Garage Sale of the Century Recap.

You found us! Yay for you!

I've been meaning to move over to WordPress for a while now, and finally got around to it. I managed to move all the blogger content over to WordPress a while back, and then I forgot I did it and wrote a few more posts on my blogger account. Oops. So…I copied and pasted them here. I'm so hi-tech. Aren't you proud of me?

Now for the real news!

Holy Garage Sale Amazingness!!!

What kind of crazy garage sale brings in that kind of money? I have absolutely no idea how that happened, other than the fact that God must have multiplied the money once it hit the change box. 🙂 So many wonderful friends donated loads and loads of stuff for us to sell. Our oh so gracious and amazing friends Tom and Emma let us host the sale at their house since we live on a super steep hill. On Thursday night we stood in their house attempting to sort the junk sale items, and we literally almost cried (well, not so much Jed and Tom, more like Emma and me…or maybe just me…). It was a serious case of Hoarders. Tom and Emma get a standing ovation for hosting this beast. We made such memories together…I would almost be tempted to do a re-do just for some more quality snacking with T and E…almost.

We priced the items low, and then prayed for loads of buyers. And guess what? Our prayers were answered beyond our wildest dreams!! Tons of shoppers were commenting on how few garage sales there were that weekend…our sale was the only big one in the area…THANK YOU JESUS! He cares about every.single.detail- right down to the friends providing pumpkin spice lattes and milkshakes just when I needed them. 😉 Can I get an amen? Hehe

Tom, Emma, Debbie, Joe and Kim, Duane and Kim, Becki, Curtis and Sara, Jasmine, Ashley, Rosa, Vicki, Carli, Hannah, Mom and Dad, Sam and Ang…and everyone else I'm forgetting, THANK YOU for the coffee, the donations, the blizzards, the doughnuts, the help with the kiddos. You are all ginormous blessings to us and our hearts were/are bursting with all the love and support we felt from our friends and family. High five Team Garage Sale!

The proceeds from that garage sale, combined with one done by friends earlier in the summer raised a whoppin' $3100! That almost paid for our plane tickets. We are most blessed, and we are most done with garage sales.


The New Digs

We have some pretty fantastic news to share!

We know where we get to live in Zhitomir!!!!!  THIS IS HUGE!!!!

When we were in Zhitomir in May we stayed in a house that we talked about in this post.  Let me jog your memory.  We stayed in a house that is owned by a Ukrainian who lives in Israel. The house was renovated to be used as a small guest-house, or hostel for people who are coming to serve Mission to Ukraine (MTU), like mission teams, and people like us!  The house has 4 bedrooms and is literally like a 4 minute walk away from MTU.  People can rent the house out by the night, or just rent a room.  We loved staying there, and while we were house-hunting my smarty pants Mother-in-Law suggested we ask if we could rent that house for a year while we’re living in Zhitomir.  Duh!  Great idea!  So, we asked Ira, the director of MTU if she would talk with the owner about us renting.  Ira, being the wise one that she is, was already a step ahead of us.  She had a feeling we would like the house so she had already contacted the owner.  🙂  Well, we found out just a few days ago that the owner said yes!  Thank you Jesus!!! AND, he’s renting it to us for well within our budget.  THANK YOU JESUS!  God is so good to us.  

It would have been so super smart of me to take pictures of the house while we were there, you know, in case the owner said yes…but of course I didn’t.  We thought it was such a slim chance we would be living there- kind of like a pipe dream, I guess I just didn’t think of it.  Lame.  Oh me of little faith, right?  So instead I guess I’ll try to describe it to you.

The house isn’t it’s own free-standing structure, it’s kind of connected/a part of a big building that I *think* is other houses.  You walk around the back of the building, along a pathway of 2×4’s covering rubble, and our entrance is there in the back.  There’s an un-used shed back there…hmmm, not sure if that comes with the house or not.  

When you walk in it’s a pretty nice open space.  To the right is a dining room table and the kitchen.  The kitchen is one counter with sink, a little counter space, stove, and fridge.  What I love is that the kitchen is open to the dining area and entryway!  Most of the other kitchens I saw were a small separate room.  Having the kitchen in an open space will help us tremendously with homeschooling, and with just the fact that we have 4 kids.  🙂 To the left of the entrance is a bathroom with a tub, shower, and clothes washing machine (ooooooh so teeny tiny! Haha!).  Right next to the bathroom is a bedroom.  The house has no living room, so we’ll turn that bedroom into a living room.  And then directly in front of you when you enter the house is the staircase leading upstairs. 

Upstairs is so great!  You walk up the stairs to an open hallway.  There are 2 bedrooms to the right and then on the left is a bigger bedroom with a shower in it.  Also on the left is a small bathroom with just a toilet.  Straight at the end of the hallway is an enclosed balcony where we will hang our laundry to dry.  We’re thinking our kids will all share a room, like they do now, and we’ll use that third bedroom upstairs as a guest room (hint hint)/Wide Awake International office space.  

Quirky things of note:
-The kitchen cupboards are made of bright purple metal.  Yesssssssss
-The stairs in the house are hazardous.  We’re taking bets now on who’s going to be the first Johnson to take a tumble down the ol’ stairs.  They’re like just a little too short for your feet, so you have to turn your feet sideways to walk down them.  They’re also slippery, shiny wood.  This should be interesting…
-There is a drying rack for the dishes in a cupboard right above the sink.  So smart, right? 
-There are no closets in the bedrooms.  There are wardrobe thingies.  Addy is pretty excited about having a wardrobe.  Can you guess what book she’s been reading?

Amazing things of note:
-It’s a hop, skip, and a jump from MTU.
-It’s like a 10-15 minute walk to the city center of Zhitomir where there are fun things to see, nice places to walk, and easy access to bus lines.  
-It’s ground level; as in, it’s not a flat 9-stories up.  YAY!  
-It’s clean.
-It’s furnished!  We were anticipating having to buy everything needed for a home when we arrived in Ukraine.  Now we can slowly accumulate the things we’ll need for a future place over time.  The kitchen is stocked with the necessities for cooking, there are beds, linens, towels.  All we’ll need to buy at the beginning is the fixin’s to make the downstairs bedroom into a living room.  Easy peasy.  

What a huge answer to prayer.  This is just another way that God is laying out the path before us.  What a blessing that I can picture where we’ll be living.  We can describe it to our kids.  We won’t have to take a bus to MTU.  I could go on and on.  We are just so extremely thankful to the Lord.  He is too stinkin’ good!!!

Zhitomir Scoop

What exactly will we be doing in Zhitomir?  Why Zhitomir? Have you been wondering? 

Well, if you’ve been wondering, you aren’t the only one.  People have been asking, so I thought we better set the record straight.  🙂  

I’m not sure we’ve done a super good job of explaining what exactly our purpose is for moving to Zhitomir, specifically, and what we plan to do once we’re there.  I’m so sorry about that!  I feel like I’m constantly talking about it all with someone, so pretty soon I forget who knows what, and what I’ve blogged about vs. what I’ve emailed about vs. what I’ve texted about vs. what I’ve chatted about over coffee dates vs. what we’ve shared at church leadership meetings. Yes, we talk a lot.  🙂

So, here is the full Zhitomir scoop, in all of it’s glory!

Why are we moving to Zhitomir?
We are moving to Zhitomir because God led us there.  Last April (2012) when Jed and I visited all over Ukraine checking out what different people were doing for disabled orphans we decided to check out Mission to Ukraine (MTU), and MTU is in Zhitomir.  We were totally amazed and touched by the work done at and through MTU.  

So, when we got home and prayed about where we should land when we first move to Ukraine, our hearts kept going back to MTU. They are the only ones we know about in Ukraine who do what they do, and we want to be a part of it.  We have a lot to offer them, professionally, but more than that, they have so much they can teach us.  We asked MTU if we could spend our first year in Ukraine volunteering for them, and after many months of communication they said yes!  So, to Zhitomir we go!
Seth got into my flour bins, so we added some beans and made it a low budget “sensory experience”.  Ha!

How long will we be in Zhitomir?
We don’t know the answer to that one. We committed one year to MTU, so we know we’ll be there for at least a year.  This first year is really going to be such a time of learning.  We don’t know what The Lord has for us after the first year.  Maybe He’ll keep us around at MTU for longer, maybe doors will open in another place, we just take one step at a time and say yes.  We’re really okay with that.  The dreams He’s given us for the group homes are still completely alive in our hearts.  We don’t know how God will take us from Point A (MTU in Zhitomir) to Point Z (medical group homes), but we don’t need to know that yet.  Step by step…breathe in, breathe out.  Whew!  We are blessed this first year to have a “landing place” at MTU where right away we can be actively involved in the type of orphan care we love and have a passion for, but we don’t have to come up with something all our own, starting at square one.  We can join what the Father is already doing and bless that.  Super cool.
Note to self: I will know what I need to know, when I need to know it.  Chill out.  

What is Mission to Ukraine?  What do they do?
Awesome, and a lot.   
How’s that for an answer?  
Kidding!  You know I can’t just leave it at that!  Remember, I like to talk too much.  🙂
MTU is a Ukrainian non-profit.  It was started by an American missionary years ago, but now all the daily operations are run by Ukrainians.  They have an American Board of Directors in Indiana that support-raises, resource-gathers, and provides guidance as needed, but MTU is a Ukrainian organization at heart.  We will be the only foreigners working at MTU in Zhitomir.  

MTU has a center in Zhitomir, but they minister all over the city. They have 3 main focuses: Crisis Pregnancy Counseling and Support, support of children with disabilities and their families, and the work at Romaniv Boys Orphanage.  

Our primary interests lie in the work done with the disabled children, and the work at Romaniv.  At the center children are given free physical therapy and speech therapy.  There is a specialist who has started doing some work with autistic children, and MTU is in the process of developing Occupational Therapy, which doesn’t exist as a profession in Ukraine at this time.  They have a wonderful pediatrician who is on staff full time and provides free care to children, as well as an ophthalmologist and dentist who volunteer time a couple of days a week when they aren’t at their own practices.  All the therapists and other medical professionals are Ukrainian too!  There are various classes held throughout the day for disabled children and adults of all ages.  In their classes they get to learn about Jesus, do crafts and artwork, beading, learn different life skills, and build friendships in a place where they are fully accepted, just as they are.  It is BEAUTIFUL.  Every day several different special needs preschool classes are taught as well.  All I have to say about that is CUTENESS OVERLOAD.  When I got to assist with the preschool class for kiddos with Down Syndrome I thought I was going to freak out due to the extreme cuteness.  It was almost too much to handle.  OMG.  While the kids are in class or therapy, there are Bible studies and support groups for the parents.  Genius.  

You’ve heard us talk about Romaniv.  Love, love, love that place and those boys.  MTU staff have visited Romaniv once a week for 5 years now.  The transformation has been miraculous.  There is still a lot of work to be done, specifically with the more severely disabled boys. Their lives haven’t changed nearly as much as the verbal boys and the ones who are more physically capable.  We really desire to help in that area.  We would love to be able to do what we can to bring about more change and help for the boys in “isolation”, as they call it.  Those are the boys we would love to target while working with MTU, so we’ll see what God has in store!  

There is so much more that is done at MTU: summer camps for disabled children and their families, summer camps at Romaniv, a social integration project, abstinence education…and on and on….cool, right?
“Look Mommy!  I make Splash Mountain!!  I put my arms up!”

What will we do at MTU?

We’ll do whatever they want us to do!  We’ve said it before on here, and we really mean it.  We want to be a blessing and we don’t want to push our own agenda.  Right now it seems that they have a big need for Jed’s professional skills.  Jed has a lot of experience in non-profit program management, building new programs, building a volunteer base, teaching caregivers to care for themselves, teaching people in the helps field learn to process what they see and work with…Jed’s job here in Salem has basically groomed him for helping at MTU.  We couldn’t have planned it better if we tried.  God is so smart!  Jed is nearly bursting with ideas for MTU and already has plenty of work to keep him busy there for quite some time.  

It seems right now that the best use of our family will be having Jed be the primary help at MTU.  Of course I will help too, but Jed will invest the most hours.  My main job this first year will be helping our family acclimate to living in Ukraine.  I will home school the kids- like I do now, learn to grocery shop and run a house in Ukraine, and support Jed.  I will most likely find out what special needs classes they need the most help with and assist every week in at least one class.  I’m excited to have Addy and Ez help me with that!  The woman who supports the moms asked me to help her as well.  Yay!  My biggest love at MTU is Romaniv.  I hope to go to Romaniv every week and do whatever I can to support, help build, and expand the work being done there.  I am SUPER excited for that!!  

Wow, this is getting long.  I better stop now.  🙂  I hope this helps fill in some of the info gaps.  If you have any questions at all after reading this, please ask away!  We really want to be clear and lay things out as plain as possible, so if I’m assuming you know or understand some things and you don’t, just let me know and we can explain better.  
The aftermath.   You either laugh or cry at the mess.  We definitely decided to laugh. 

I better go to sleep now.  But, just so you know, I typed this post using my healed up blender finger!  Aren’t you proud?  Things are lookin’ up for the old finger!  Yessssssssss.

*Random pics due to the fact that 
#1 We’ve already posted all our cool Zhitomir pics and have none left 
#2 Seth is too cute to resist.  How could I deny you the cuteness??

House Hunting in Zhitomir

*If you are a local reader/fan of Wide Awake we would LOVE to see you this Friday night, June 14th at Broadway Coffeehouse, Peru Room #306 at 7:00pm.  We’ll be sharing the story and vision of Wide Awake International.  It will be a great time to get the big picture of what God is doing.  All are welcome!  Bring a friend!*  

I’ve decided to stop apologizing for my lack of posting and complaining about my lame finger.  So there. That’s the last you’ll hear of those two things…but I just had to get them out there one more time.  I’m turning a new leaf today.  Aren’t you glad? 


House Hunters International Ukraine went pretty well!   I spent a few hours with Sveta, our realtor, and saw several places for rent. It was productive and necessary.  It gave Sveta a chance to see what we liked and didn’t like in a rental, and it gave me a chance to see what Zhitomir has to offer.  One thing I wasn’t anticipating was that our kids would be a major factor in us finding a place to live.  When Sveta found out we have 4 kids I thought she was going to have a coronary.  Ha!  It’s uncommon for people who live in the city to have as many kids as we do, and many landlords don’t want to rent to people wih a whole passel o’ kids.  Maybe they think we’ll be too noisy.  My kids?  Noisy?  Hehehe….whaaaaaaa…..
Sveta just kept saying (in Russian, or maybe Ukrainian) “Four kids is very difficult!”  Oops.  🙂

Who could say no to this cuteness?

We saw some okay flats and a big house for rent.  But then we got a brilliant idea, and all credit goes to my smarty Mother-in-Law. 🙂 You see, while in Zhitomir we were staying in a house that a Ukrainian man renovated into a sort of guest house, or hostel for people who come to visit MTU.  This owner lives in Israel and his mother manages the house.  We really liked the house!  It has 3 rooms upstairs and space for a living room downstairs, a pretty open kitchen/dining area, and it’s a house…not 9 stories up!  The best part about that particular house is its location.  It’s literally a 4 minute walk from there to MTU.  Best location ever!!!  My oh so smart Mother-in-Law, Cindy, suggested we ask if we could rent that house for our first year.  Normally it is rented out, a room at a time, and charged by night.  But, what if the owner would let us lease it for a year?  What if?  Why not ask?  So, Jed asked Ira, the director of MTU, if she would contact the owner and ask him about us renting it.  Now we just wait for an answer.

We would love it if you would pray with us that God would provide the perfect house for us, and if it’s that one that the owner would say yes right away!  Rentals aren’t usually agreed upon in advance, so this would be a truly unique and wonderful situation.  It would be so nice to prepare for our move and already have in mind the house we’ll be at.  Thank you for praying with us!

So, that’s the skinny on housing. 🙂

On another note, we have been blown away by the generosity of donors in the last couple of days.  Oh, My. Word.  Seriously!  We have gotten big donations from people we don’t even know personally!!!  Incredible!!!  Oh the ugly cry, I couldn’t hold it back.  Generous supporters, if you are reading this, please know we are so incredibly humbled and blessed.  Thank you doesn’t seem adequate.  But, THANK YOU anyway.  THANK YOU!!!!

“Mommy, take a picture of Seth Kitty!”

One step at a time, one foot in front of the other.  God is making the path straight.  Wahooooo!!!!

The Necessary.

We’re really alive!  Finger still intact, though angry as can be when required to type, hence the lack of posts.  It turns out pointer fingers are super useful.  I’ll definitely appreciate mine more in the future.  

Although I haven’t been able to type it out, my brain has been spinning a mile a minute since we landed back on US soil.  The trip was so good.  When people ask the question “How was your trip?” I say “Good, and necessary.”  It was oh so necessary, in ways we couldn’t have anticipated before going.  I thought it would be necessary in the scheme of houses, visas, and job descriptions, and while all those things were discussed and worked on, they aren’t the necessary I’m talking about.  This trip was another leg in the Journey of Learning to Say Yes.  

Kiev was great.  Super fun, great connections, awesome time with old friends- going deeper and getting stronger.  Kiev was comfy, cozy, and superb.  

Zhitomir was good too…and Zhitomir was reality.  Necessary reality.  

We LOVE Mission to Ukraine (MTU).  We love the staff, we love the vision, we love the people being served.  We are more excited than ever to join them in their ministry.  Jed could be busy there 24/7.  His professional skills are so right on for the areas they have need.  My heart was bursting to think of how I get to help and how our kids get to be involved and learn to serve.  We are totally and completely more excited than ever for MTU.  YAY!

Honestly though, I struggled in Zhitomir.  Nothing personal to the city or the people, I was struggling with doubt, fear, worry as we walked the streets of Zhitomir, and it was all personal to me.  

“What are we doing???  This is crazy.”

“Our lives are PERFECT right now and we’re leaving it all for the unknown.  Why???”

“We’re taking our kids away from their cousins, their friends, their church.  They’re going to hate us!”

And on, and on, and on.  Being the verbal processor that I am, Jed got quite the earful.  THIS was the necessary of this trip I wasn’t expecting.  I had to come around to the fact that although our life right now is the absolute best it’s ever been, the biggest reason for that is because we are smack dab in the will of God.  Yes, there will be challenges about moving to Ukraine.  No, it will not be easy. Yes, there are some major sacrifices, but it will be the best because we will be smack dab in the will of our Loving Father.  After I got over myself and the lies, fear, doubt, blah blah blah, I could truly enjoy our time in Zhitomir.  

Look how far The Lord has brought us!  Oh my, the joy in the journey really increases when you die to yourself a bit more. Ha!

Today my kids and their friend Milaey decided to pick various herbs and plants from the yard and set up a stand on the porch to sell to passerby’s.  Great idea, except for the fact that we live on an extremely quiet, out of the way street.  People don’t just meander down our street for the fun of it. It’s almost like a ghost town, except for us. 🙂  I didn’t want to discourage them, so I just warned them it might be a bit hard to get customers, but they were welcome to try!  

They set to work gathering, pricing, making signs.  Soon they were out on the corner yelling to the empty street about their wares.  “We’ve got carrots, we’ve got herbs, we’ve got stuff to make your house smell good!”  They chanted over and over, then cheered like crazy when a random car would drive by every 7 minutes or so.  

After a bit they came in, discouraged at the lack of business.  Then Milaey suggested they pray and ask God to bring them a customer.  I certainly didn’t have the faith I should have had (hehe), but was so proud of Milaey for suggesting it!  They prayed, and I kid you not, like 5 minutes later a car stopped at the sale!  A random lady got out and said “I never drive on this street, but I thought I’d try a shortcut today.”  Seriously???  The kids were FREAKING OUT.  They hovered, they talked up their goods, and the kindest lady in town walked away with a ziplock baggie full of hedge trimmings.  God is so faithful.  He cares about what’s important to us.  

I got to talk with the kids about the goodness of God, they were thankful, elated, and back to sign-holding and chanting.  Guess what?  Not one other car stopped the rest of the day.  Addy and Ezra came inside an hour later crying (sobbing) about their “failure sale”.  

“Why did no one come?  It was important to us and no one cared!”

How quickly they forgot the Lord’s provision.  How quickly they forgot the joy in the answered prayer, the delight in His care for them.  He provided a miraculous customer right when they asked!

Yep, that was me in Zhitomir.  Totally forgetting what God did earlier.  Totally feeling forgotten, wondering if God cared.  Seriously?????  He’s done AMAZING things.  He’s gone above and beyond for our family to pave the way and make it straight.  Seriously.  Once I got my head and heart on straight, stopped looking at the “yikes” and looking at all He has done and promises TO DO things got a whoooooooole lot better.  

Lesson learned for me, and the kids.

Next post will be more details about our time in Zhitomir.  Many of you have been asking and I’m sooooo sorry for the delay.  I blame it on my immersion blender skills (or lack thereof).