It’s the day after Christmas and we all feel like we need at least a day to recover from the festivities. Ha! Are you with me?
For real though, we had a wonderful time together here on the Homestead. We started the day each in our own homes; our family celebrated at home with cinnamon rolls, stockings, and gifts. Then all of us on the Homestead gathered in Side A of the ol’ duplex to spend the day together. There was so.much.food. We cooked together, gave our boys gifts, and had a few moments of relaxation. Mostly we just enjoyed being together with nowhere to be and no meetings or plans to attend to. Then in the evening, we had the crazy idea to take the boys caroling. We loaded everyone up in the vans and drove around the city for three hours, loading the boys in and out of the vans, singing, managing emotions and toileting, and giving gifts. It was a little bit insane and a lot special. I’m hesitant to say it’ll be our new tradition, but I know it meant a great deal to our team. If we’ve recovered from it by next year we might give it another go. 😂
There’s a simmering happening here in Ukraine. I definitely can’t speak for the rest of the country, but in our little corner of Ukraine, there is a palpable feeling of unrest rising. We know we lack the funding to win the war at this point. There are differing views of what a “win” would even mean and a building uncertainty that the win we are hoping for and dreaming of will ever be a reality. Air raids have once again become a daily event and the hits on Kyiv and in our region increase our vigilance once more. But the bigger stress comes from the President’s declaration that 500,000 more Ukrainian men will be conscripted into the military. Summons are being given anywhere and everywhere and the city feels tense, like everyone is holding their breath…waiting for the shoe to drop. We are all painfully aware that there are simply not enough men to fight this war. We know so, so many are dying every day to keep us safe, and many more still will. Each and every one of us knows more men must join the fight, but we hold the ones we love close to us, hoping anyone but them will be chosen.
In this moment of new uncertainty, our Ukrainian family’s faith is being tested in a new way. The question of who our lives belong to has never been more real and actual. The priorities of our hearts are being uncovered once again. What does it truly mean to entrust our lives and the lives of our family to God? What does it truly mean to hand over our whole selves to God? Each man has to decide if he will entrust his life and the life of his family to God, or if he will take matters into his own hands and try to make his own way. And each has to again come to the understanding that God never promised us physical safety. He never promised us that we would not walk through hard times. He never promised us lives of peace. But He did promise that He would never leave us or forsake us. He did promise that when we walked through the fire – He would be there with us. The invitation to surrender our lives to God is not an easy one to accept, but Jed and I have learned over the years (and are still learning) that the safest and most peaceful place to be is exactly where God has asked us to be. The best life for our children is in the place where God has called their parents. We will never ever understand the decision that Ukrainian men are making at this moment in history, and we won’t pretend to understand. But we can understand what it is to walk forward with Jesus, even when it doesn’t make sense, even when the way is unclear. God has not always called us to an easy life. These past 10 years have been filled with much heartache and many moments of pain and uncertainty, but God has never once left our sides. Again, we know we don’t understand what it feels like to be Ukrainian right now, but God’s promises do not change. So all we can do is remind our family here of what God has promised and remain close to them during this most difficult time.
In this Christmas season, when it feels that in some areas of life, hope is lost, we choose to lift our heads.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
Friends, if we are followers of Jesus our lives are not our own. Everything we have, all that we are, we can give to Him. He is faithful. We can place our hope and our faith in Him- not because He is safe, but because He is good. Comfort and safety are not the final goal. He is our goal. He is our prize. A life given to Him is the only life truly worth living.
If you lack hope this Christmas season, lift up your head. Just look at how much God loves our boys, that He would gather this whole team here on the Homestead to pluck them out of obscurity and bring them into the love of a family. Not because they did anything special, but just because he loves them so very much. His love for you is the same. You can count on Him.
Merry Christmas from Ukraine. Thank you for supporting us and loving us along this journey. Thank you for continuing to stand with us and for praying for us. We appreciate you and pray the hope of Jesus fills your heart this day. ❤️