Three Months of War: On My Mind

Caution: Stream of consciousness post ahead. This is my brain vomiting into my computer. Read at your own risk. 😊

I’ve always liked old churches. I like to imagine people worshipping there over the centuries. I like to think about the people who built them and the incredible imaginations and skill they had. These days I think more about the function of the old churches in times of war. Churches have been places of sanctuary, where thousands of ordinary people over thousands of years have cried out to God for protection, for peace, for wisdom, for a way out. 

Yesterday I sat in an old stone church in a European village and I felt the most at home I’ve felt since leaving our little Ukrainian village three months ago. That little church was no stranger to grief, to war, to pain. My prayers joined the prayers of villagers from the time of Napoleon’s invasion, from the days of the Great War and World War II. My prayers of “Why us? Why our country?” and “God, how can you let this happen?” were not the first of their kind uttered in that place, and sadly, won’t be the last. As I sat in the stillness and the quiet I considered the centuries of war all over the world and how war has always been. After the garden, there has not been a moment in time when the world was absent of war. Somewhere someone is always suffering at the hand of war. I just never imagined that someone would be me and my family, my boys. I never in a million years imagined my children would be refugees from a brutal and devastating war. I never dreamed the sound of an airplane overhead would be, to them, the sound of fear and trauma. But why should we be the exceptions?  Why shouldn’t it be us?  In a world full of evil men with imperial ambitions, why should we be immune from the reality that men will always be at war?  Before Putin started encircling our beloved Ukraine with his troops war was always something that happened “over there” to “those people”.  We never considered the possibility that it would be right here and happening to our people – to us! But it has happened and it has changed our lives in every possible way. Our life has become the stuff of nightmares or the stuff of movies. You pick. 

As I sat in the cool of that little stone church, enveloped in the prayers of saints past I felt a tremendous solidarity with the human story. I felt a kinship with refugees all over the world who are clawing their path forward in a new life they would have never chosen. I felt unity of heart with the mothers all through history who have crouched in the dark with their children, covering them with their bodies as the enemy flew overhead, bent on destroying all they held dear. I felt a oneness with all the saints who have cried out to God to have mercy and to deliver them from their enemies. 

I am that clawing refugee. I am that crouching mother. I am that pleading saint. Come Lord Jesus. Save our land. 

These days I think we should just go home. The longing for Ukraine is something solid in the pit of my stomach. The longing for home. The longing for what was. The longing to be understood, to be able to make my own way, to be in a place that makes sense, a place where we are moving forward, building something beautiful together. 

In Germany our bodies are safe, but that is all. We don’t understand and we are not understood. We can’t make our own way but are at the mercy of bureaucracy and the kindness of others. We are in a holding pattern where nothing makes sense. We aren’t moving forward, building something beautiful together. We just are. We are frozen in place- uprooted and undecided. To move forward here would require a massive investment of time and energy- for what?  To build a life in a place where we don’t intend to stay?  So we stay on the fringes of society. Here, but not here. Home is always in the front of our minds. 

But what do you do when your world has been taken from you?  How do you choose next steps when the enemy is as unpredictable as Russia?  Do you stay away, in a holding pattern, hoping against all hope that this ends quickly? Or do you risk it and just go home because no other life makes sense?   

No decision feels right and I’m so angry at Russia for forcing this impossible decision on mothers like me. 

I remember when the biggest mothering decision I had to make was whether to let my baby cry it out or not.  Pacifier or no?  Do we give sugar before the first birthday?  Screen time before age 3? Public or private school?  From the small to the big, all those decisions now feel as simple as pie. Cuddle that baby. You 100% can not spoil a baby. But if sometimes, for your sanity, you need to let the baby cry and go eat some ice cream? No harm done. Sure, give your baby a pacifier if they like it. They won’t suck on it forever. 🤷‍♀️ Give your baby a cupcake. It’s hilarious to watch them eat it and they will be so happy and messy. If you have just one baby it’s easy to keep them off the screens, but if you have more and the baby watches a movie with their big brothers and sisters it’ll be fine.  All in moderation. Cartoons can be an amazing tool when wielded wisely.  Private or public school?  As long as your kids know you love them and are in their corner, any kind of school will be okay at the end of the day. The goal is to create lifelong learners and that happens mostly at home anyway.

I would give just about anything to be wrestling with those decisions now. These days I think about if it’s possible for us to go home and if my children will be safe there. There is no future for them in Germany so I know we can’t stay here, but are they too traumatized to go back to Zhytomyr?  What will they think of a childhood filled with the sounds of air raid sirens?  And what does it mean if they become accustomed to the sound?  You do all you can to protect your children from the evils of the world, but sometimes that evil comes too close to home and all you can do is try to help them live through it with their eyes on Jesus. My body can’t shield them from the reality that their beloved home is at war. But maybe they don’t need that shield from reality. Maybe they just need to be able to learn to move through it with bravery, with courage, and with their hearts set on Jesus, their shepherd and protector. Many of you have written and told us “Just go home” but I don’t think you understand that this a question that can never be answered with a “just” at the beginning of the sentence. There is no such thing as “Just stay in Germany” or “Just go home”. To stay in Germany means unwillingly giving up all that is dear to us- giving up our dreams. But to “just go home” means willingly moving our children to a war zone. One of those answers is right for us, but neither of them are “just”. They both come with a lot of baggage. War is never simple.

This week we will make a decision, to stay or to go. We are out of options here, so I think the decision is becoming more and more clear. Now we just need the courage to make it and to not turn back.

 

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]

❤️ 🇺🇦 ❤️

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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. 😆 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…😆 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

BeLOVE[d]

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Moments for the Newsletter

When crazy, outlandish, or gross things happen around here we often joke about them being “the things that don’t make it into the newsletter.” I mean, our life has plenty of semi-gross elements in it, and if I were to document all of those normal, every day moments for you, I’m pretty sure everyone would immediately unsubscribe- and I wouldn’t blame you one bit. There’s only so many poopy conversations one newsletter can handle. But the other night was just too good. It was a little over-the-top, even for us. I think you need to hear about it.

Tuesday was a scorcher. We had all been lamenting the fact that the rain would never let up, and then all of a sudden we traded in rain for stifling heat. But, like I mentioned last week in the newsletter, our friends at Hands of Hope bought us a pool, so the heat has been manageable, as long as you don’t try to go into our upstairs bedrooms. #suffocation

It was nearing dinnertime and all of a sudden our power went out. Now, that’s not all that uncommon. We lose power every so often, and more often in the summer time. There’s no rhyme or reason to it and no one to call when it happens. We just have to plod through until it comes back on. It happens with the internet too. It just goes away sometimes and there’s not a thing to be done. That unpredictability comes with Ukrainian village life. It is what it is. The duplex must be on a different power grid than us or something (I’m so not an electrician…😜) because often when we lose power, they don’t. or vice versa. Anyway, this time we all lost it. In fact, our whole street lost it, and the cell service also went down. It wouldn’t really have been a big deal except that it was time to start making dinner for 15 people and the duplex has no gas stove. So that meant we were all going to need to use the two gas burners on our stove for cooking. Plus it was blazing hot inside and out and we had just gone grocery shopping the day before, so our fridges were stocked with perishables galore. In moments like that I can be heard threatening my children with all manners of punishment if they even so much as consider opening the fridge. Not a finger!

Another thing is that we have wells for water, and when we lose electricity we lose our well pumps, so that means we lose running water. I think that’s the hardest part of power outages. Lugging in water for dishes and toilet flushing for a family as big as ours is no small feat. Not to mention that Anton’s evening routine includes about 2 hours of sitting in the bath and if he doesn’t have that time it’s not pretty at all. Anton needs his bath and we all need Anton to be in the bath. He doesn’t understand lack of running water, so we knew we needed to do whatever we could to make sure bath time still happened, rather than risking his wrath if it didn’t. 😂

Our neighbor told us she heard a rumor that the power was going to be out for two days, so right away Morgan and I went into problem-solving mode. It’s kind of our sweet spot. Haha. Morgan started lugging water up from the well and filling all her pots so we could start to heat them on our stove, and then proceeded to carry buckets and buckets of the well water across the property to start filling the bath for Anton. Our friend Betsy is visiting from Indiana and she had the brain child to buy pizza for everyone so we wouldn’t have to cook. Great idea! I got on the phone to call or order online and realized our cell service was down. It’s kind of hard to order pizza without a phone, so we decided I would need to go find cell service so I could place our order. I drove down the highway a bit to find a signal, quickly ordered the pizza and then drove back home.

Our water fetching and pizza ordering was running like a well-oiled machine, and then we heard that a certain man-child, who shall remain nameless, decided to wait till there was no running water to have a massive poop blowout. We’re not talking about a little baby blowout. We’re talking adult diaper blowout. Those are intimidating in the best of circumstances, but in the blazing heat with no way to wash, they can bring a grown man to tears. So that happened. Welcome to our life. Always so romantic. 😆 Laugh or cry, folks. Laugh or cry.

About an hour after ordering pizza we decided Jed better take a phone and drive down to get cell service because the pizza delivery people can never find our house without calling us. So, he went down the highway to await their call while Morgan and I kept working on filling the bath for Anton. The goal was to get Anton fed and into the bath before the pizza arrived since he can’t have pizza and would be more than a little upset to see us eating something he’s not allowed to have. (Not that I blame him. Pizza is a wonderful creation.) We had searched and found a flashlight, since we had forgotten the duplex bathroom has no windows and it wouldn’t do to have Anton in the bath in a pitch dark room…🤷‍♀️

Jed was just arriving home with the pizza and Morgan was just walking into the duplex with the final bucket of water, sweat pouring off of her, when low and behold, the power came back on. The look on her face was absolutely priceless. It was cruel of me to laugh, but I couldn’t help it. Of course the power came back on right after the tub was filled and the pizza was ordered and delivered and the blowout poopy diaper was dealt with. Of course. Because that’s just how life works around here! But oh my word, we had some big laughs about it, and I have to say that our problem-solving skills were on point. We were in the zone, gettin’ things done.

Things like that happen all the time around here. Sometimes it feels like a whole day was wasted, just fighting fires. But, it’s all just a part of daily life. Living life with our boys in a little village in Ukraine is never ever boring. Sometimes it’s so bad you have to laugh, and sometimes it’s so good you can’t help but cry. 😆

Also, yesterday I just wanted to drive down the road and it was blocked by cows. #thisukrainianlife

BeLOVE[d]

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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. 🙂 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. 🙂 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!