new boys, Yaroslav and Vova, are doing so well and that we have the opportunity to give them a life worth living. There are joys in the sorrow, and for that I am thankful.

Some days I feel God’s smile and his joy and some days I wonder where He has gone and how He can allow this to happen. My faith in His goodness is being severely tested and I don’t understand how to communicate with Him right now. Everything feels too complicated and I’m afraid to dig too deep into my own emotions. So, I change the next diaper. Wipe the next nose. Drive to the next appointment and wait. For peace? For home? For an answer? I don’t know what I wait for, but I feel too unsettled to call this life anything but waiting.

I know a house is just a building, and buildings can be made again. I know people are more important, and of course I would choose people over a building any day. But today I just want to see my house. Our house, to me, is so much more than a building. It represents the reason we live in Ukraine. It is an oasis of hope. It is the place where our boys first felt the love of a family. It is the place my children call home. It is a place of joy and beauty and hope. I’m so thankful it is still safe and standing. I wait, with longing, for the day we can return.

Please, don’t forget Ukraine. 💔

Home sweet home, from the garden
Snowy home
This picture is so peaceful…
Grant took this pic when he visited last summer
Evie riding down our street, the day before Russia attacked Ukraine
I took this photo right before we left our home to flee to Germany 💛💙.

Refugees

Today I’m writing from a church in Kaufbeuren, Germany. We are in the little playroom and Evie is playing with her bag of toys that she brought from home. When fleeing from a war zone, it is recommended to bring along a bag of Barbies, FYI.

Last Saturday, March 5, 2022 we made the unimaginable decision to leave our home, not knowing when we will be able to return. The bombings in our city were becoming more frequent and it was becoming more and more clear that the Russians were targeting civilians. Nowhere in Ukraine is safe anymore. We agonized over the decision, as we had been determined to hunker down at the Homestead and wait it out, but the nightly low-flying planes over our home and airstrikes that shook the house and set off car alarms made us rethink our plans. We are responsible for some of Ukraine’s most vulnerable people and our boys couldn’t tell us how the war was making them feel. They could definitely feel our tension, see the fear in our faces, but their understanding was/is lacking. They couldn’t ask us to please bring them to safety, so we had to make the call for them. I’ll tell you what, I never in a million years imagined I would be crouching in the hallway in the dark with my children as our house shook from explosions a few miles away. I never thought Jed and I would be agonizing over when it might be “too late” to get out safely with our kids, should the fighting move even closer. I never ever dreamed we would need to flee from the home that we worked so hard to make a safe haven for all who entered the front doors. But, here we are, a week later, refugees in a country where we understand nothing and have no idea what our future holds. It’s unbelievable to us all.

There are 36 of us here in Germany together. That group includes 10 people with disabilities, and 14 of our group are teens and children. The rest are our team members and family members of our team. We are living all together in a church. The church body here has opened its arms to us and shown us such incredible love and generosity. I don’t know where we would be without them. They really made our evacuation possible because we knew we had a safe place to land. We will be forever grateful to them.

Back in Ukraine the rest of our team is busy on the Homestead taking care of each other and working with our city and village councils to distribute humanitarian aid to our region. We also have 3 moms with adult sons with disabilities from our big Wide Awake family who are living together at the Homestead. I’m so proud of our team both here and in Ukraine. The work they are doing is important and necessary.

You know before, when we lived in the US, I encountered a lot of refugees. I guess I showed them kindness, but to be honest, I didn’t really give them a lot of thought. I think I assumed they were just happy and grateful to be in the US. I knew they needed assistance getting their physical needs met in the beginning, but their emotional state was completely off my radar. I had no idea how emotionally devastating it is to be a refugee. I’ve never experienced such deep sadness before in my life. I don’t know how else to describe it, except that I am deeply sad, devastated at the loss, and unsure even how to begin to grieve and move forward. I’m stuck in my sadness of losing what was. Yes, I worry about the physical things- our house, the duplex, our dogs…but more than that I grieve the loss of the life we had that I know will never ever be the same. I remember the night before we left our home I was sitting on the couch with my Hava and she was crying. She said, “I’m just realizing that our lives will never be the same again.” Right as she ended her sentence our house shook from an explosion in the distance. Yes, we had definitely crossed over into a new reality: a before and after. One day we were celebrating another birthday party in the duplex with our big Wide Awake family, kids were heading off to youth group on the bus, doing homework together at night, dropping Evie off at preschool that she loved oh so much, grocery shopping, and planning IEP’s for our boys…and the next week we were seeing the sky light up as buildings in our city were destroyed by Russian missiles. In a matter of days, we went from planning the next fun outing for our boys to planning the evacuation of 36 people across the border. It still doesn’t feel real.

To be a refugee is to put all your hopes and dreams on pause, never knowing when or if you will get to pick them back up. To be a refugee is to fully and completely rely on the kindness and generosity of others. To be a refugee is loss and grief and pain. It is relief that your children are safe, but also guilt that you left so many behind. It is coming to terms with the fact that no one will understand how you feel because you can’t even understand yourself. It is realizing that your church is spread out across a continent, and not knowing where everyone is and when or if you will ever be all together in one place again. To be a refugee is to reassure your children that all will be fine, even though you know you have no business giving them that promise. Life has already shown you that everything is not fine and will not be fine for a long time. We had something so beautiful and now it is gone. So, we try to recreate what we had here, in this new place. We do this for our boys, for our children. We go on picnics and make borscht and play games. We hug and reassure and comfort. We try to live, not to just exist, not to just wait for the moment we can go home. Therein lies the struggle.

But, we do believe we will go home. We believe that Ukraine will be victorious. We believe that light will conquer darkness, that good will overcome evil. We believe that our soldiers are the bravest and strongest. We believe that our President is the best there ever was or ever could be. And, we believe that the work God began in Ukraine will continue. So we have hope.

Thank you for loving us, for praying for us, for donating, and for reaching out with contacts and offers of help. Please remember Ukraine. Pray for her victory and that it would come soon.

BeLOVE[d]

I didn’t make this video, it was sent to me. But I think it’s important, so I’m sharing it with you. 👇

BeLOVE[d]

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Keeping Up


Hi Friends

All is as well as can be expected here. I wanted to encourage you to sign up for our newsletter if you want more frequent updates about what’s happening here. I simply can’t keep up with the blog in times like this, but I am sending out frequent emails to our newsletter subscribers so people won’t worry (or will worry a little less 😉)

Thank you for your love and support. We need it now more than ever! ❤️

BeLOVE[d]

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We Are Safe

Dear Friends,
Thank you for all your love and care for us during this uncertain time. We are still in Ukraine, on the Homestead, and we are safe. There have been rumors that some kind of invasion could happen today, but so far all is well. Assistants are with the boys, I took the kids to school, and am now sitting down with coffee to write to you. It feels almost like a normal morning, except Jed is on the phone right now with Ruslan planning the route for picking up all of our families in the city, if there were to be an invasion. And the kids’ school wrote that they are stepping up emergency drills with the kids. Sooooo…almost normal? 🤷‍♀️

We are watching the news very carefully and have made plans for every scenario we can think of. What will we do if we lose cell service?  What will we do if we lose internet?  What will we do if public transportation stops running? What will we do if there are Russian troops actually in our city?  We have done our best to prepare, and now all we can do is live our lives and see what happens. 

✅ On Monday we bought :
50kg of buckwheat
10kg of sugar
50kg of rice
20L of oil
50kg of oats
60kg of carrots
120kg of potatoes
40kg of onions
60kg of beets
5kg of garlic
Salt
So we’re all set to feed our crew of 40ish, should we all need to hunker down here in the village.

✅ Yesterday we filled all the vehicles with diesel and have plenty of fuel on reserve that Ruslan has been buying over this past month.

✅ Yesterday we finally purchased 3 generators (one for each home) and tomorrow they will be installed.

✅ Today we will hopefully hear that Sasha’s passport is ready. It’s past the date when it should be ready, so we hope to hear good news today on that front. 

✅ All important documents for everyone are compiled and scanned onto thumb drives as well. 

We are as ready as we can be, and I have to tell you we feel at peace. We really don’t feel afraid. We know we are exactly where we are supposed to be, and we will stay here as long as God has us here. We aren’t being hyper-spiritual about it, but also, we are not going to panic. Moving our huge group is too much of an undertaking to do it just for rumors. We will wait and see if it is actually necessary to leave before we make any big moves. We are committed to being here. Ukraine is our home and we are committed to our Wide Awake Family. 

We wanted to thank everyone who has reached out recently and shown their love and support for us and our team. We feel absolutely loved and cared for by you. Many of you have asked how you can help and our main answer has been “pray and donate so we don’t have to worry about money, should an emergency arrive”. You have stepped up in amazing ways. In the past month our partner churches in the Pacific Northwest, plus many generous individuals have donated $20,000 specifically towards helping the Homestead become more energy independent. Thank you thank you thank you!!  We are blown away by your giving hearts. Having the generators in our possession brings us a lot of peace of mind. 

Grant is still coming and is scheduled to arrive next week. We have plans for how to get to him if the airport is inaccessible or if commercial flights are not allowed to fly in Ukrainian airspace. He told us “I’ll walk to you guys if I have to.” 😆 We are eagerly awaiting his arrival and are thankful for his commitment to this work. 

Please pray for Vasya. He is the husband of our team member, Nina. He is stationed on the front in Eastern Ukraine. He has been stationed there off and on since the war began in 2014. But of course, now it feels quite a bit more stressful for Nina to have him there. Pray for Vasya’s safety and for Nina’s heart to have peace. Thank you.

Nina and her son, Seriozha

President Zelenskyy made a great speech on Monday and declared today, the possible day of attack, as the “Day of Unity”. Ukrainian flags will fly and everyone is encouraged to show their support of Ukrainian sovereignty. I encourage you to read his speech and dare you not to fall in love with Ukraine even more. 

We will let you know if our situation changes. Please continue to pray and reach out. Never apologize for writing to us and checking in! We are not annoyed, we are only thankful and we feel the love. BeLOVE[d]

❤️ 🇺🇦 ❤️

Sign up for our newsletter for the latest on the situation here in Ukraine.

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Massively Exciting News!

This was originally shared in our newsletter (last Friday), but I wanted to make sure everyone got the news. If you aren’t signed up for our newsletter you should be! Sign up below 😊

So, last week I told you all a bit more about Zhanna and Vanya and about how much they have come to mean to our family and team. Well, you didn’t know it, but I was prepping you for this week’s news: Zhanna and Vanya will soon be moving into the duplex!! Ohhhhhh yeah, you read it right. They are officially becoming a part of our team and family here on the Homestead and we are so thankful and excited. 

Years ago, before we even had land in our village, before we adopted Vlad or had guardianship of any of our boys, we would sit and imagine how the dream God had given us would play out. We wondered who would come to help us, who would want to live with the boys, and Jed had an idea. He thought about how amazing it would be if parents who already had their own children with disabilities would want to come live with our boys in community. That way, our boys would have loving people in their lives who already see the value in every life, and our team could help support the parents as they raise their children into adulthood. We thought it could be a win-win for everyone.

When we met Zhanna last spring it was obvious from the start that she shared our same heart. We clicked right from the beginning. Back in the fall I shared our dream of parents like her living with our boys and offhand mentioned “Hey! Wanna come live with Anton and Sasha?” We laughed about it and moved on. Then on Chrismas day, when we were having a quiet day with the boys, Zhanna and Vanya were with us and she brought up that conversation. She asked me if I really meant what I said about parents like her living with our boys. I told her I definitely meant it! Parents like her already “get” our life. It is not a big adjustment to live with our boys, because she has already adjusted her entire life for Vanya. She is committed to him for life- she’s not going anywhere. Zhanna told me she was seriously considering it, and we started to discuss details. Then on New Years Eve, she came to me and told me “I want to live here with the boys. I feel in my heart that it is the right thing for us.” ❤️
We met later to talk details, and the decision was made. Our family just grew.

Next week Zhanna and Vanya will begin to spend their days at the duplex, and then sleep at home at night. We will all take our cues from the boys and over the next couple of months they will slowly transition to living full-time with Anton and Sasha. At the end of February Grant will join them. 💪 It will require each and every one of us to grow and change, but we are all ready. One of our values is to be a welcoming community- and we are ready to live that value out. Zhanna and Vanya will no longer be alone, and we will have more of the help we desperately need so that we can bring more boys out of Romaniv and into family life. 

I really can’t thank you enough for praying. God was working on Zhanna’s heart for months and we had no idea. Anton and Sasha are in the perfect spaces, emotionally, to be able to accept new people into their home. It is just right. 

God is so good to us and our boys. He doesn’t miss a detail. 

BeLOVE[d]

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