It never ceases to amaze me how time flies.
We returned home from Ukraine on the night of 8/13 and had just a few days to catch up a bit (which was spent mostly doing whatever the kids wanted to do with us since we’d been away from them for 1-2 weeks – and catching up on some ‘must dos’ for work), before attending the wedding of a dear friend, and then driving to Maine for vacation with some other dear friends, then visiting my awesome grandfather in CT, and then hosting a big event this past weekend with Narelle Chenery, who I took to the airport just this morning after a lovely couple days with her.
I’ve been wanting to get my trip report written since we got home, but I knew things would just be too crazy until now, so I tried not to stress out about it, even though I knew my supporters were eager to hear about the trip. Thankfully, I know they are all wonderfully gracious people who understand the need to know your own limitations. Thank you all – my prayer supporters, logistic supporters, and financial supporters – first again for your support, and now also for your patience with me and grace toward my delay in getting this report to you.
And now, where to start?
Oh golly, maybe 17 years ago for those who don’t know the back story leading up to this trip?
Don’t worry, I’ll give you the abbreviated version up to this summer. 😉
For those who might be new to my blog, it does get personal. This is basically a place where, as I’m able time-wise, I record and share my thoughts, journey, and day to day life as a wife and work at home mom with an ever growing desire for God to effect great change in the world in and through my own weakness, brokenness, and human limitations.
So here’s the summary of the back story leading up to this trip to Ukraine…
In September of 1995, I met Jesus and He’s been changing my life ever since.
In the spring of 1997, I sensed a strong call to abandon ‘my plans’ and follow Him on a path that used more of the gifts, talents, and interests He’d given me – which included cross cultural work (languages, travel, etc.).
Fall of 1997 – it became apparent that although He wanted to use these passions and talents He’d given me, He also wanted/needed to do some major work uprooting the pride I’d built up around them over the years. The journey of being broken and remade had begun. It hasn’t been easy, and isn’t over by any stretch of the imagination, but it has been so worth it.
Summer 1998 – Fred and I (dating at the time) spend time serving in Europe to see if this might be a direction in which God was leading us both, and therefore to determine if He might be leading us to each other in marriage.
Summer 2000 – Fred and I get married and explore the options and requirements for serving overseas long term as teachers.
Summer 2004 – We complete our Masters degrees as part of the requirements for teaching overseas – and welcome our first child. Not long after, we discover that the organization through which we’d been planning to serve overseas doesn’t anticipate needing teachers for a long while to come.
Spring 2006 – We welcome our second child, and God starts really working on our ‘baggage’ pretty intensely. Yucky stuff is getting drudged up to be healed, but it is agreed that the idea of moving to another culture should be tabled until we’ve worked through this stuff. Again, not a fun process, but oh so worth it!
Summer 2008 – We welcome our third child, and God brings significant measure of restoration to Fred while at the same time increasing my passion for service through business. (I had started on the WAHM, or Work at Home Mom, journey in the spring 2005, but mostly dabbled the first couple years).
Summer 2010 – We begin to learn much more about sustainable living and creation care. Our change in company affiliation for my consulting business frees me up to be home more in the evenings, working online much more. At the time, this was a blessing because we were expecting Baby #4 later that year, but in retrospect, it has also freed me up to take my business anywhere much more easily – as in, wherever God might ultimately call Fred to serve.
Fall 2011/Winter 2012 – We sense a call to serve more in our local community with a church plant in town. Our pastor encourages us to also revisit the overseas call at this time, knowing that process generally takes time to actually come to pass. We meet with Ben and Kristy Williams to discuss their need for ministry help in Ukraine. It’s agreed that Fred should come on a summer short term service trip to check out the work they’re doing over there.
Spring 2012 – Since they know of our willingness to possibly serve overseas long term, Ben and Kristy ask that I come on the trip as well, since we’d obviously both need to feel called to serve there – even if my role might be more of a supportive one as wife and mom. Thanks to the support and encouragement of our wonderful family and friends, we make plans for me to go for the last half of the trip. I’ll need to bring the baby (toddler but still an avid nurser) with me, but the 3 ‘bigguns’ can stay with grandparents and friends.
Summer 2012 – Back story ends, the trip begins…
Fred left on 7/30, and during his week away, I gained a greater appreciation for him, for single moms, and for God’s grace. This was the first time (I think in forever) that Fred was away for more than two days/nights. I definitely got a good reminder of how easily I can take him for granted and how thankful I am for him. At the same time, I was also blown away by God’s goodness and grace and felt so thankful to know that if Fred were to die and I were to become a single mom, He would carry us and we’d be OK.
Andrew and I left to join Fred in Ukraine on the evening of 8/7. Thanks to my Dad for driving us to the airport, for everyone who hung out with my older kids all week, and especially for those of you who prayed for the flight over. Andrew did great! It was actually really easy traveling with him alone for the most part – there were a few moments here and there, but overall, wow… so thankful.
Of course we were wiped out when we arrived early afternoon on the 8th. Ben and Kristy and Yulia, their friend, fellow servant, and often babysitter, picked us up at the airport and we drove I think about two hours (slept a bit, so not sure) straight out to the camp site where the camp was in full swing.
Camp was in ‘free time’ for the afternoon when we arrived, and we found Fred playing catch (I think) with some of the campers right near the gate. Obviously, we were all glad to see each other. Andrew was very excited to ‘find Daddy.’ I had told him, and the other kids, that we were going over to find Daddy and bring him back home. Fred took us around to meet some of the campers, we had dinner, and then Andrew and I crashed early for the night, while camp went on with its evening programs.
On Thursday, we got to spend some time with Kristy and her kids, talking about life and ministry, and then sitting in on English class. Fred had the class full of the camp translators – who I think were mostly staff from the local church who was organizing the camp as an outreach to youth in their city. It was really fun watching them discuss how best to translate one of Fred’s poems into Ukrainian. I also got to spend some time with another special Yulia, who is the wife of the pastor of the church our team was working with. Language was a barrier to getting super deep with words, but her English was quite good and we were able to talk about life as moms. And beyond the language, there was definitely a connection of love as sisters in Christ.
Friday, everyone left from the camp and returned to the city. Over the next two days, we attended follow up activities with the campers, who were at all different places on their journeys with God. Many don’t know Him at all. Some have recently discovered Him (I think I heard that 9 campers discovered Him at camp). And some have been walking with Him for a while.
One of the most beautiful experiences, both at camp and while attending their church service on Sunday morning, was worshiping God in song with people singing in two different languages. The connection and love that God’s grace and mercy creates between people who otherwise are literally a ‘world’ (OK, really just an ocean) apart, is just so humbling and breathtakingly beautiful. I found myself not wanting to leave and yearning even more for Him to make us all unified in His love, as He is working to do.
But we had to leave. Monday was departure day. Many of the campers came to the airport to say goodbye, and I found myself struck again by a strong desire to be a part of God’s work in Ukraine.
However, that’s not looking likely at this time. Or at least, not with Ben and Kristy at this time. When we met with them on Saturday morning to discuss the long term service idea more, two main things came up in the conversation. 1) They shared with us that what they need right now, before they can expand the rest of their team, is someone to take over the oversight of the English camps ministry. But because this involves a lot of travel, they feel strongly that they need a single person or a couple with no kids. Since we have four kids, that’s pretty obviously not us. 2) Fred is still not clear on where God is leading him. He longs for God to bare much fruit in and through him, and he knows that can be done anywhere – in his current teaching job, in more formal ‘ministry’ roles, in any vocation of any kind really. He feels a stirring away from school teaching, but doesn’t know toward what yet. So, he needs to get some clearer vision on where God is calling him before we can really pursue anything else.
At the same time, God is also very clearly working in both of us to release more and more of our inner control freaks and surrender more and more to His love and grace. This sanctifying process is most clearly happening in our role as parents, where we sometimes get pushed to the point of strong reactions and anger, instead of being able to respond in love and grace as we might more readily do with a stranger. Why on earth should our reaction toward our children, for whom we have perhaps the greatest responsibility to model God’s love, be any different that it would be for a stranger to whom we wish to demonstrate His love?!
God’s work of ‘putting to death’ our control freaks is also evident in our ‘work’ vocations. I am passionate enough about what I’m doing now, career wise, that my biggest struggle is giving in to striving. God is constantly reminding me to let go, work within the boundaries He sets for healthy sleep and relationships, do what I can do, and wait on Him to connect me with customers and business partners in His timing, instead of striving to connect myself with people in my time frames. And Fred is, as I mentioned, working through his own stuff with regard to his work vocation.
No doubt, a lot of the ‘control freak’ that He’s digging out of us needs to go in preparation for whatever He has next for our family. Again, not always a fun process, and sometimes painful, but oh so worth it.
The people on this trip were a great encouragement and blessing to me, and I hope that Andrew and I were a blessing and encouragement to Kristy, Yulia, and the campers with whom we got to interact. It definitely stirred the passion for international work and ministry in my heart.
As I came home to the whirlwind of activity with which I opened this post, I found myself wrestling through a few things. I love my work in the business world, and I feel God has called me to serve in this role long term, but it is sometimes hard knowing that many people may mistakenly think I’m passionate first about shampoo, skin care, or nutrition – or even business.
But even that has roots in ego that needs to get uprooted. Caring at all about how others perceive me, instead of just focusing on God and what He wants me to do on a daily basis, stems from the ego.
But then there is the side of my heart that just honestly and humbly wants the Lord to get all the credit and glory for my life.
I am in a very real sense passionate about these things – personal care and nutrition, and business – but not for their own sakes. Rather, I am passionate about the Creator God of all the universe, who cares about us in every way possible – physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, relationally – and connecting with Him in all these areas of my life through work that I believe lines up pretty well with His ways (nothing in this world lines up with Him perfectly) and who He’s shaping me to be. Nutrition, health, and toxin-free living, while important, can for many become a ‘god’ in their lives. While it’s important for me to take care of myself – and the planet given to sustain us – by eating food grown as He’d designed it to grow, and reducing exposures to man-made toxins, it’s not something to obsess or worry about either.
I want to ‘obsess’ on the author and perfecter of my faith, who alone gives me breath and life, peace, joy, guidance, and confidence in the face of uncertainty. The One who can take my heart and expand it in bizarre directions to a point of breaking, but then somehow use all my great weakness and limitation to work out great things in the world. He alone can do this, and I want my life to always point to Him.
One example of bizarre directions on our minds lately… How can we feel simultaneously strong desires to be both suburban homesteaders and global nomads?! Either way, the bottom line, is we desire to live our lives more and more fully dependent on and connected with our Lord. But those are seemingly opposite ‘directions’ so how is that going to reconcile?
I’m left now with little to do but keep praying, take one day at a time, and wait.
The journey is to be continued… 🙂