Five Years!

Happy Ukrainiversary to us! Yesterday marked 5 years since the plane touched down in Kyiv and we began our new life. FIVE YEARS! Momentous. 🙂

So much has changed in the past five years it hardly feels like we are the same people that arrived in Ukraine with 12 suitcases and a guitar. For one thing, we’ve grown from a family of 6 to a family of 11. Wooooooah Nelly!





Last night we had plans to go out to a restaurant for a traditional Ukrainian meal, but one of our guys was having a rough one so we needed to stay in for the night. After we got the guys to bed we gathered the kids on our bed upstairs and took turns sharing something we each love about our life here in Ukraine. It was a sweet time. Many of your names were mentioned! Along this journey, we have met so many wonderful friends from all over the US and around the world.

I shared with our kids a memory of our very first day in Ukraine. It’s a memory that about sums up our first several months here.

When we arrived in Kyiv on November 13, 2013, our dear friend, Olya, came with us from the airport to Zhytomyr to spend the first couple of days with us, to help us get settled a bit. Keep in mind that we knew ZERO language and were basically clueless about everything having to do with life in Ukraine. Sure, we had visited, but let me tell you- visiting another country IS NOT the same as setting up a life there and living there. The morning after we arrived we decided to hop on the bus with our littles in tow and head to the big grocery store to get some necessities. I remember arriving at the store, hopping off the bus and Addy, 9 years old at the time, saying “It doesn’t really seem that different here!” Oh Addy, bless your heart. 😉  We wandered aimlessly through the store, jet-lagged and overwhelmed. Three-year-old Seth fell asleep in the grocery cart. We knew we needed diapers…and maybe TP? Why did we not make a list??? The kids were being super loud and all the other children in sight were silent…we were stressed and didn’t know what any of the labels on the food meant…

I remember the chaos of figuring out money at the checkout and Jed vowing never to go the store again with all 4 kids. I’m pretty sure that at that time we felt like 4 kids were waaaaaay too many. Little did we know what the future held! Oy.

We got home from the store with as much as we could carry and, after unpacking the bags, realized we still had no idea what to cook for dinner. I think we ended up eating a lot of oatmeal in those early days. Ha! We learned much through trial and error, and still do. But it’s actually quite encouraging to think back and realize how stupid we were then! Hehe.

Now, five years later, we can fondly look back at those beginnings and praise God for ALL the amazing things he has done. When we arrived in Ukraine the dreams we had in our hearts were not even legal. There was no legal mechanism for the deinstitutionalization of adults. We had no idea that two weeks after we arrived a revolution would begin. And as Ukraine endeavors to move toward the EU, our dream of deinstitutionalization is now a mandate. What are the odds? God is crazy good like that.

God had so many beautiful gifts waiting for us in Ukraine. Four of those gifts are currently downstairs drinking tea. 🙂 We had no idea when we first visited Romaniv that we were meeting 4 of our sons. Oh, and if you would have told me 5 years ago that we would have another baby, and that she would be born here in Ukraine, well, I probably would have spit out my coffee. Woooooooah, that was a doozy of a surprise. But, I love how God knows exactly what we need and when we need it. Our Evie blesses our hearts and brings us joy and healing every single day.

It’s funny to imagine that most of our team members were teenagers when we first moved to Ukraine. Kids! I absolutely love the team He is building here. I’m thankful that our guys are surrounded daily by people who don’t just tolerate them, but love them, champion them, and challenge them.

The days are long and often hard, but the years are quick. The greatest gift that God has given to me in these past 5 years is the gift of learning to lay myself down. Daily I’m confronted with my own weakness and my own brokenness. As we serve the broken hearts, broken minds, and broken bodies here in our home, I’m confronted with my selfishness and general ickiness of heart. I thank God that He is moving the hearts of our family from charity to compassion. He is changing us all, from the inside out.

So, here’s to 5 more years of saying YES to the next thing. Thank you to each of you who have prayed for us, encouraged us, supported us. We could never walk this journey alone. Thank you for joining us in YES!


Photo highlights:


My Littles, our first week in Ukraine

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Our first Christmas


Boris and me, back in the day




Christmas #2!


Vladik’s Day of Freedom! 2015


The day we got the keys to the Wide Awake Homestead! 2016


A biiiiiiiig work in progress


Wide Awake Homestead! 2017


Boris’ Day of Freedom! 2017


Welcome to the world Evie Joy 2018


Ruslan and Anton’s Day of Freedom! 2018

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

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

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


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

What a journey.  What.a.journey.


This year has been full.

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

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


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

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




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



 We are blessed to have you on the team.




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

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

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

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The Tension

This living-overseas-everythingisnew-missionary-stillawifeandmomfirst-immersion thing can be quite the doozy at times. It’s a rough and wonderful road. Sharing about it though, is fine line to walk.

I want to be real and honest.

But I don’t want to be a complainer.

I want to be me.

But how to “be me” from behind a keyboard?

I want to be respectful of people here in Ukraine.

But there are things here that are difficult for us, since this is not our home culture.

I want to be respectful of the people back in the US.

But I also want them to be challenged and encouraged to think and dream bigger- and act.

I want to share all so people know how to pray.

But I don’t want to share all because I know many Ukrainian friends read this blog and I don’t want them to worry about us or feel bad for us.

I want to share about our Boys and their need and their worth. I want to share about their lives and things that break our hearts and should never have to be endured by a human.

But I don’t want to share too much because I don’t want to disrespect them or exploit them or break relationship with the Directors at Romaniv.


Fine line. Tight rope walking.


I say all that just so you know that when I write things on this blog I don’t take it lightly. There are many people to consider and many points of view to consider. Many times I write to clarify things in my own mind and heart. Sometimes I don’t really understand my own feelings until I type them out. It’s kind of like a form of therapy for me. Lucky you, my dear Readers! Ha. I also always want to be honest about this journey. Maybe it could help others who are setting out on a journey like ours. I know I love reading honesty from those who have gone before. Somehow it settles my heart to see they struggle with things similar to my own.

Lately I’ve been trying to figure out my heart and feelings surrounding the balance of being a mother and a friend and a cross-cultural-worker here in Ukraine. When we first arrived here Jed and I both jumped right on in to work. We both volunteered at MTU, probably pretty equal amounts. Whoever wasn’t at MTU was home with the kids. It was an important time for us to figure out where we fit into everything here, and to see where God wanted us in the mix.

Then we had the summer, which was basically a whole family affair (which was AWESOME…). And now we have reached the fall, and we have a new norm. I think this new norm will be the norm for some time to come. I LOVE the new norm, but my overachieving, worker-bee, people-pleasing self won’t let me be completely at peace about it and I don’t know what that means.

The new norm is that Jed does most of the work outside the home, and I am home a lot more with the kids, reminiscent of our lives back in Oregon. Of course we both go to Romaniv twice a week, do language tutoring together, and we both work together on our youth nights for graduates, but most of the rest of the work is Jed’s. I get to focus more of my time on the home, the kiddos, and being Mom and Wife. I am in love with this. I know the kids need it and they thrive when I am home more. Focusing more time on our home and our family brings me great joy and fulfillment. When I’m gone from home a lot I feel scattered and yucky.

So, I know this is a good set-up. I know this. But then I start to question myself.

I don’t question if it’s a good thing that I’m home more. I value motherhood and I think stay-at-home moms rock. I have always dreamed of being a stay-at-home mom with no outside work committments, but that has never been what God had for me. It’s not the focus at home that I question, it’s the time spent not focusing outside the home that has me evaluating my heart.

Do I have such peace at home partly because it’s easier to be home than out in the culture that is still difficult for me? Do I have such peace at home because I feel smart at home and I mostly feel dumb as soon as I walk outside my front door? Hahaha…not kidding…hehe. When I’m at home I have this feeling like I should be outside getting to know my neighbors, or taking the kids to the playground so they can have more exposure to language and I can brave it with neighborhood moms. But as it is, I already feel like I’m not investing enough time in to the relationships here that I already have. It’s like that guilty Oregonian feeling you get when the sun finally comes out. You feel like because it’s sunny you should be outside NO MATTER WHAT. Because you never know when you might get sun again! Well, what if I don’t feel like being outside that day? What if I have inside work to do that day? Too bad. If I stay inside on a sunny day in Oregon I am riddled with guilt. (Is that just me, or do other Oregonians catch my drift?) (PS: I think I have some guilt issues)

I’m used to watching over all the friends in my life and making sure everyone is okay and included and taken care of, but I don’t have that role here with friends. Here, we are investing that time in to our Boys, and frankly the work at Romaniv can be emotionally and spiritually exhausting. I love those Boys more than I could have ever imagined and am fully committed to them and their well-being. It’s just that with being a wife and with our kiddos at home and then our kiddos at Romaniv…I don’t have a lot of reserve left on a day to day basis. I love my friends here so stinkin’ much. I just don’t feel like a very good friend here in Ukraine and I hate that feeling…but I feel helpless to change it.

Are all these feelings okay? Or am I relying too much on myself? Maybe I’m being lazy and selfish? It’s like I still have a short-term missions mindset that I have to give up every spare moment to the work and ministry here, but we are here for the longhaul. There will be no longevity if I live this life like a short-term missions trip. I know that, but I still battle. How to find the balance of time and energy spent?

Anywaysssss…balancing focus on the home and focus outside the home and all my feelings surrounding that is exhausting. I know what the answer is: walk in the Spirit. Be available to God and when He says to act, act. Be fully at home when I’m home, but also be aware and listening for the whisper to go outside and talk to the neighbors. Be aware of my friends and listen to promptings in my spirit for when I need to reach out. Stop being a people-pleaser and only live for an audience of One. Say YES. I know these things, it’s just all easier said than done.

So, there you have it: my Monday afternoon therapy session. Ha! I just think it’s important to be honest about this journey. Then you can all know how to pray! 🙂

Oh this road, it’s so unpredictable. Thank you Jesus for walking by my side.


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A New Place

We are rapidly approaching our one year anniversary of life here in Ukraine.

Has it already been one year?  Has it been only one year????

So much has happened in this past year it feels like a million lifetimes have passed since we touched down in Kyiv that cold November night.

Before we moved we’d been warned by other missionaries and in missionary books and missionary blogs that the first year overseas is a beast. We tried to prepare ourselves for that, but how can you really prepare, emotionally and spiritually, to leave everything you have ever known and held dear- and start over? How can you prepare to go from being a pretty smart person to feeling pretty much dumb pretty much all the time? How can you prepare for what it will be like to watch your children hurt and struggle and feel lonely? How can you prepare to go from being a vital part of a vibrant community of like-minded people to living on the fringes of society?


You just can’t. You can try, but you just can’t be prepared. You just have to jump and trust that your loving Father will catch you.

This first year has been the hardest time of our lives. It has stretched us and jostled us and turned us upside down.


And yet…

How can you prepare to have your heart invaded by 80 boys tucked away in the middle of nowhere? How can you prepare for the joy of knowing young men and women with special needs who can light up the room with a single smile? How can you prepare to watch God fling open doors that have been shut for years? How can you prepare to feel the absolute smile of God and joy of the Father as you walk right down the center of His will? How can you prepare to watch young men and women loving your children with utter abandonment?


You just can’t. You can try, but you just can’t be prepared. These things are what you experience in that catch of the Father.

My heart came to a new place this past week. I was washing the dishes and thinking about our upcoming Ukraine-iversary, and I realized that I’m good. I’m okay. We will most likely live here for a very long time, and I’m okay with it. When we moved here we sold everything except what we packed in our 12 suitcases (and a couple tubs in storage). We came here with the mindset that this is our new home until God says otherwise. We knew then that if we came for a set amount of time we would forever be looking at that deadline and we wouldn’t settle in for the long-haul. We know that about ourselves.


I can’t know the heart of God, and His ways are higher than mine. Maybe He’ll have us leave here next month, but I highly doubt it. I can’t say I know the future, but I can say that the dreams God gave us are big HUGE dreams that are going to take a loooooooong time. So, as things stand now, I expect us to live in Ukraine for many, many years.

We are here for the long-haul, and I’m good. I’m sad, but I’m good. Thinking about the long-haul a few months ago only made me cry. I’ll be honest. Now it makes me cry and it makes me smile. It makes me cry because I miss my family and my friends across the ocean. I saw pictures of a bunch of my family all together last weekend and I bawled my eyes out. I should be there with them. How can I not be there with them? How can we raise our children so far away from family? How can we bear all the missed holidays, all the missed birthdays, all the joys of daily life? Christmas is coming. How will we bear it? I don’t know and I don’t even want to think about it. I guess I have to trust that God will catch us then too. It’s so hard, but we just have to trust Him that He will fill those empty places- for us and our family in the US.  That part is incredibly hard.  I can’t even tell you how hard.



The long-haul also makes me smile. It makes me smile because of our dear ones here. How could we ever leave our Boys???? How??? How could we leave and not be a part of their lives? How could we walk away and not know what happened to them, where they lived out their days? How could we stop fighting for them? And what about our young adults with special needs? We love them! How could we leave? And what about all our friends? Our church? Leaving here would be just as devastating as it was to leave Salem. I’ll even dare to say it would be more devastating deep down, simply because our loved ones in America are daily loved and care for by many, but our Boys are not.


Sigh. There just aren’t any simple fixes. It’s just painful and joyful and trustful and tearful. All we can do is trust and keep hold of the hand of our Father.

So, I’m in a new place. I’m in a place of seeing the long road stretched out before me and feeling okay with walking in that direction for many more years. There will be plenty of tears and joys along the way, I’m sure of that. But oh the peace that comes from saying YES to Jesus- one step at a time. There’s just nothing like it.

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Six Months!

Today marks 6 months in Ukraine.  Happy Anniversary to us!  YAY!

The past 6 months have flown by, yet so much has happened and so much in life has changed in that time that I can hardly believe we’ve only been here for 6 months.  Crazy.

My heart is so full right now as I look back at all God has done, and as I look at what He is doing right now.  I think about the ones who helped send us here, and continue to send us and I am overwhelmed with love.  All our friends, family, and supporters that are so far away- we love you so so much.  We cherish every email, every Skype/Facetime date, every Viber message, every Facebook message, every postcard more than we can even express.  THANK YOU for your continued prayer and encouragement.  It is necessary and such an enormous blessing to us.  We know we aren’t “out of sight out of mind” and that means a lot to us.  🙂

Then I think about all our wonderful friends here in our new home and I get all gushy and teary-eyed again.  How is it that we can be so blessed??  I’ve decided that we are just stinkin’ spoiled rotten.  Our Ukrainian friends love us and our children so very well.  Our lives are so much richer because of your presence in our lives.  THANK YOU for loving us despite our toddler vocabulary.  You are too good to us.  We love you!

Okay, I’m done with my speech now.  I could say so much more, but it’ll get all mushy and you all don’t want to read that.  Let’s just say, God s good and saying YES is worth it.

Annnnnnd for your viewing pleasure, here are some of my favorite pics of the past few weeks, just because I can.  🙂

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First S’mores of the season

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Romaniv Sweetness

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“Mama Nina”

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Fun at our friends’ farm, i.e Seth’s Heaven

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Football!! (Soccer)

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Addy and Hava helping babysit Zakhar, their fave Ukrainian baby doll 🙂

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Fun with friends

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Flying kites with cows. Hahaha

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Free-Range Sethers

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Making friends in our neighborhood. Slowly but surely!

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Ezra found a pet at the park…meet Slimey!

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Bob, a Vineyard pastor in California, came to visit and we made a great new friend. We can’t wait till you come again!

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Olya, my Ukrainian Mama 🙂 Я люблю тебе Оля!

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Semi-scary ooooooold carnival rides are right up Ezra’s alley

I can’t wait to see what the next 6 months hold.  Woohoo!

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Mommy Heart on the Line

In ten days we’ll have been in Ukraine for six months.  Crazy.  On one hand it feels like “Where did the time go?”, but mostly it feels like a whole lot longer than that.  I don’t say that in a negative way, just in an honest way.  Every thing has changed.  Everything.  In Ezra’s words, “Everything about Ukraine is different…except McDonalds.”  It feels like a very long time since we and our 12 suitcases (TWELVE!!!) crossed the ocean. It feels like much more than 6 months ago.

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In many ways I feel great right now.  I feel like we’re in our groove with MTU.  We are loved there and we love many people there.  We have a bit of a schedule there and are able to be a very practical help to them.  Of course the work at Romaniv is AWESOME and we are loving that.  We are pretty good at shopping now, we know the bus routes, we were able to actually communicate with our landlady last week without calling any English speakers for help.  In some ways we have really grown and feel at home here.

In other ways we struggle.  I won’t speak for Jed about his struggles, but I thought I would share a bit of my own.  I think I have a tendency to always write about the good and neglect sharing about the bad or the difficult.  I don’t want to be a complainer, and sharing your struggles is really putting yourself out there.  Not many people enjoy doing that…but I feel like I need to do it.  It’s not a fair picture to only paint the good.  This is real life, and I’m determined to be a real person.  So, here ya go.

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The past few weeks were hard for me, probably the hardest yet.  Things are getting better now, but it was a bit rough, internally.  Let’s just say I’m having a harder time letting go than I had anticipated.  My Mommy heart has been struggling in big ways.

Of course when we were preparing to move here I anticipated that I would experience loneliness and isolation.  I knew I would miss my family and friends, my church, the familiarity of every day life.  I do miss all those things, but I can deal.  I know that I know I’m exactly where God wants me to be.  I am learning that He is enough, and He continues to give me the strength to say yes.

I guess what I didn’t anticipate was how difficult this road would be as a mother.  Really, how could I anticipate it?  I had no one to talk to who had followed this path before, and anyone with a bit of a similar situation experienced their story in a different culture than this.  I still have no one to talk to who has walked this road before in Ukraine.  But, I’m learning to be okay with that.

The thing is, I’ve been subconsciously trying to recreate my childhood, a middle class American childhood, in Ukraine.  Ummmmm yeah….not gonna work.   I KNOW THAT.  I know we don’t live in suburbia America.  I know that EVERYTHING is different (I said that already).  But knowing that, and living that are two different things.

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I’m just now learning how much of my mothering expectations and family expectations are based on American culture.  It’s all I know!  Of course I expect what I know.  I don’t know anything different.  I don’t know how to mother my children in this place.  Jed and I chose to come here.  Our children didn’t get a choice.  I don’t know what to do when they’re on the playground and they are surrounded by children they can’t speak to.  Do I push them to go try to make friends or do I let them just be their own little island, playing only with each other?  I don’t know what to do when my Hava comes up to me crying at a picnic full of kids because she has no friends and no one will play with her.  I don’t know how to continue to build their English reading and writing skills when they are in Ukrainian school.  Ezra was just really learning how to read and write in English, and now his day is spent reading and writing a language he doesn’t understand.  What do I do with that?  I’m not sure any of my favorite home school books cover that scenario.

Everyone says,

“The kids will be fine!”

“Kids don’t need language to play!  Just put them out on the playground and they’ll make friends in no time!”

“Kids learn language so fast.  Before you know it your kids will be translating for you!”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard those words…

Let me tell you, it’s not as easy as all that.  It just plain isn’t.  Maybe in some cultures kids don’t need language to make new friends, but in this culture they do.  This isn’t the most open culture.  Kids are shy.  Kids are more closed.  We are the oddity in our town.  We are like a walking zoo.  Ha!  There is no one like us that I know of in our town, and it shows.  Our kid are understanding more all the time, but they can barely speak to other children.  I know, I know, it’s only been 6 months, but I can vouch that 6 months feels like an eternity when your kids’ hearts are involved.  It’s just plain hard, and for the past few weeks I’ve felt tired and discouraged.

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I want my kids to be able to talk to other kids, just chat and goof around.  I want other kids to know them.  They are great little people, but no one knows that because they can’t speak.  I want them to have friends and to be able to respond when approached by other children.

I want those things, but then I wonder, how many of my expectations are based on modern American culture, and how many are really essential for their health and happiness?

The kids are happy.  Sure they are awkward in social situations, but otherwise they are happy.  They have each other and they love each other deeply.  They are happy to run and play together, regardless of what other kids around them are doing.  They are like a little tribe, oblivious to anyone else.  So I find that I’m putting expectations on their childhood that they don’t even have for themselves!  They don’t know what my childhood was, so they don’t have that expectation for their own.  They don’t see other kids’ lives on Facebook and compare them with their own.  What they are experiencing now is their own childhood, and it is shaping them just as my childhood shaped me.

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For instance, right now we’re reading through the Little House on the Prairie books as a family.  In Little House in the Big Woods, I was struck by how infrequently Mary and Laura had contact with other children.  They were mostly just home with Ma and Pa, yet according to the books they were as content as can be!  They weren’t pining away for sleepovers and play dates…the Big Woods was what they knew and it was enough.  When they drove in to town for the first time Laura describes how they saw children playing outside the houses.  Never was it mentioned how she wished she was one of those children with tons of neighbors all around.  They had the security of their family.  They knew they were loved.  They had each other and they were content.

My children don’t pine away for sleepovers and play dates and home school co-op, but I find myself pining away on their behalf.  I guess it’s because I know that’s what their American friends are doing and I feel they are missing out on what “should be”.  In my mind, those things are what make a childhood.  BUT, there are plenty of varieties of “happy childhood”.  Of course they miss their friends, and if given the option they would love to be a part of that life again, but they rarely talk about it.  Their life is here.  They have each other.  They have our love.  Their life is rich here and most of the time they seem content.  But then there is the occasional Skype or Facetime with a friend back in the US and things begin to unravel.  I want them to be able to keep those friendships, but it is hard on their little hearts.  Sigh….I think that’s another topic altogether.

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Those are the thoughts and ramblings that have been tearing at my heart.  My heart knows that my children were called here.  My heart knows that they need to live here and this needs to be their life experience in order for God to make them fully who He intends for them to be.  But knowing all of that doesn’t make this easy.  It’s hard to watch your children struggle.  It’s hard when everyone blows it off and makes it sound like all of this adjustment will come easily to them.  Maybe in the long run we’ll look back and see that the struggle was brief and it did, in fact, come easily, but in the meantime it doesn’t feel easy at all.  Just because a pregnant woman had a quick labor doesn’t mean the labor didn’t hurt.

So, I continue to work at letting go.  I give my kids over to God and trust that He knows what is best for them.  I trust that He will give us wisdom when no parenting or mothering book seems to apply (because none of them seem at all relevant right now).  I trust that this will get easier and slowly they will find their place in this culture.

Most of all I am working at letting go of my priorities and desperately seeking God’s priorities.  Who cares about sleepovers and play dates if their little hearts are far from the Lord?  This world is not all that there is.  We were made for eternity!  This life is a blink of an eye compared to what we were really created for.  Our main job as parents is not to find our kids more friends on the playground or insure they are happy and accepted at school.  Our main job is to point them to Jesus.  I want my kids to see that He is all that matters and living abandoned to him is worth it.  It.is.worth.it.  On the hard days when we are lonely and feel like we don’t fit anywhere- He is worth it.   I want to end my race having absolutely spent myself- holding nothing back.  I want that for my children.

The American dream is not what I was created for.  I was created for Him.  Our children were created for Him.  He is the priority.  May I never forget it.  May I let go of myself and my wants and cling to Him.  May our children live lives of YES.  Isn’t that what truly matters?  I’ve learned from experience that saying YES to Him brings the greatest happiness EVER.  That is the variety of happy childhood I want for my babies.  I just need a reminder of that every day or so.  🙂

photo 4 (14)


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The BIG Grocery Shopping Post

My friend Crystal and her husband moved to England just a couple weeks before we moved to Ukraine and she wrote a blog post about what grocery shopping is like in the UK. It was so fascinating that I was inspired to tell you all about my grocery shopping experience in Ukraine! Are you ready for this? Let’s do it.

One thing you need to know is that there are several different types of grocery shopping experiences available here in Ukraine. It all depends on how how much you want to dive in to the culture and how much you want to try out your language skills. 🙂 First there are the old Soviet type stores that are on just about every corner. They are always close by and often times are even in the first floor of apartment buildings! The majority of Ukrainians don’t have a car, so it’s extremely important to have grocery stores close by. The Soviet stores sell milk, bread, eggs, water, candy, mayo, salami, and cheese…you know, the basics. People refer to them as the old “Soviet” style because back in the day of the USSR these were the only types of supermarket stores around. When you walk in there is generally one big counter, or two counters with an aisle in the middle. The employees stand behind the counter and get you whatever you ask for. You can’t just browse and fill your cart. Each section of the counter has an employee responsible for that section and that certain employee is the only one who can help you with those products. You pay each employee separately, even if you are buying several things from different sections. Stores were set up in this way during the USSR to control how much of each product was allotted to each family.

These stores get an A+ for accessibility, but a D- for American ease of use. I mean, I have to know what something’s called to be able to ask for it…right? Luckily our corner store ladies are getting to know us and they know the things we like. Also, we are getting better at asking for what we want. These stores are good for us, but also a bit intimidating. 🙂 I didn’t take pics of these stores because they are tiny and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to be that discreet. You’ll just have to use your imagination! These are the stores we go to pretty much daily for the basics that go bad quickly.

The second type of grocery shopping available we affectionately call “You know those Babushkas on the side of the road”. Ha! On our main street there are several grandmas who bring in produce and homemade canned items and they sell them on the sidewalk. I’ve bought pumpkin from them a few times. That one’s a little difficult because you need to pretty much have exact change for what you want. But, the food is fresh and good!

Babushkas get an A+++ for accessibility, but a C for ease of use. (Bonus points for extreme cuteness)

The third type of grocery shopping is shopping at the big open market. That shopping deserves a post all it’s own. I’ll get right on that!

The Market gets a C for accessibility (we have to take the bus to get there), and a C for ease of use (much Russian required), but an A for freshness and quality of food. It’s worth the hassle at least once a week. 🙂

The fourth type of grocery shopping is the one I’ll describe in detail for you today. This is your basic supermarket shopping. This is most like American shopping, and the type of shopping we do at least twice a week. Food goes bad more quickly here, and like I told you before, we have to carry all we buy, so we shop a lot more frequently here than we did in the US.

This is the supermarket we shop at the most. It’s like a 5 minute walk from our house. Jed’s dentist is on the second floor. BONUS!

This is the biggest grocery store in town. It’s located in the mall. Look at all those checkouts! Sweeeeet.

Every store, wether it be an electronics store, a pharmacy, or a grocery store has lockers at the entrance where you MUST lock up any bags or backpacks. They also have security men who stand at the entrance/exit to check receipts and make sure you lock up your bags.
Let’s tour the store, shall we? (prepare for picture overload)
Ukrainian stores have LOADS of bulk type items. In some stores you find an employee to weigh your items for you, and at some stores you weigh them and put in the code yourself.

Apples, all sold by the kilo

MASSIVE cabbage! Ha! They’re on sale too. 🙂

Most carrots, beets, and potatoes are sold SUPER dirty. But, you can pay a bit more for clean carrots. I don’t understand if there’s any other difference other than one type is clean and one is dirty. I usually buy the dirty, unless I’m in a hurry and know I won’t have much time to scrub.

You put the plastic gloves on your hands when you’re picking through produce.

At the big mall grocery store you weigh your item yourself, push the little button for that particular item and a sticker pops out that you put on the bag. I like it!

They have lots of cookies sold in bulk

Just right out there in the open without a cover. Ha! This is like the worst temptation for Seth. He doesn’t understand why he can’t just grab one!

All stores have bulk pelmeni and vereniki (dumplings) that are sold frozen in bulk

You can even buy eggs in bulk! You can put as many as you want on a flat, or you can put several in a bag to take home. The eggs sold this way instead of in the carton are sold individually by egg.

All kinds of yummy bread for sale. Just beware…sometimes you randomly find a hot dog in your roll. :/

How in the world do you choose your cheese?? So many options!!!

Pieces of cheese are sold by the kilo.

Every store has a massive sausage/kielbasa/salami/hot dog aisle. Friends have told us what brands are good and we’ve been a bit nervous to venture out from those brands. We’re learning that you definitely get what you pay for. So it’s important to make sure you don’t buy the cheapest cheese and meat. 🙂

It’s funny how much you can learn about a culture just by browsing around in the grocery store. A couple obvious things you should know about Ukraine: Ukrainians have a love affair with mayonnaise and all things dairy. The mayonnaise aisle (yes, aisle) and dairy product aisle is quite an impressive affair.

Behold, Mayonnaise, the King of Ukrainian condiments!

Check out all the spreadable cheese options! And these are just the squares, the rest of the aisle is full of varying sizes of tubs of spreadable cheese. Maybe I need to dedicate 2014 to trying out all the spreads. Hmmmm

…More spready cheese…

Here lies some milk choices. Ukraine, the land flowing with milk and mayo…

Kefir is a big thing here too. Nice! Good for the ol’ tummy.

Lots and lots of products here are sold in bags, rather than in bottles or jugs. Like milk, mostly all condiments, spices, yogurt…It’s super helpful when you have to carry all your groceries home. It also helps cut down on waste since most homes don’t have the ability to recycle, and like at our house, many people have to walk at least a block to take out the trash. Bagged goods make a lot of sense! I like it!

Ketchup, ketchup, and more ketchup.

Crystal, here’s our Mexican food aisle! 😉

Ketchup, mustard, and mayo

Some spices at our house: Rosemary, basil, thyme and parsley, paprika, cloves, and baking powder. This is the only way I can find baking powder. Why so tiny??? WHY???? Waaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh 🙁

Even ice cream is sold in a bag! (This brand rocks, BTW. It’s a Zhitomir brand and it’s so tasty it makes me proud to live in Zhitomir) 🙂

We have this handy-dandy little pitcher to hold our bag of milk once we’ve snipped the corner open.

Here’s just some other random things I thought you might find interesting. All my Ukrainian friends are laughing their heads off at me at this point. Sorry guys, we Americans are really easily amused.

Soy sauce is easy to find. There is also a surprising amount of pad thai rice noodles. Strange, because I don’t know anyone who buys these things…except us.

Canned corn and peas are sold like they’re goin’ out of style. Super popular!

Right near the jerky you can find tons of dried fish. No thanks.

The amount of liquor found in the stores is pretty astounding. At the big store in the mall there are 4 full aisles (both sides) dedicated to alcohol, that doesn’t include wine or beer. One full aisle (both sides) is dedicated solely to vodka. Think of all the homemade vanilla I can make! 😉 There is almost just as much dedication to chocolate. Now THAT’s more like it.

So, there you have it! That’s grocery shopping, Ukrainian style, in a nutshell. We are slowly learning more and more about what products are good, how pricing works, and how shopping happens best for our family. I’m working on evaluating prices in grivnas instead of trying to convert every price to dollars in my head. My brain can’t handle all that division. I just need to get used to what things cost here and get over it. 🙂 In the long run that will be much easier. We’re doing more shopping from the outdoor market these days, so I can’t wait to share that experience with you. It’s a whole other level of Ukrainian culture of which I have MUCH to learn.
I would be remiss if I didn’t show you the most important tools of the shopping trade. Every good Ukrainian has an arsenal of these babies ready at a moment’s notice. I give you, the shopping bags:

Big green plaid is my personal fave. 😉

When you go up to pay the cashier will always ask you if you want a bag. You have to answer if you want a big bag, medium bag, or small bag, and then tell them how many bags you want. You pay for each bag, so it’s a good idea to bring your own. I like that method. Yay for less waste!
Okay, that’s all I got. I hope you found this at least mildly interesting, because I did risk life and limb to get these undercover photos. You better appreciate it! 🙂
Yay for Ukrainian shopping!

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A Christmas Miracle: Part 2

To fully grasp the awesomeness, read Part 1 here.

On Christmas morning Jed and our friend Oleg headed over to Pastor Pavel’s office to start working on the invitation letter.  The goal was to get that letter written and submitted to the Ministry of Culture before December 31st so our letter *hopefully* wouldn’t end up on the bottom of someone’s stack once the offices opened back up after the New Year.  Like I said before, the Ministry of Culture “generally” takes about 3-4 weeks to write their letter of approval, and January is FULL of holidays in Ukraine.  New Years is the big deal here, then they celebrate Christmas on January 7th, then there is some other kind of celebration on the 13th…so time was not really on our side.


Havalah turned 5! (She liked her present) 🙂

Jed and Oleg sat down with Pavel and got started on the letter.  Then Pavel remembered he has a friend at the Ministry of Culture.  “Let’s call him and make sure we’re doing this right.”

Well, he called up his friend and the friend tells them to just come on over right then and he would help with the letter.  In Ukraine, if you get an invite from a government office to “just come on over” you better snatch it right up because it might never come again!  😉


Christmas Eve program at a church in Zhitomir

They got in the car right then and drove over to the office.  Remember this is the office where our invitation letter would be be submitted for approval (which could then take several weeks).  Pavel’s friend proceeded to help them rewrite the letter to make it worded the best way possible,  and then decided to just write the approval letter right there and then.  I mean, they were sitting right there…why not?  HA!  He wanted to make sure he got it all right so he called in the man who provides policy clarification for the Zhitomir region.  Every region interprets the laws differently here, so this guy is key to our visa success.  Policy-clarification guy comes over and helps them finish the letter of approval.  While that’s being written he suggest they just write all the letters we’ll need when we come back from getting our visas.  Remember once we leave the country to get our visas and return to Ukraine we have 45 days to “register” with the local offices.  That registration includes lotsandlotsandlots of documents.  Well Pavel’s friend just sat right down and proceeded to write every single document for our registration that could be made ahead of time.  WHAT THE WHAT???????????  I’m gonna estimate that that act right there saved us approximately 57 trips to the office + 58 hours of headache.  Jed was sitting in that office holding back tears, astounded at the goodness of God.


Once all the letters were written and stamped Pavel’s friend said he would hand-deliver them to the lady in the office who gives the final approval.  “Otherwise it may take weeks.  I’ll just ask her to approve them today.”  He walks out of the room to her office, but she wasn’t available.  No worries, he left the papers with her with her word that she would inform us as soon as they were signed.

All of this took several hours and several cups of tea and coffee in the government office.  4 Ukrainian people spent their whole day going above and beyond to help us.  Our friend Oleg told Jed “This just does not happen.  All the right people being available and in the same place, willing to help is like a one in a million chance in Ukraine.”


Our biggest blessings

Two days later we got a call that ALL the letters were signed, stamped, approved, and ready to be picked up.  A process that should have taken 3-4 weeks took exactly 3 days.  Not to mention all the documents we’ll need later on that are already done.  That will help us tremendously when we return with our visas!  God’s care for us is astounding.  I don’t even know why we were shocked by this, I mean this has been His way with us along this whole journey.  He has been over the top faithful at every point.

This miracle has a second part that is just icing on the cake.  So, way back when, in like August of 2012 some friends and I were advocating for an orphan here in Ukraine named “Heath”.  Remember that?  Heath is now home with his family in Texas (AND I got to meet him in person in Kiev last month!) but during that advocating time I “met” another woman, Sandra,  who was fiercely advocating for Heath.  Funny thing is, she was advocating for him all the way over in Switzerland at the same time as us in Oregon.  We became online friends bound by our mutual love for Heath and the fatherless.  Sandra has been a big encourager to us as we prepared and moved to Ukraine.  One time she mentioned how awesome it would be if we would come to Switzerland at some point to share about Wide Awake at her church.  I thought “Oh yeah, that would be cool, but it’s not like we’d ever just randomly be able to pop on over to Switzerland!


Heath (now named Boden) and me. This cuddle was one of the highlights of my year…maybe of my life.

Fast forward to this past fall.  Sandra emailed and said that she talked with her pastor, and the leadership of the church was interested in hearing more about Wide Awake and they would pray about supporting us as a church!  We gave them letters describing Wide Awake and they voted to take us on as a ministry to support!  Well, guess what just happens to be in the same city in Switzerland as Sandra and her church?  A UKRAINIAN CONSULATE!  Soooooo, with documents and passports in hand we will head to Switzerland in a couple of weeks to obtain our visas, visit Sandra, and share Wide Awake at her church!  Are you kidding me????  God you are too ridiculously amazing.  Why are we your favorites?????  😉


Excited to receive our first piece of mail from dear friends

Did you know that you’re His favorite too?  My dad taught us that we are each God’s favorite.  If there was no one else in the entire world He still would have sent His Son JUST FOR YOU.  Maybe 2013 was a really hard, painful, and trying year for you.  Maybe you ended 2013 feeling forgotten by your Father in Heaven.  Maybe you have no clue what I’m talking about.  Let me just tell you that 2014 is a time for you to discover or re-discover God’s great love for you.  You are His favorite!  You are not forgotten.  Consider the children in Ukraine that He sent us to love.  They lay in cribs, limbs stiff and contorted, lame from lack of use.  Some have never felt the grass on their feet, never felt the sun on their face.  By all appearances they have been completely forgotten by God.  How could a good God allow that kind of suffering?  Guess what?  He’s not allowing it.  He loves them and cares for them so deeply that He uprooted our family, comfy in our middle-class wealth, and planted us right here to devote our lives to their care.  We are no great gift.  I’m not saying we’re are the answer or that we’re super special, I’m just sharing how we get to be a part of God’s demonstration of love to them.  Each of those are His favorites- NOT forgotten.

You are not forgotten.  God has good plans for you.  All you have to do is say Yes to Him.  Living for yourself will only bring disappointment.  Let 2014 be a year of YES.  You will not regret it.


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The Gift of Advent in Ukraine

I can't even believe Christmas is just a week away! I'm a Christmas junkie. I looooove me some Christmas. I may, in fact, be the friend that calls her other Christmas-lovin' friends the minute Christmas music is first heard on the radio, “K103 is playing Christmas music!!!” Mmmm I love it all.

I love the decorations, the music, the smells, the fooooood, the special Christmasy outings that involve mittens and hot cocoa (except if you live in Oregon don't do the Polar Express…lame-o), the movies, the family togetherness…ALL OF IT. Havalah was born on December 22nd and that was the best Christmas ever. We had snow that Christmas! My Grandad had to go pick up my parents to get them down their hill so they could make it to the hospital. I remember laying in the hospital bed with my sweet little Hava-bundle, snow was falling outside, Jed and I were watching reruns of A Christmas Story non-stop. It was a sweet deal becauseTBS was doing a marathon, so each of the times we woke to feed Hava in the night we caught a different part of Ralphie. Pure bliss. 🙂

Best Christmas EVER

So, how does a Christmas lover handle her first Christmas away from family and all things cozy and familiar??? Very carefully.

Glimpses of Christmas at MTU

So far we've been doing really good! I got a bit weepy when I saw my mom post pics of my 2 nephews helping her and my dad get their Christmas tree; I felt sad my kids weren't there. But other than that moment, it's been A-OK. I know a HUGE part of that is because Jed's awesome parents arrive here on Saturday and will spend Christmas with us!!! Woot! They live in Kosovo, so it's just a short little jaunt for them to get to us. They won't even be jetlagged! It will be so great. The kids are super excited to show Grammy and Papa their new digs.

MTU classroom- best snowman!!!

The other night we had our friends Oleg and Tanya over and introduced them to A Christmas Story. They loved Ralphie, and it was fun to watch them watch it. Classic America right there folks. I made cinnamon rolls (that didn't rise, ahem…) and thumbprint cookies. We drank coffee and tea; it was cozy and festive and perfect (Until Addy started throwing up. Oy. Let's just make sure to get that bug through the whole fam before Christmas Day, mmmmk?).

Thtuck, thtuck...THTUCK!!!!!

A couple years ago we started celebrating Advent with our kids. Celebrating it here in Ukraine has been such a sweet experience. I'm really not exaggerating when I say I think our Advent “Family Time” has been key to our kids transition to life in this faraway land.

Every night we gather at the table with kids in jammies, pour our tea, light our candles, and turn out the lights. We listen to a piece from Handel's Messiah and either Jed or I read a portion of Scripture that goes along with the music. We got that plan here.

Then we read from our most favorite Advent book ever: Jotham's Journey. If you have grade-school age kids I highly recommend Jotham! We first read it 2 years ago at Advent (thanks Lanny!) and then again this year. The kids didn't remember the plot twists and turns, so it's been super fun. It's awesome how the little devotional at the end of each chapter lines up with our Handels pieces.

Then after Jotham we listen to/review our memory verse for the week. We started using an app from Children Desiring God for Scripture memorization and I'm in love.

The kids thrive on our nightly “Family Time”. They love the tea, the togetherness, and the routine of it all. I'm oddly comforted by it too. Tonight Jed and I were talking about how sweet our Advent time has been and the fact that Family Time will definitely continue after Christmas. We've never been a family of nighttime routines, mainly because with work schedules and church and friend committments we were often away in the evenings. Now that we're in Ukraine, especially with these early winter nights, we are rarely gone in the evening, so we actually have some consistency. It has been beautiful. Many people thought moving in the winter was a pretty difficult choice, but I think it was actually a gift. God knew our family would need a bit of a hibernation period as we enter this new life. It's hard to hibernate in the summer! 🙂

So, that's how we are preparing our hearts and our home for Christmas. It looks far different than any other Christmas season we've had, but it's sweet in different ways as well. We don't have any Ugly Christmas Sweater Party to go to, but we have each other. As our new country is in upheaval and people stand in the freezing streets longing for their voices to be heard, we long more than ever for God's Kingdom to come here and now. In this Advent season we thank Him for coming that first Christmas Day, and we look with longing and expectation for that day when He will come again. On that day all will be made right. No more pain, no more injustice. Come Lord Jesus, we wait with expectation for You!

Merry Christmas dear friends! May your hearts be filled with joy this season as you say YES to Him.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDDwouZpGAg&w=500&h=305]



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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 unexpected 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, 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’m enjoying 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, 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 it’s 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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