A Week in Photos: ‘Merica Edition

Last week Ezra and I were in the good old US of A! We had to go there for some document stuff and had a grand time!  It was the first time either of us had been back since we moved to Ukraine 17 months ago.  I was nervous to go, wondering if I would feel out of place, or too “changed”, but all my worries were for not.  It was a special time and our love tanks were absolutely filled to overflowing.  

*I was horrible about taking pictures.  My bad.*





I felt a lot of feelings throughout the trip.  Some were expected, others were not.  At church on the first Sunday I was so happy to be there I could have cried- and maybe did, just a little.  There were so many mixed emotions coming and going that my insides felt like a huge tangled up knot.  Then a wise and wonderful friend came to me and wisely advised me to stop telling myself what to feel and what not to feel.  

“If you keep telling yourself what you should and shouldn’t feel you’ll miss out on all that God has for you this trip.”  

Truth.  I decided in that moment to just let myself feel what I felt and to let go of the reigns just a bit.  I’m a control freak and I avoid vulnerability, but letting go of that control made for a much cooler trip.  





Curious things we noticed while in America:

-The streets are HUGE. Wowzers.  The lanes are so ginormously wide!!!  It felt like every street was a freeway.  

-Driving is amazing.  I forgot how freeing it is to get behind the wheel and go wherever you want to go. 

-The sidewalks are empty.  Ha!  On our first full day Ez and I walked to the DMV because I needed a replacement drivers license (my wallet was stolen last summer).  After I got my license we walked to my friend’s house who was generously loaning us a car.  As we walked along in the beautiful sunshine Ez said “Where are all the people?”  Haha.  Seriously though, walking along a sidewalk totally alone in Ukraine is a very rare thing.  

-The DMV is more efficient than I ever realized.  Don’t agree?  Just try to get a document replaced in Ukraine and you might change your tune.  🙂  

-Everyone is SO FRIENDLY and SO SMILEY!  Woah Nelly.  It felt like every barista and every gas attendant and every cashier was my new BFF!  Sooooooo not Ukrainian.  When we were going through customs in Portland, the lady who was taking the declaration sheets asked Ez “What grade are you in, buddy?  Hey, do good in school, okay bud?”  He barely nodded.  I reminded him not to be rude and he said “But, Mom, I don’t even know her!  Why was she smiling so much????”  Oy.  Ha.  Seeing all the smiles was AMAZING.  🙂 🙂 🙂 

-Everything is sparkling clean.  Serious.  You could eat off the floor of Target.  I didn’t, but, yeah the cleanliness, wow.

-People  popped out of the woodwork to tell us they pray for us every day.  I had no idea.  Blessed my socks off. 

-So many people love our Boys fiercely.  The Boys are like rockstars.  I pray God speaks to their spirits and gives them even a glimpse of how deeply they are loved by multitudes of people.  Thankful. 



I think the biggest thing I felt on the trip to America was a feeling like I was letting all my breath out.  It felt like I’d been holding my breath for the past year and a half- without even knowing it, and I finally just exhaled.  You see, in America I undestand EVERYTHING.  I understand every conversation, fully.  I understand every sign, completely.  I understand every bit of culture.  I understand the body language.  I understand cultural jokes.  I understand family norms and social norms.  I understand traffic laws.  I understand what is expected of me in just about every single situation.  In the whole two weeks I was there I never had one bit of tension  inside like “Uh oh, what am I supposed to do here….?”  

Not so in Ukraine.  I think when people think of living in a different country they mostly just think of the spoken language  issues- like vocabulary.  I know that’s all I thought of!  And yes, of course that is a HUGE HUGE HUGE learning curve and a HUGE HUGE HUGE obstacle.  But there is even so much more that has to be learned than just how to say words.  You have to learn the systems of how things work.  

How do you buy food at a store?  How do you buy food at a market?  How do you do banking?  How does the transportation work?  How do I behave when I enter this public building?  What do I do when I meet a new person?  What is expected of me?  How do I read that sign?  And if I can’t read it, who do I ask for help?  How do I send and receive mail?  How will this social gathering go, and what will be expected of me?  What if they ask me something and I don’t understand?

Sure, you can ask questions, but often you don’t even know what questions need to be asked.  There is so much that is unspoken in culture.  I can’t even tell you how much that affects daily life.  Culture is everything.  People don’t explain certain things to foreigners because it is such a cultural norm that everyone conforms without a second thought!  Everyone except us.  🙂  We don’t even know what we don’t know.  Sure we know more than we used to, but I’m still terrified of the post office.  So yeah, we’ve got a ways to go.



I realized that I have become so used to feeling unsure (about what to do, what to say, how to act), that the insecure-pit-in-the-stomach feeling I get when I go most places in Ukraine has become normal to me.  Oh guys, I feel dumb so often.  Hahaha.

BUT, in America I remembered that although I often feel dumb and unsure and not confident, that is not who I am.  I am bold.  I am strong.  Christ in me is bold.  Christ in me is strong.  He made me brave.  I’m actually a fairly smart person! 🙂  I can’t even tell you how that felt- to be able to turn off the insecurities and just BE ME.  I saw it changing Ezra too. 

We both came back to Ukraine reminded of who Christ is in us.  We came back braver and stronger.  We needed that.  

So yeah, it was awesome.  Part of me didn’t want to leave, but another part of me couldn’t wait to get back.  I have a feeling that is a tension we’ll live with as long as Ukraine is our home.

We have people who love us on both sides of the world.  We have home on both sides of the world.  I can love both places and long for both places.  I’ll just go ahead and stop telling myself what I should feel.  🙂







ONE YEAR!!!

One year.  ONE YEAR!  Today marks one year since we landed in Ukraine to start this crazy new journey.    We’re calling today our “Ukraine-iversary”.

I remember the elevator door opening in to the baggage claim at the airport in Kyiv.  I remember looking around and wondering how on God’s green earth were we going to get all 12 suitcases, all 4 carry-ons, all 5 personal items, the guitar, and all four children from baggage claim, through customs, and to the van that we hoped was waiting for us.

And then.  Then I saw frantic waving through the sliding door as it opened and closed past customs.  There were at least 8 friends from Kyiv Vineyard with HUGE smiles on their faces, waiting to help us out the door.  Oh the relief.  Those dear, sweet friends will never understand what the moment meant to me.  We were not alone.  We had loved ones waiting for us.  And that’s how it has been along this whole journey.

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Now some of those who greeted us are like our Ukrainian family.  Now Vasya, the driver who I hoped and prayed really would be waiting for us, is a loved friend who drives us to and from Romaniv almost every single week.

What a journey.  What.a.journey.

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This year has been full.

Full of laughter, and full of tears.  Full of hugs and kisses, and full of loneliness.  Full of learning, and full of humility.  Full of intense joy and intense grief.  Full of being a stranger, and full of absolute belonging.

But most of all, this year has been full to the brim, and then overflowing with blessing.

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God has blessed us this year beyond our wildest dreams.  His goodness has been without end.  This has been the hardest year of our lives, but also the absolute best year of our lives.  There have been days when we felt like the craziest people on the face of the earth, but God has walked beside us every second.

You know what’s exciting?  This is just the beginning!!!  One year is like nothing!  We’re just scratching the surface of the plans God has for the special boys and young people we serve.  The dreams He has been giving us are even wilder and crazier and bigger than before.

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THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU a million times THANK YOU for walking with us on this journey.  Thank you for your prayers, your encouragement, your comments, your emails, your financial support, your care packages, your love.

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 We are blessed to have you on the team.

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To celebrate this most awesome Ukraine-iversary we have brought back the BeLOVE[d] t-shirts! 

We will be selling the shirts until the end of the month, and 100% of the proceeds will go toward the transportation of our volunteer teams to and from Romaniv.  They are Jesus’ hands and feet to our Boys and your support helps them (and us!) get there as often as possible. 

Check out the sale at www.booster.com/wideawakeinternational

On the Move

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I started packing today. We’re moving! YIPPEEE!
(That yippee wasn’t intended for the move itself, but more for the end product of where we’re moving to)

On Saturday we are moving to a new home here in Zhytomyr. It all happened really fast, hence me just starting to pack today. Yikes.

When we moved here almost a year ago we moved into a home that suited us really well for this first year in Ukraine. Our current home is super close to Mission to Ukraine, it has plenty of space for guests, it was in our budget, and it has been fine for the past several months. But, we have known all along this wouldn’t be our place to settle down in. It was a stop along the way. 🙂

We decided to start looking for something that had a yard. Oh how we have missed having a yard and a garden!! Our current home has no land or yard at all. Any and all of the land outside our door belongs to the neighbors and is a constant construction zone. We also wanted some place that could be more easily wheelchair accessible. If possible, we really wanted a house, not an apartment.

Last week we looked at two houses and the second one seemed just perfect! So, we’ll move in on Saturday!

Pros:
-It is a one-level house. I LOVE one-level houses.
-It’s really well built and nicely insulated. Ukraine is supposed to have a crazy winter on the way, so this is very good.
-MORE COUNTER SPACE!
-It has a living room! Our current home has a big dining/kitchen area, but no living room. We’ve missed having a couch. 🙂
-It’s cozy and compact. I don’t like a lot of house to clean.
-Here’s the kicker: It has an ENORMOUS space for a garden. I mean HUGE! We thought we would have to move out to the village to get land like this, and we were willing to, but finding it in town is even better! There is a big front yard/driveway and then in the back there is garden space that just goes on and on. We are happy, happy, happy.
-We’ll be about 3 blocks from a small bazaar, which is super convenient for shopping.

Cons:
-We don’t know anyone in the part of town we’re moving to. We don’t know the shops or any neighbors…starting from scratch in that way is kind of intimidating.
-The new place quite a bit further from Mission to Ukraine. No more 3 minute walks to MTU- now it’s a bus ride away. Boohoooooo
-It’s a two bedroom house, so there’s no guest room. But don’t worry, friends! The couch turns in to a bed. We’ll still have room for you!

We’re happy and thankful to have found a cozy place that looks like it can be a real home. We’ll make sure to post pictures when we’re moved in!

Now, back to packing. Yayyyyy…..sorta.