A Year Without the Socials

A little over a year ago Wide Awake International and we, personally, left social media. At the time it felt like such a HUGE deal to me. I actually cried quite a few tears about it. I had so many fears about what would happen. Would everyone forget about us? Would we become, somehow, “irrelevant”? I worried what people would think of us and I even worried about money. I thought “How will people who might want to partner with us even know we exist?” But even with all those worries I just knew that leaving social media was the right thing for us. I even felt like it was what God was asking us to do. So after a year of fighting myself about it, in October of last year we left the platforms for good. (Technically our pages still exist, but I don’t know how to sign in to them and I don’t post new content. They’re just historical artifacts now ๐Ÿ˜‰)

Annnnnd, I’m happy to report that we are still alive! We still exist- even without social media! ๐Ÿ˜‚ I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Kinda.

When we first signed off I felt like I was somehow an outsider to the rest of the world. It just felt weird to not be connected in those spaces anymore and I wasn’t quite sure how to just “be”. Something funny would happen, or the boys would be looking especially precious and I would feel that tug to share them with the world. But then I would remember that there was no way for me to do that, so I would just take a picture and share it with Jed, or with our team instead. Or, I would just be in that moment and not share it with anyone.

Then, after several months of being out of those online spaces I started to forget that they even existed! I mean, obviously I still knew about them, but I was so detached that I forgot that other people, in fact most people, still were very much attached. I just didn’t think about Facebook or Instagram, and I guess that’s the space I’m still in now. Social media is just off my radar and I simply don’t think of it anymore. ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ I decided I like that feeling.

Before we finally made the decision to take the nonprofit off of social media I searched high and low online for someone who had gone before us. I wanted to read about other people in the nonprofit world who went off of social media and I wanted to know how it was going for them. Actually, I wanted to hear that they were “better than ever!” without those tools. Ha! I didn’t really find much at all, much to my dismay. I did find some personal stories of people who went off social media and I found those helpful. So in case you are wondering how things are for me personally, I thought I’d write it out here, just in case any of you are contemplating taking the leap yourselves.

What I’ve learned in a year without social media:

1.I’m not lonely. After moving to Ukraine Facebook and Instagram were major players in my relationships with other people. I had so many connections all over the world and I was so afraid of losing those by leaving the platforms. I did lose many of those relationships. That’s the truth. There are people that I only knew through social media and many of those friendships have not translated to real life friendships. But that’s okay. The relationships right here in front of me, and the long-distance friendships I already had with loved ones far away are wonderful and fulfilling. I’m not lonely. I’m in-real-life surrounded by love. (Watch out. That might end up being it’s own blog post…)

2. I’m a better person without an audience. Okay, the fact that the social medias are called “platforms” has always rubbed me the wrong way. But sometimes I’d have a really hard day here, I’d post on social media, the audience would tell me how wonderful I was and how they were in awe of the amazing work we’re doing here and I’d feel a bit better- for a minute. Guys, that is so gross!!! What the heck? I’m disgusted by myself and I’m so glad I don’t even have that option anymore. The last thing I need to be doing is standing on a platform for everyone to see me and applaud me. I know myself. I know my weaknesses and failures and what I need is more humility, not more attention and more admirers. A life without social media helps keep my heart in the right place.

3. I’m happier when I can’t play the comparison game. Without social media I don’t see the highlights of everyone’s spectacular lives. I don’t see perfect moms and perfect houses. I don’t see “missed” opportunities for my kids. I don’t see recipes that require alllll the ingredients that I can’t buy here. I don’t see what I can’t have and I am 100% better off for it.

4. Wide Awake International is doing fine. The people who have loved this work and supported it with prayer, encouragement, and finances were there when we had the socials, and they have stuck with us since we moved off. I think less people are finding out about our work here, but we’re choosing to trust God on that one. A cool thing is that our base of monthly supporters has actually gone up 25% in this past year! God’s plans for us and our boys are perfect and He knows our needs. We don’t worry about tomorrow. (Or at least we try not to…๐Ÿ˜‰) And to all you wonderful partners out there- we love you!!! Thank you for your trust, love, and support. We could not do this without you!

5. I’m more present and rooted here in Ukraine. This is a big one. Without social media my world became so much smaller. The world right in front of my face is so important and full. I don’t need to go searching for meaning in other places. I’m digging my roots deep, right here in my little village and it’s much easier to do that without the socials.

6. Books are wonderful. I already knew that before, but I have read so.many.books in this past year. It’s insane! It’s amazing how much reading you can do when you have nothing to scroll. ๐Ÿ˜‚

7. My trust in God has grown in leaps and bounds. It’s a little embarrassing to admit how much faith I was putting into Instagram, Facebook, and my own skills in beating the algorithm. For realzzz. ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ Like I said before, God knows our needs. He cares for this work more than we do. He will keep his promises. He loves Ukraine and her people and his father heart breaks over how many of them are locked away. He will see this work through. We do not need to be afraid and we do not have to put our energy into sharing this work in spaces that are unhealthy for our souls.

And on and on. Basically, my heart is at peace with the decision we made a year ago and I’m so thankful we pulled the plug. Also, I said it last year and I’ll say it again: I am not placing any judgement on anybody who’s participating in social media. The decision we made was our own. Who am I to judge your decisions? Nobody. ๐Ÿ˜Š

So, what’s next? We’re researching, considering, and praying about using some other medium to engage more with the Wide Awake community. We have our weekly newsletters and this blog, but those are mostly one sided and don’t lend themselves to spontaneity. I do miss that about the socials. We’re thinking about a way to be more engaged that would avoid some of the Instagram Facebook pitfalls. We have some issues with those companies themselves and really don’t want to be in those spaces, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find a space that is healthy for us. If we decide to launch out somewhere new we’ll make sure you all know.

Thanks for all your massive love and support over the years. Thanks for sticking with us, even when we did stuff that doesn’t make much sense to most people. We’re a bit nutty. You already knew that, right? ๐Ÿ˜œ

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How Life Works Now

Hi Friends! Fall is here and I’m there for it. I LOVE FALL. It’s sunny but cool, the leaves are starting to turn, pumpkins and squashes are showing up in the market. It’s wonderful! This season makes me want to bake every single day. I have to hold myself back for the sake of all our waistlines. ๐Ÿ˜† Fall treats and beverages aren’t a thing here, and you won’t find any pumpkin patches or corn mazes, but that’s okay. We have to make the fall magic up ourselves and I’m ready. Let’s do it!

If you are subscribed to our newsletter you heard the news that Max and Morgan, the house parents in the duplex, were moving back to the US. It was a very sudden move and kind of turned life on its head. They just left on Thursday and we are figuring out what our new normal will look like around here. I’ve had a lot of questions about what that means for us here and how things look without house parents, so I thought I’d share.

Right now Anton and Sasha live in the duplex. There is space there for two more boys, so in the future 4 boys will live in that home. But right now there’s just the two. Every week, Monday through Friday, an assistant (or two) comes to the duplex at 8:00 am and assumes care of the boys until 5:00pm. The assistant helps bathe them, fixes their meals and helps them to eat, plays with them, takes them for walks, loves them and treasures them. We have the best assistants!! For reals. Everyone on our team loves our boys deeply, and each of the boys has some level of attachment to our different team members. They are not lacking in love, that’s for sure! Then, for now, Jed goes to Anton and Sasha at 5:00 when the assistant leaves and we kind of tag-team both houses until the boys go to bed at 8:30pm. Then Jed sleeps at the duplex and is with them in the morning until the assistant arrives. On the weekend we tag-team both houses, since assistants have those days off. Some of our team members have volunteered to help out on some weekends, so whenever they are available to do that we will be super grateful!

It’s certainly not ideal, but we know that God is with us and will give us everything we need. Our boys are safe and loved. We want to make them the priority during this time of transition and make sure they feel nothing but love from us. We have decided that in this time we need to just make our lives and our world really small. These boys are why we are here and now is the time to lean into that. We aren’t quickly making sure their needs are met so we can get on to the next thing, because our life with them is the thing! They are our family and we are honored to love them.

As far as our kids go, they are totally good with it. They are taking turns spending time with Jed at the duplex and spending the night there. Our kids also love the boys and see them as family, so they understand that Anton and Sasha need all of us to step up and help each other.

This plan is working for now, but it’s obviously not sustainable for the long haul. I really like living with my husband…๐Ÿ˜† So, if you would be praying with us for God to provide more helping hands and open hearts we would really appreciate it. We have boys we love deeply sitting in the institution, and a two big, beautiful homes ready for them to live in. All we lack are people to love and care for them.

I know God will provide, in His perfect timing.

Thank you for loving us and praying for us!

Addy and Anton

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What’s Bringing Joy

Life at the moment feels especially full. I’d love to take the time to be reflective and self-aware, but I just don’t have it in me. Life is just happening and I don’t have the time to think much about the deeper things. But, what I can think about is what is bringing me joy!

Pinky Malinky. A couple of weeks ago our sweet Wendell dog died. We don’t know why. We don’t know what happened to him. He was neutered on a Tuesday and all seemed well and good, but then on Friday he was found in the trees behind our house and he had died. Oh, our poor Seth. He was so devastated. Wendell was his dog and Seth had found him as a small puppy on the streets of our village. He was a naughty, but sweet dog. Seth’s little heart was broken.

Enter…Pinky Malinky! Seth had a puppy-shaped hole in his heart, and it needed filling. We found a local ad about a puppy who had been found in a dumpster on New Year’s Eve and needed a home. So, we brought that little pup home and Seth named her Pinky Malinky. ๐Ÿ™‚ She is so sweet and the perfect addition to our family. She’ll be more of an inside dog than Bluebell. Bluebell is a worker, but Pinky is happy to cuddle. She’s good for us.

Survivor Night. Friday night at the Homestead is “Survivor Night”. We all look forward to it in eager anticipation. ๐Ÿ™‚ Around 8pm Max and Morgan make their way over from the duplex and we cozy on in for our weekly dose of Jeff Probst and island drama. There’s usually some sort of treat included (of course). I think we started watching Survivor when we were trying to survive jet lag, and then it became a tradition. Seeing as how there’s like 40 seasons of Survivor out there, it’s a tradition that should carry us for a good while. You can read Morgan’s thoughts on Survivor Night here.

Garden Dreaming and House Plants. The snow has melted (for now) and we’ve got the garden on our minds. During the long, snowy wait I decided to try my hand at house plants (everyone who knows me in real life is shaking their head and laughing at me right now). In the past I’ve been pretty vehemently opposed to house plants, simply because I was so overwhelmed with keeping the humans and animals in my life fed and watered, I couldn’t imagine trying to add needy plants to the mix. I have one house plant that has survived for like 3 years here in this house and I honestly have no idea how that is even possible. I don’t even remember where that plant came from, but it is one determined plant! This year, as the snow lasted on and on and refused to melt, I started thinking I had the mental capacity to try out some plants. Annnnnd so far so good! Our friend, Christiana, who is here visiting, has helped me a ton, and I’m finding joy in seeing my plants not die. Haha. Jed and I are beginning garden talks and scheming how we want to switch things up this year. So exciting! Bring on the sun and the dirt. We’re ready.

The Fence. What a glamorous life I lead. When things like a finished fence bring you immense joy you know you’re deeeeeeep in country livin’. Oleg finished our fence and we now have a fully enclosed back yard. The reason this makes me unreasonably happy is because we have approximately 226 stray dogs in our village and they were all making our back yard their personal playground. Poor Bluebell was working from sunup till way past sundown, chasing them out of our yard. I was throwing shoes at them. It was super annoying and super loud. But now, thanks to a finished fence, they are no longer making a party pad out of our back yard. Thank the Lord!

What’s been bringing you joy lately? Do tell!

Back to the Basics

It’s hard to imagine that I started writing on this blog more than 9 years ago. It feels like not long ago, but it also feels like 5 lifetimes ago. Back in those days Seth was our foster baby and we were hoping to adopt from Ukraine. We had 4 small kids, owned a house, worked our jobs. We had a pretty typical American life.

Now, 9 years later we have 6 kids, plus 3 adults under our guardianship. (Also a dog, 2 cats, 14 chickens, 2 bunnies…and a partridge in a pear tree) We live in a village in Ukraine and our life is kind of the opposite of typical- by American and Ukrainian standards. We’re some kind of strange, no matter how you look at it. ๐Ÿ™‚

When I started this blog we had no intention of moving to Ukraine and I started it just as a way to get the word out about our adoption. Then when the tides turned and we ended up started Wide Awake International and moving to Ukraine, the blog remained a great way to communicate. When I felt inspired, I wrote. When I had nothing to say, or when times were particularly rough, I was more quiet (hence the “more quiet” of the past year or so). It was easier to post on social media during those times, because social media posts didn’t require the “inspiration” that I’ve always felt the blog deserved. So, the blog has kind of fallen a bit along the wayside.

But now, now it’s time for the blog to shine again. ๐Ÿ™‚

After much consideration, prayer, and studying, we have decided that in two weeks time we will remove Wide Awake from social media (Facebook and Instagram).

I think social media can be a great thing when it is used in the right way. It can even be beautiful and it can help save lives. Almost all of our boys, who now live in loving families, were found through advocacy on social media. A big number of Wide Awake supporters would have never found out about this work were it not for social media. We will always be thankful for how those platforms helped us share our dream of dignity and love with so many people.

At the same time, we find ourselves more and more at odds, personally, with what social media has become over the past couple of years. We have wanted to “pull the plug” numerous times, especially over this past year, but have felt like it was impossible to have a successful nonprofit without social media. But I guess it all comes down to how you define “success”. If we measure success by the size of our audience and the amount of applause, we may be throwing away our chance of success by leaving social media. But if we measure success by our obedience to Christ, then this is the path to ultimate success. So, this is the direction in which we will walk.

Over the next couple of weeks I plan to share more about how we came to this decision, but I wanted to at least get the word out there so people will know where to find us online and we don’t lose any friends along the way.

Here’s where you will find us online:

  • Here on the blog! I plan to write here at least once a week. Make sure you subscribe below so you never miss a post.

  • In our email newsletter! I’ll admit, we’ve not always been the best at newsletters. But that’s about to change. We always want to be transparent about our work here and we always want you to be able to follow what is happening here in Ukraine. So, we will be sending out a weekly email digest with all the photos and updates that you would normally find on social media. Fill out the form below to sign up for the weekly newsletter. I promise to never send you spam. I would never do that! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Thank you for loving us and trusting us along this journey. We aren’t going anywhere, we’re just switching up the mode of communication. No need to say goodbye! If you have any questions don’t hesitate to comment or send us a message below.

BeLOVE[d]

A Call to a Small Life

Our life and world here in Ukraine is quite small. There’s a simplicity about it that I have grown to love and cherish. Sure, there are things about it that are far from simple. The emotions are not simple. Dealing with trauma is not simple. Speaking Ukrainian is not simple. Navigating local school and raising kids outside of our passport country is confusing and without simple answers. Figuring out how to help our guys become human after living all their lives as animals is about as unsimple as it can get.

And yet, our lives still have a sense of simplicity. Our lives are simple because we have a very singular focus. We aren’t trying to accomplish a bunch of different things in a multitude if different spheres. There are different facets to our work, for sure (family life, internship, building project, funds management, donor relations, legal stuff, budgets, medical care, advocacy, education…and on and on) and much of that is more complex due to where we live. But still, it all revolves around the one focus of building a community of love, dignity and hope for our friends with special needs.

Because of the nature of the work we do and the people God has brought into our lives to love, our world is quite small. Logistically, almost everything happens at.our.house. This house is the hub of everything. The duplex is being built right outside our back door. It’s a little more complicated at the moment because Anton and Ruslan are in apartments off-site, but still, the majority of life happens right here at our house.

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Also, because of our guys and their needs for structure and order and consistency, our lives have a very “small” nature to them. We can’t do all the things and go to all the places. We can’t be out late at night and running our kids to lots of activities and spending all day on Saturday at the soccer field (that’s not a thing here anyway…). Not that those things are bad, they just don’t work in this context. We all need to be home for dinner. Our guys need that. Boris needs to be in bed at 8 each night. He does best that way and so we give him that early bedtime nearly every night. Living in the village makes a busy life inconvenient, so the reality is we are just home more. Our relationship circle is also much smaller here than it was in the US. Our friends are mostly our team members and that’s okay. They are the ones who understand this life we’re living. They’re the ones who are with us day in and day out. They are our “people”. They are our Ukrainian family. ๐Ÿ™‚

I resented that need for routine and “homebody-ness” at first, but now I see it as a wonderful gift. Having our team here every day means big group lunches every day at 13:00, and B-mo’s need for an evening routine means family dinner together nearly every single night at 18:00. It’s rare for someone in the family to not be at the table for dinner. Our team has spent countless hours at our table eating and laughing and just being together. What an enormous gift.

I’ve been reading a lot these days about the monastic life and I see a lot of similarities to our life here. The rhythms of morning worship and meals together and working together, giving ourselves to each other is reminiscent of some sort of “Order”. God has called us to a kind of simplicity here, a cutting out of the extras, and even though I don’t always love it, I am growing to appreciate it and how He is using it to shape us. My desire to pull back a bit from the digital world this year is a response to this call to a simpler life; it’s a desire to focus on the main things.

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As the duplex construction draws nearer to completion we are beginning to think more about who will join us in this life. We don’t want to just look for warm bodies to fill the needed spaces, but we want people to join us who are looking to answer that call for community. We are looking for and praying for people who desire to give their lives to this vision of hope, love and dignity. We don’t necessarily mean give your life away, like the rest of your life, but to give your life away for a season. Though some may decide to give the rest of their lives away, and we will be glad if God sends those people our way. ๐Ÿ™‚ To do this life well, this life of living with people with disabilities, you have to die to yourself daily. You have to be willing to serve and live a “small” life- one in which you are not applauded and the sacrifices are rarely seen by others, but you do it anyway because you love the One who has called you to it and you love the one right in front of you.

I know “simple living” and living a “small life” are kind of trendy topics as of late. It can sound really romantic, but we have to remember that in order to live a small life we have to say no to quite a few things. It can be a painful thing to cut out the excess so we have time and energy for the mains, but if we look with an eternal perspective I’m pretty sure we’ll find that pain worth it. It’s not a romantic life here on the homestead in Ukraine, but it is a full one, one that will change its inhabitants forever. I know it is changing me.

If this resonates with you, please send us a note at kjohnson@wideawakeinternational.org. We are currently finishing up role descriptions and will share them when they are ready.