Fantastic Game Night

Okay, so a day late, but better late than never, right?

If you follow Wide Awake on Facebook, you probably saw that I promised to share about the very special night we had on Tuesday.  I have to say that “special” is an understatement.  I put off writing about it because I was still so giddy about its wonderfulness, that to sit down and try to write about it just seemed tedious (plus we’ve been busy little bees around here).  I just wanted to smile about it.  But, I want you all to be able to smile about it too, so it’s time I share!

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Mission to Ukraine (MTU), the organization we serve here in Zhytomyr, has several branches of work they focus on.  One of these branches is the education of children with disabilities.  There are preschool classes, school-readiness classes, and life-skills classes that are coupled with Bible lessons.  There’s also beading, drawing, and other crafty classes for the crafty type (NOT ME).  🙂

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There is one particular group of people that has really been weighty on the hearts of the staff of MTU lately.  That group is the young adults with disabilities who have been a part of MTU for many, many years.  These guys and gals have grown up with MTU, and for many of them, it is the social center of their lives.  It is the place, besides home, where they are accepted and loved just as they are.  They are treasured at MTU.  They are known.  MTU has been their school, their youth group, and their family.  And now they are getting older.  MTU’s focus is children.  What to do?  Many of them attend a class on Tuesdays called “Youth Group”.  They study the Bible together and build their relationships.  The staff want to do more for this group, but they are already stretched thin with responsibilities.  There is simply no time left in the day, or staff left in the day to provide them with more time to be together.

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Enter, Game Night!  Woot!

Some of the staff approached us and asked Jed and me if we would be interested in hosting some sort of monthly, special night for this group to have fun together.  This was a duh question.  Of course, we wanted to help!

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Tuesday night was the first Game Night and it was beyond fabulous.  I kid you not.  I haven’t smiled that much since I was last in Disneyland!  Heehee 🙂

At 5:00pm sharp the guests began to arrive.  They were dressed up and lookin’ good, ready for a party.  Seeing their excitement made us even more excited!

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I wish I would have taken a picture of the food table.  Jed and I are feeders.  We feed people.  It’s our love language.  Sooooo if the amount of food we brought to the party was an indicator of our love, it was fairly obvious that we love these guys VERY much.  There were cookies, more cookies, magic cake, crackers, meat, cheese, veggies, some more cookies, candy, bread, tea, and juice. We may have gone overboard, just a wee bit.  Several of MTU’s finest volunteers came to help and join in the fun.  We had the group sit, then the volunteers and we served them food.  That was a great time for our kids to help out too.  They were able to interact with people right away, and also feel useful.  Addy and Ezra in particular, really wanted to help throw the party.

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We ate and laughed.

It was gooood.

Then it was game time!  There were all different physical ability levels in the fairly small room, so it was important to choose games that everyone could participate in.  We started out asking some fun “Would you rather?” questions.  We just wanted to break the ice, be silly, and laugh together.  We chose some crazy questions and then asked various people to explain their decision.  It was so funny!

“Would you rather wrestle a lion or fight a shark?”

“Would you rather eat a bar of soap or drink a bottle of dish soap?”

“Would you rather be born with an elephant’s trunk or a giraffe’s neck?”

“Would you rather be a GIANT hamster or a tiny rhino?”

Oh man, our poor friend Natasha who was translating!  We gave her translating skills a major workout.  Good thing she’s pretty much amazing.  🙂

After “Would you rather?” we played a game with yarn.  Jed asked the group different questions and whoever answered “yes”, had to grab a hold of the yarn.  Pretty quickly we had a big web of yarn which nearly entrapped Jed!  Luckily, he barely escaped with his life and all was well.  Jed just shared a bit about how we are all different, but united by common loves and ideas.  It was fun, and a good visual of the beauty of friendship.

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Next was free play game time.  We gathered small groups around tables and brought out various games.  We played Dominoes, Jenga, and Memory.   Once again, I have to brag about the most amazing volunteers.  Seriously, they rock.  They knew what needed to be done and just did it!  Many of them have volunteered quite a bit, so they are familiar with the group and know their needs.  They helped people eat, served tea and food, moved chairs and tables, translated, and assisted in the games so that everyone was able to participate and have a good time.  The night would have been impossible without their help.

Natasha translated for our family and she is just the best.  She loves this group and has known them for many years, so not only is she a great help, her heart is deeply invested as well.  Oh, and what about Alyona?!!!  Alyona works at MTU on “special projects”.  Alyona did so much to make the night possible.  She gathered volunteers, called the group to remind them about the date, arranged transportation for those in wheelchairs, and helped set up and clean up…basically, she’s superwoman.  I didn’t get one non-blurry picture of Alyona because she’s such a hard worker she’s just a blur in each picture!  I wish so badly I would have gotten a picture of each volunteer.  Grrrrrr…next time.  Thank you, dear friends!!!  We appreciate you!

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Note the Alyona blur in the background. 😉

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I didn’t get the best pictures because I was too busy partying it up, but I hope these pictures have given you a glimpse of the wonderfulness of the evening.

What an honor to be able to serve these dear ones.

What a joy to watch our own children learn to love and serve others.  What a joy to see them learn the value of each and every life.

What a delight to see the faces of the parents as they came to collect their children at the end of the night.  When someone loves your kid there is no greater gift.  How much more for these most courageous parents who have fought against all odds to give their kids the best shot at a fully lived life.  Humbling.

I am so incredibly thankful for the years of MTU’s faithful service.  With God’s help, they have created a haven in Zhytomyr like no other.  What a privilege to serve their vision and link arms.

Game Night is now officially a monthly event.  The group has requested next month’s gathering be a Karaoke Night!  OMG.  Bring.It.On.

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Addy was in her element COMPLETELY. She was simply glowing all night. Thank you Jesus for kids who are catching Your heart.

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Volunteers Extraordinaire! THANK YOU!!!

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This is Sergei. He also works with us at Romaniv in the Isolation Room. He is so wonderful with the boys, so loving. Hero material right here, folks.

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Favorite Time of the Day

Many moons ago, waaaaaay back in July of last year (not actually that long ago, but now it seems like another lifetime ago) I had the extreme pleasure of attending the Vineyard National Conference in Anaheim.  Oh the bliss!  I got to go with some of my favorite people on the planet, and Christen, Abby and I even got to go to Disneyland for a day!  I’m telling you, it was the stuff dreams are made of  🙂


One of the best days of my life. No joke. I love those girls!

Anyway, at that conference I got to connect with some awesome leaders in the Vineyard missions world.  One of them, the oh-so-wise Jerry Reddix, had a sit-down with me and shared some invaluable wisdom.  He talked with me about being really intentional with our kids in this new season of our lives.  He talked of rituals and routines that will help their little hearts to feel settled, even when everything around them is completely new and different.  He talked about a Daily Examen.  I look back on that conversation now as one of the most valuable I had before moving to Ukraine.  Jerry, if you ever read this, THANK YOU!!!!!  Your words were just what this family needed.

Jerry encouraged us to read a book called Sleeping With Bread: Holding What Gives You Life.  It’s a small, easy-to-read book that describes how to implement the Daily Examen with your family.  We aren’t Catholic, but the Examen isn’t just for Catholics.  Basically, the idea is to end your day by asking each person in your family to share about their day.  Think back, reflect on your day, and share the most life-giving moment, and the most difficult moment.  In our house, we say “What was the best part of your day and what was the hardest part of your day?”  We each share, and then at the end we pray and thank God for the great parts of our day, moments where we experienced His presence, joy, and love.  Then we talk to Him about the difficult moments and ask Him to help us with whatever made it difficult.  Simple, yet beautiful.  In the book, it phrases the questions as “What are you most thankful for today and what are you least thankful for today?”  At first, I was like “Woah…I don’t want my kids talking about what they aren’t thankful for!”  But really, why do we have to ignore the difficult times?  We aren’t dwelling on them, but voicing them and inviting God to be present in our difficult times.  We are bound to have hard times.  Ignoring them won’t make them go away.  Let’s talk about it as a family and agree in prayer for those situations.

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The benefits of the Examen have been better than I ever expected.  Sure, sometimes there’s a night when everyone is hyper and silly and the Examen is less than contemplative (insert potty talk and fake burps…oh little boys…), but usually there is at least one gem that comes out of our time.  It helped us not-so-good-at-routine-Johnsons establish routine back in the US that we carried on here in Ukraine.  It’s something the kids can count on and it gives us a chance to key in on how everyone is really doing.

When we do our Examen we turn out the lights, we light candles, and we all take a turn sharing.  We also do our family read-aloud during that time.  It’s called “Family Time” and it’s lovely.  Of course, sometimes Seth won’t sit down, sometimes Havalah pouts, sometimes Addy or Ez has a bad attitude, and sometimes Mommy and Daddy are really just ready for the kids to go to bed so we aren’t super patient.  It’s not always a romantic, solemn, introspective time, but it’s still precious in its own way.  I know we are laying a foundation of open communication and sharing with one another.  I’m excited to see how the sharing deepens as the kids grow in maturity.  Right now when sharing about the difficult moments the kids like to use it as an excuse to tattle on each other.  Ha!  So, we try to move it back to them focusing on their own responses to the situation.  “Okay, so maybe so-and-so stole your toy, but how did you respond?”  People will always let you down, but God is always near and always faithful.

If this strikes a chord with you I highly recommend giving the Daily Examen a try.  Anyone can do it!  If you are single, you could journal your Examen.  If you have no kids at home you can share with your husband or wife.  Take a moment to quiet your heart at the end of the day and look back for glimpses of God’s presence.  When did you feel His joy?  What about that moment was so great?  When did you have a difficult time?  Was there something that happened when wish you would have responded differently?

Sleeping With Bread is a great book for understanding the benefits of the Examen.  I definitely don’t agree with everything in the book, but I can take out the good and forget the rest.  I’m okay with doing that.   🙂  The general idea is great and doesn’t deter me from the stuff I don’t agree with.

Soon I hope to share some of our favorite read-alouds from our Family Time.  I’m a sucker for a good book, hence the 6 ginormous boxes of books we shipped to Ukraine.  Be thinking of your favorites because I’ll be asking for suggestions!

What about you?  Do you have any great family nighttime routines you’d like to share?  I love hearing what others do at the end of their day.  Hmmmm?  Anyone?

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This One Goes Out to the Ones We Love

9 Days.  The countdown is ON.

Only 9 more days till we have some very, extremely, over-the-top special guests at our house.

Eeeeeeek!  We are so excited!

In 9 days our dearest Tom and Emma will arrive for a 10 day visit and we can’t believe it’s true.

Let me just brag on Tom and Emma for a sec.  Many, many moons ago we met our friend Tom.  Addy was only a toddler at the time and she was in love.  She would chase Tom all over church calling him Keith Green.  (Don’t ask, we still don’t know why…)  Tom became family to us and actually ended up living with us for several years.  He was the best housemate you could ask for.  Then, Tom got even better by choosing an AWESOME wife, the amazing Emma from across the sea.

Tom and Emma have been such good friends to us.  They have supported us and encouraged us since the very beginning of this crazy journey.  They’ve spent countless hours playing cards and Speed Scrabble with us.  They moved in and stayed with our kids when we were in Ukraine on our planning trip last May.  They let us have the CRAZY HUGE garage sale at their house in the fall.  They even let us stay with them for our last two weeks in the States before moving to Ukraine.  They are simply the best.  (Can you tell we miss them?)

Anyway, Emma is from England, and she and Tom are headed that way to visit her family.  Since they’ll be sooooo close to Ukraine they decided they better pop on in for a visit!  I mean, how can you come all the way across the pond and not come for a sleepover?  It just wouldn’t be right!  🙂

The kids have literally been counting down the days.  We knew they were excited for the visit, but when Jed noticed what they were playing this afternoon he had to document the sweetness of it.

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Meet Tom and Emma 🙂

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Tom, Seth, Havalah, Emma, Addy, and Ezra

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Taking a tour of where we buy milk…

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Checking out the meat market…hahaha

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Hava giving a tour of our house. (I promise we don’t really live in a barn)

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Introducing Tom and Emma to our friends Oleg and Tanya, and baby Zakhar

So, yes, you can see we are pretty excited for our visitors to arrive.  More than anything it means the world to us that they would take the time to come all this way.  We so want our friends and family to see our life here and meet the people we love so much. 

Come on Tom and  Emma! We’re waiting!!!  🙂  

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A Weekend in Pictures

We spent the weekend in Kiev getting our love tanks filled up by good friends, good food, good worship, and fun fun fun. Our kids get spoiled so bad in the big city, it’s no wonder it’s their favorite place to be. Whenever we visit Kiev we leave feeling so loved and encouraged it’s like balm for the soul.

Here’s some pics of our time:


Of course there must be plenty of food!


Men cooking AND doing the dishes AND making us delicious coffee? Woohoo! Thanks Maks, Andrey, and Jed 🙂




Pillow/tickle/wrestle fight = my kids’ heaven



Taking the metro to church



Seth and Olya



Seth and Anya, chillin’ at Sunday School



Hava and Anya, walking to lunch. They are the cutest together, like twins separated at birth. Ha!




Sergei bought the kids donuts!


Please keep praying for Ukraine.  Being in Kiev was bittersweet.  We love that city and we love the Ukrainian people more each day.  Please don’t forget Ukraine.  Thank you!

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Switzerland Adventure Day 2

Yesterday was such a great day! A little stress, a little food, a lot of fun.

We started out the day bright and early with breakfast at our little Bed and Breakfast. I can’t say enough about the place we stayed. It was just perfect! Clean, fresh, bright, super friendly owner, a five minute walk from the train station, walking distance to the embassy, and about half the price of a hotel in Bern. The owner graciously let us keep our bags there all day till we left on the train in the afternoon, so that was great!

We knew the embassy was only open from 9-12 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, so we were determined to be first in line since we only allowed ourselves 2 embassy days in country.

With google map picture in hand we headed on our way!

We took a little funicular down the hill from Parliament.

Along the way…

Purty, isn’t it?

The funny thing is, we waaaay overestimated how long it would take us to arrive at the embassy and we got there at 8:13! Yeah, they didn’t open till 9:00. Ha! Better early than late! When the embassy staff arrived they looked at us like we were crazy people. Yeah, we’re those crazy Americans who are so excited about Ukraine we arrive at the embassy when it’s still dark out! 🙂

Wow! It’s so busy! Good thing we got up at the crack of dawn! 😉

All our paperwork was in order and the visa applications and loads of documents were handed over. We then had to walk to a bank over by Parliament to pay for the visas and return to the embassy with our receipt. We didn’t realize we had to pay for the visas with cash and just BARELY scraped up enough cash to pay. That was a nail-biter, folks! Apparently, the people we heard of who had their visas done in just 2 hours either got really lucky, or they paid to expedite them and we just didn’t know that part. In order to have our visas done in time for our return flight to Ukraine on Tuesday we had to pay double and expedite them. Ouch! But, when you figure in how expensive it is just to eat and sleep here, it’s actually less expensive to pay the expedited fee. So, we chose the lesser of two evils and our visas should be ready for pickup on Monday at 11:30! Pray that is the case! Thanks.

After the visa stuff was done for the day we had about 3 hours to kill before we would leave on the train to head to a town about 40 minutes away to stay with my friend Sandra and her fam. So, we explored Bern and it was fabulous.

We had to hit up Starbucks for the wifi to update our parents on visa stuff. See this whole, huge, spacious room?

…this is the spot Jed where Jed chose to sit. HA!

Swiss photo bomb

We just walked around the corner and bumped in to this church. WOW!

It was open so we took a peek inside.

In search of lunch…

We settled on this deliciousness. So goooooood.

Soon it was time to head to meet our friends. 🙂

The countryside on the way from Bern to their town looked just like the landscape on HWY 99 from Salem to Corvallis. Really! It was the most familiar thing I’ve seen since leaving the US. It even seemed more familiar than Starbucks! (hehehe) There was a lot of green farmland and lots of pine trees. Hallelujah for pine trees! I miss them very much. It was beautiful. 🙂 I tried to take a picture but it didn’t really turn out.

We arrived at the train station where Sandra would meet us and found her easily. YAY! It’s always fun to meet people in person that you’ve communicated with for a couple of years. It was also so surreal. What are we doing here? Ha! This is hilarious that it actually worked out!

We took the bus to Sandra’s village and then walked to their apartment. It’s cozy and welcoming and we are having a great time here. Walter and Sandra are originally from Singapore, but Walter’s job brought them to Switzerland 11 years ago. Sandra cooked us delicious Chinese food that made us very happy. You can’t really get any type of Asian cuisine in Ukraine, so it was a major treat. SO GOOD! Then we talked, played Wii Fit (Which, by the way, gave Jed a Wii Fit age of 30 and me a Wii Fit age of 36. I hate the Wii.) It was a great time to get to know each other better.

Sandra was talking some about Singapore and I admitted that I really know nothing about Singapore or the culture there. I remarked to them that we only really know one person who ever had a tie with Singapore. Some of my parents’ best friends are named Joe and Janet. Joe’s sister Eileen was a missionary in Singapore for many years before we met her. I was mentioning to Jed that I think Eileen is the only person we know who has spent any time in Singapore. Walter and Sandra perked right up. Come to find out they knew Eileen! They were friends with her and worked in ministry with her in Singapore before they were even married! SHUT UP. You have got to be kidding me! At first, we thought they were joking. I mean, out of all the millions of people in Singapore, the one person we know who lived there was their friend. What a crazy small world we live in, I tell ya. We were laughing our heads off about it. God is just too funny.

Now we’re getting ready to head out to explore the little Swiss town we’re in. It’s Jed’s birthday today so we’ll need to make sure we find lots of treats.- I’m just looking out for Jed, mind you. This has nothing to do with my personal need for treats. 😉

Thanks for your prayers for our visas! Keep ’em coming! I’ll let you know as soon as we have them in our hot little hands.

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The First Month: The Hard and the Awesome

One month ago from almost this exact moment we touched down in Ukraine. One month ago all 6 of us + 12 suitcases + 8 carry-ons + 1 guitar touched down in our new home. Has it only been one month??? It feels more like one year! Not in a bad way, but in a really strange way it feels like we’ve been here a whole heckofalot longer. I guess kids do that to you; they make you settle in real quick like. 🙂 Our new reality set in fairly fast and we’ve been on a ginormous learning curve ever since.

This is my take on the past month. Jed doesn’t do much blogging here (ahem…) so these are my thoughts. He’d give you a different perspective, and it would probably be more profound, but I’ll share mine just for the fun of it.

The Hard Things:


Duh. Yeah, at this exact moment Russian is my enemy, my worst nightmare, my insurmountable mountain. Russian is stinkin’ hard y’all.

But, we actually have picked up quite a bit, and when we remind ourselves we’ve only been here for one month we start to feel a little better about our progress.

Everything’s labeled…

Still, Russian hates me. Holy moly. My brain hurts just thinking about it.


Shopping is an interesting beast. The hard part isn’t finding delicious foods. Ukraine has loads of deliciousness available! The hard parts are prices (WAY TOO EXPENSIVE) and lack of car. These things aren’t impossible, just a little harder than in the US. I’m learning to cook like a Ukrainian in order to be able to afford groceries. Cooking like an American just doesn’t cut it here. The foods that would be frugal back in Oregon aren’t really frugal here, for the most part. Lucky for us we all love Ukrainian food! I just need to find out how to cook more of it so we can have a bit of variety in our lives.

The store we walk to most often

We use public transportation all the time since we don’t have a car. It’s pretty sweet that we live super close to a really busy bus stop. We can easily catch a bus whenever we want one. So, that’s no biggie, except when we want to do “big shopping”. “Big shopping” doesn’t mean Costco Big, it just means we need to buy for more than just today. Like last night for instance, we needed to buy diapers, pull-ups, and some stuff for the house, along with our normal purchases (cabbage, potatoes, beets, carrots, sour cream, milk, coffee, butter, and flour). That’s all fine and dandy…but how are we gonna get it all home??? Oh, that’s right…we’re gonna carry it! Ha! So, basically, we can only buy what we can carry, and when you factor in slippery sidewalks, kids bundled to the nines, dark at 4:30pm, a bus ride, and little hands that need to be held, you realize you really can’t buy all that much. Jed and I are shopping and debating what’s too heavy and what we can handle. “Sure, we can buy those mandarins, they aren’t too heavy. Oooooh no, we can’t get eggs…there’s no way we’re making it home with those babies still intact!”

On the bus with my sweetie after shopping last night

It’s an often hilarious, and an unexpectedly hard thing. Big time learning curve there. (And I didn’t even mention label-reading. Forget about it!)

Time Management.

Up to this point, we’ve pretty much been in survival mode. Not in a bad way, it’s just reality. Schedules and time management have been a work in progress.

Starting a non-profit from scratch is a lot like starting a new business. We have to account for expenditures, thank our givers, get the word out, stay accountable to our Board, and seek God for direction and vision, all while living in a world where every.single.thing is new.

It’s easy to get focused on just living every day and get backlogged on Wide Awake “stuff”. That’s been a hard one that we are far from mastering, but we’re plugging away at it. Again, let’s remind ourselves that we’ve only been here one month, mmmmk?? 🙂

The Awesome Things:


I know, earlier I said not having a car is hard, but it’s really only hard when we go “Big Shopping”. Otherwise, I can honestly say that I enjoy walking everywhere. It’s so beautiful!!! We have to shop a bit almost every day (that’s the way it works here with a fam of 6), and I love our daily jaunts to the store.

On the way to the store

Usually, just Jed or I will head out in the afternoon with a kid or two and pick up the few things we need for that evening’s dinner and the next day’s breakfast. I love walking down the street in the fresh air, holding on to Addy’s hand just enjoying being with her. No radio blaring, no traffic to navigate, just me and my girl or sometimes my boy, walking down the street to our corner market. It’s precious. We’re learning labels together, learning what stores we like for what items, stretching our legs, breathing in fresh air, and feeling the sun (wishful thinking) on our faces. I like it a lot.

New Friends.

Duh. This one is HUGE. We have some wonderful friends here in Zhitomir. Thank you Jesus!!! Our friends Oleg and Tanya have been so good to us. They’ve ordered water for us for home delivery, helped me buy boots for my frozen Oregonian feet, taken us for coffee, celebrated a birthday and Thanksgiving with us, calmed my nerves when I heard unexpected fireworks and Jed was gone for the weekend (I was a wee bit nervous…), told us which brands of food are better, translated for us with our landlady, translated for us with our neighbors when we got the unfortunate “don’t flush the toilet paper” news hehe, helped us figure out our address, called taxis…and on and on and on. They’ve pretty much saved our bacon way too many times already. They probably feel like it’s been a heckofalot longer than one month too!! 😉

(Insert cute pic of friends…apparently we’re too busy drinking coffee and such for pics. Will remedy soon!!)

Mission to Ukraine friends have been AMAZING too. From the moment we walked in their doors on November 14th we’ve felt so incredibly welcome. They are excited to have us and we are so excited to have them!!! The MTU staff puts up with our blundering Russian with such grace. Bless their hearts!! They invite us to church, find lawyers to help us with our visas, feed our kids cake, hug us and kiss our cheeks, and on and on. One special family from MTU (mom and daughter both work there) has especially taken us under their wing. I feel like they are God’s special precious gift to us. Sigh, God is just too good. And that’s just the Zhitomir friends! Don’t even get me started on the treasures He’s given us in Kiev…



Oh, my precious Romaniv! I was there again today and I am in love. Last week Jed and Nina, the AMAZING volunteer from Zhitomir that comes each week to the isolation room, discussed implementing more structure for the time we spend in the isolation room. Today Nina and I followed the plan the best we could and the boys responded immediately. Our time was so much more peaceful than the last time I was there! At one point we were feeding the boys bananas and Nina and I looked at each other in disbelief. It was SILENT in the room. The boys, for that moment, were content and quiet. It was such a moment of hope. God gave us all a bit of wisdom and then He blessed it. The boys responded fabulously and I can’t wait to see how they do after the structure is implemented week after week. Yay!!!!

On the road to Romaniv

Those boys have our hearts, big time.

Nina helping wash hands 🙂

Today I got to hold Andrei, one of the most active boys, on my lap for a bit. I figured out if I tied a long piece of cloth to a plastic slinky it would catch his attention and he would sit still for a moment. He let me hold him, rub his head, and hum into his ear for almost 10 minutes while he bounced the slinky up and down, up and down. Wow. That may not seem like much, but for a boy who never ever stops- always stimming, always shrieking, always running- this was big. For a moment he was at peace. For a moment his brain was developing a little further up the brainstem. For a moment prayers were whispered in his ear. Magical.

There’s so much more I could share. So many memories made, so many funny and embarrassing stories…it’s rather humiliating to live here, FYI. We make fools of ourselves all the time, everywhere. 🙂

Off to go make some embarrassing Russian blunders!

Just know that life is good, very good. It’s not all sunshine and roses and some days we struggle, but we have not one speck of doubt that we are exactly where God wants us to be. Things are quite crazy in Ukraine right now. We have no idea how it will all play out with the current government and the wishes of the people. Ukraine is at a very critical point in its history and we are here for such a time as this. It’s no surprise to God that we arrived right at the birth of a revolution. Who knows why…only God. But we do know that there is purpose in it and we don’t plan on missing out on that purpose.

Would you pray with us for Ukraine? This place and these people have grabbed our hearts. We’ve only made Ukraine our home for a short month, but we are all in. These are our people. Please pray that God has His way in Ukraine and that His Kingdom will come here and now. Pray that many, many hearts are turned toward Him during this unstable time.


Thank you, friends! Thank you for your love and encouragement this first month. It has been awesome to journey with you!




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Lately in Pics

All you all fed up with Turkey? (hehe..get it?)

I won’t bore you with a big, long Thanksgiving after-the-fact post, but instead will just sum up the last few days with pictures. Some of which, are Thanksgiving pics!

Our turkey was butchered days before we ate it. Cool, right? Jed did a darn fine job cooking it, despite the lack of true oven settings. Remember this?

Still, we pressed on and managed to have a most wonderful day!

Cornbread stuffing prep!

Ukrainian potatoes are wow. SO DIRTY! Ha! I’m amazed at how clean the produce is in the US. It’s a hilarious difference I never notice before.

Jed and his turkey…

Tanya, Addy, and I ventured out to the big meat market in search of salo, pig fat, to baste the turkey. Awww yeah!

The makings of Pumpkin Pie Vareniki: the discovery of the century.


On Thanksgiving Day we went to the big market to buy thick tights for the kids. All the kids here where them under their pants. Cozy!

Pre-feasting visiting

And…the best part of our day! We had some very special guests join us for Thanksgiving. Vitaliy, Yulia, Eugene, Oleg, and Tanya were the best guests. We are so thankful for our friends!

Today we took the kids out for a special lunch after church 🙂

Pizza was pretty tiring. Seth fell asleep on the bus on the way home!

There you have it! Sorry I don’t have a lot to say, life is full and good. 🙂

Please pray for Ukraine. There are huge protests happening in Kiev right now, and others around Ukraine. The President was supposed to sign an agreement with the EU this past week that would have aligned Ukraine more closely with the EU. At the last moment, he did not sign and decided to align more closely with Russia instead. Many Ukrainians are very disappointed, to say the least. They felt that this agreement with the EU was a step toward progress for this country. People are disheartened and disappointed in their government. There is unrest. Please pray for God’s kingdom to come here and now. Pray that more and more hearts turn toward the Father. Pray that God’s will be done in Ukraine and among its people.

Downtown Kiev tonight

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A Sunday in Kiev

Happy Monday everyone!

We had a great first weekend. Jet lag remained a beast, but I think we have just about defeated it. All the kids slept through the night last night and didn’t wake up till 5:00am! Thank you, Jesus because I haven’t yet found a good coffee to brew at home, and {no sleep + disappointing coffee = the pit of despair}. BUT- we all got to sleep last night, and today we bought new coffee that was recommended by a friend and fellow Northwesterner, so things are looking up! PTL!

I think our trip to Kiev yesterday had a thing or two to do with our kids’ exhausted state, so add that to the list of reasons why I love Kiev. 😉

A trip to Kiev is no small task for a family of 6. Let me lay it out for you.

We started out from our house at 9:00am and walked about 15 minutes to the city center where we caught the bus to Kiev. Buses go back and forth between Kiev and Zhitomir all day, so it’s pretty easy to get a seat.

The bus ride is about 2 hours long and it takes us right to the edge of town. Normally at this point Jed and I would hop on the metro and then walk quite a ways to church, but we figured with all the littles it might be easier to take a taxi. Our friend Olya (THE BEST) ordered us a taxi and we were off!

We arrived at church around 11:45, just in time to visit with friends we love before church started at noon. The kids were big fans of Kiev Vineyard right away as our friends bribed smiles out of them with candy and cookies and tea with milk. Ukrainians are buying the hearts of our children right and left and the kids don’t mind it a bit. 😉


Oh man, arriving at the Vineyard in Kiev was like comfort food of the best kind. I think Jed and I both let out all the breath we’d been subconsciously holding since we touched down on Wednesday. We are family there. And the crazy thing is, we didn’t even feel like guests this time. It was grand. Ezra got to play soccer and wrestle with our friends, Addy made a little friend named Ruslana, Seth got his fill of cookies and juice, and Hava got carried to her heart’s content. Kiev Vineyard speaks our love language very well. At Salem Vineyard (our home) the kids have a few guys that they love to harass and wrestle every week at church. It’s one of the highlights of their week. Their favorite wrestle/tickle/tease church friend is Jesse. As we left Kiev Vineyard I heard the kids discussing “Hey, let’s make Elvin, Max, and Sasha our Jesse for now, okay?” 🙂 We love you Jesse!

Learning Russian from a new friend

After church, we headed by bus and then by foot to our favorite Sunday lunch spot: Puzata Hata! Woot! While at Puzata we got to meet up with an adoptive family we’ve been in touch with for several months now. God actually worked it out that they arrived in Kiev the same day as us last week and they’ll be there for several weeks adopting a sweet baby. They are dreamers like us and we were SO HAPPY to meet! We’re hoping to spend more time together in a couple weeks. Thank you friends for coming to meet us! All our mutual stalking paid off! Hehe


We lingered at lunch/dinner for several hours and finally decided we better start our long trek home. We went back to the bus stop by the metro and the kids were SOOOOO excited to finally use their escalator skills. Oh yeah, all our practicing paid off and the kids handled the escalators like champs.

Ready to get on the metro!

The bus ride home to Zhitomir was a bit of a doozy. It was pretty warm (I’m a hot person. If you didn’t know. It’s my cross to bear.), but there was a Ukrainian variety show on which kept Addy and Ez occupied for quite a bit of the drive. Seth and Hava fell asleep almost instantly, but they were on our laps, and at some point, Jed had the nerve to shift his position, and all hell broke loose. Seth was half awake, half asleep, and started screaming for some unknown reason. We couldn’t fully wake him up and he continued to scream for a looooong time. It was super painful…I’m sure the rest of the bus really loved us at that point. Oy.

By the time we arrived back in Zhitomir all the kids were asleep and we didn’t have the heart to make them walk the 15 minute walk back home, so we hired a taxi and somehow managed to tell him where we lived. Success!

All in all the day was fantastic. We had lots of laughs, lots of hugs, and lots of adventure. Thank you Jesus for family in Ukraine.

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How it Went Down

We are here! We are here! Holy, moly, the outpouring of support has blown us away. We feel so loved and spoiled! Our friends and family rock. So many Viber messages, so much facebook encouragement, so many emails. Thank you all for loving us so well.

Here’s how it went down.


We said goodbye to my family and it was p-a-i-n-f-u-l. Picture Addy clinging to the window, sobbing as our family walked away and you’ll be able to picture the level of sadness. Our family has so fully released us to this and we know it is hard. I can’t imagine how we could even do this if they didn’t let us know that they are behind this 100%. Thank you dear fam for letting us go. WE LOVE YOU!

We were feeling rather pathetic, so we hurried off to distract ourselves with a long security line. That line made us want to poke our eyes out, so the other sadness was forgotten for a bit. It felt like all we had ever known was that line and our 4 roller carry-ons + 5 backpacks + 1 guitar. All time stopped and we were lost in the vortex of shoe-taking off, pocket-emptying, luggage-heaving, and luggage-scanning and re-scanning. Did I mention the miracle that we got to check all 12 bags ALL THE WAY to Kiev, and 7 of them were a couple pounds overweight and they made us pay nothing? Oh the cheering that rang out at the American Airlines ticket counter!! Did I also mention that TSA officers have a knack for opening the bags stuffed with loose legos? Yep, they chose the lego bags without fail. Hehe…it was like an explosion of legos every time. Annnnnd it never stopped being funny.

Flight #1

This flight was pretty uneventful. As we were heading down the runway I explained to Havalah that we have to go really fast before we go up in the air. She said “Oh, when we start to drive really fast will our hair blow back?” 🙂



TSA really had a ball with our luggage this time. They must have scanned Ezra’s backpack 4 times. I think the nerf gun bullets were the culprit…or maybe the scary shark toy? I guess it will always remain a mystery.

We ate some yummy food, took a train, changed terminals and we were off again!

Flight #2

This was the biggie. We were flying from Chicago to Istanbul and it was a 10 hour doozy. The kids did AWESOME!!!! They really couldn’t have done better. We watched movies, ate, and slept. I won’t bore you with all the details…


Before we arrived in Istanbul we explained to the kids that when we got off that plane we wouldn’t be in America anymore, so they needed to expect things to be different. The first sign of different was when we went through the security check. O.M.G. As Havalah went through the x-ray scanner deal-io the TSA officer (a woman) grabbed Havalah and started smothering her face with kisses. HAHAHA!!! It was so awesome. She was going on and on in Turkish, grabbing, kissing, talking, more kissing. At that point we were certain we weren’t in Oregon anymore. Seth got the same smooch treatment and we were on our way. I’m not sure they took note of anything in our bags, they were just too enamored with our kids. I loved every second of it, and Hava and Seth didn’t seem to mind it much either. 🙂

Flight #3:

This flight was less than 2 hours long, so I don’t have much to say about it. Quick and painless, and before we knew it we were in Kiev! The feelings as we touched down in Ukraine were like nothing I’ve ever felt before. Jed and I met eyes and were like “Holy cow. We did it. We made it. God did this. After 3 years of dreaming, we are here- with our kids. WOW.”


Once we got down to baggage claim in Kiev we were in good hands. We looked out the glass doors and could see a group of our dear friends from the Kiev Vineyard waiting for us, waving and smiling. YES!!! All we had to do was get our bags from the carousel to the door and then we had many hands hugging us and helping us. Praise God for the Body of Christ. Praise God for family in Kiev. We love them so much!

Want to know the biggest miracle of all? ALL 12 BAGS MADE IT TO KIEV. Jed and I were literally whooping with joy when we grabbed the last bag off the carousel. It was definitely a moment to celebrate. 🙂

Our friends helped us to the van we had hired and we were off on the road to Zhitomir! All the kids except Seth fell asleep on the two-hour drive, so that was easy peasy. When we arrived at the house our friend Oleg was waiting with keys to let us right in. He even brought food for breakfast this morning! All our friends here made us feel so loved and welcome. Then we logged in online and all our friends from the US were cheering us on like crazy! It’s like one ginormous hug fest and we are loving every second of it. Thank you, dear ones, both near and far.

All in all, the travel couldn’t have been more perfect. Tomorrow I’ll show you pictures of the house, so stay tuned! Woot! 😉

We are so unbelievably thankful that God has brought us this far. He has covered every single detail. It just goes to show you that the children we’ve come to serve are so stinkin’ dear to His heart. He will stop at nothing to have His way. He will stop at nothing to bring light into darkness. All of this is for His glory. He continues to pave the way and we simply can not wait to see what He has in store next. He is changing the atmosphere and softening hearts. He is opening eyes and we are humbled to be His hands and feet in this place.

To God be ALL the glory for the great, amazing, fantastic, unbelievably good things He has done.

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Wide Awake Podcast

Happenings and About-to-be-Happenings

Next week we fly away!

Next week the new adventure begins!

Seven days to go and we’re feeling gooooood.

Today we went to Portland and finished up the last of our shopping. Oh man, we rocked it! Jed got shoes, Addy got shoes, I got jeans, Jed got jeans…we were knocking things off the checklist like beasts. It was awesome. I think the only things left to buy are a brown belt for Jed and some good walking shoes for me. We won’t have a car in Ukraine, so our current shoes won’t really cut it. We’ll be walking A LOT. I finally resigned myself to the fact that I’ll need to spend more than $20 on a pair of shoes for them to last in U. 🙂

We had the best weekend. Our dear, dear friend Cody came to visit us this weekend from Florida. Cody and I were friends in college, and then after we graduated she moved to Oregon to live with me. Cody was there when Jed and Kim became Jed and Kim. 🙂 In fact, it’s a little-known fact that Cody was the catalyst in the whole making of Jed and Kim. Back in those days, Jed was in love with me and I wasn’t so sure…hehe. Then Cody came along and helped me realize what a catch I had right in front of me. So…I guess we owe a whole lot to our Cody. Cody was the first one I screamed with after Jed proposed, she was in our wedding, and she was there when Addy was born…it only makes sense that Cody would have to be a part of this ginormous life event we’re in the middle of right now!

Boy did we need some Cody in our lives this weekend!! Jed and I were feeling rather burned out on packing/item-deliberating/stuff-decision-making. We’re so sick of looking and relooking at our stuff! Cody came along and gave us just the right amount of bossiness and energy to get ‘er done! 🙂 On Sunday my friend Angie, Cody and I played out ALL OUR STUFF and ALL OUR SUITCASES and packed, packed, packed. It.was.awesome. Not only was this weekend super productive, but it was super refreshing and life-giving. I didn’t realize how much I was missing my friend. Having Cody here was like a weekend-long hug/bowl of ice cream. Comforting to the extreme. Great, now I’m making myself cry. Grrrr. Anyway, thank you Cody for being such a sister to me. I love you and I miss you already. Come baaaaaaaaack!!!!!

Welp, now I got all emotional and lost my train of thought.

As we tackle the next few days left here in Oregon I just want to savor friends and family. I want to drink in everyone. I want to make sure we get to say goodbye to as many people as we can, so if you’re reading this and you want to make sure you get in a goodbye just give us a call! You aren’t a bother. We have a lot to do, but nothing is more important than making time for the ones we love.

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