It has been too long since I have last written, I know. This has been an intense and unusual season that has required a great deal of energy and time with little time to spare for activities beyond the basics. I’m grateful now for the opportunity to share some of the happenings in this season and why I see this as a great time of anticipation and struggle.
Ukrainian Christmas (Jan. 7)
First, a simple blessing we experienced to start the year was getting out of town and visiting my husband Maxim’s family in western Ukraine to celebrate Ukrainian Christmas. I actually had a few weeks off of work around that time due to some sickness as well as the fact that schools were closed and students were on holiday, which means there is no work for an English teacher for at least 2 weeks. Hey, I won’t complain:) This was a needed refreshment! We mostly just hung out together in addition to sharing some special Christmas celebration. We enjoyed a special meal prepared by Maxim’s mom and aunt that included 12 dishes, according to the Orthodox tradition done in honor of Jesus’ 12 apostles. Also, we visited a nearby Catholic service located in a magnificent church building, which was all in Ukrainian (of course). Thus, for me this was more of a special time with the Lord since I couldn’t understand a word of what is going on, except for the melodious sounds around me.
Remarkably, that time during the church service was a very special time for me because as I simply sought to behold the presence of Jesus and sit there at His feet, I experienced Him in a very personal way through two scenes with Him that came to me in my spirit (this is the best way I know how to describe it). First, we were dancing together with Him being the one leading the dance. I knew that I needed to let Him lead the dance and if only I would let Him lead and stay in the dance with Him, I could know that He would lead me in a beautiful way. We were dancing so beautifully together and had so much joy in that! I could see such great joy on His face! Second, we were playing soccer together where He was playing against me, but not as an opponent but as my coach. I already knew how to play the game but He was playing against me in order to make me a better player, to strengthen me. These experiences with Jesus were so striking to me and I know they were pictures to remind me of how I am to live my life and how He is caring for me. So awesome and sweet!
Oh, the joys of legal requirements . . .
After the joys and rest of the holidays as well as enduring some more sickness, from February to April there were a great many steps Maxim and I needed to take to enable me to continue to stay legally in Ukraine. At the end of March my documents were to expire, so new steps needed to be taken since my status in Ukraine had changed after marrying a Ukrainian. The first gigantic part of the process was simply learning our options and legal requirements as well as preparing all the many documents that were needed. This was a strenuous (and sometimes overwhelming) time where we felt like we were running a marathon, but the Lord sustained us through it and provided some very knowledgeable and supportive friends and family to enable us to accomplish this process.
The process included the need for me to go abroad to apply for a temporary Ukrainian visa and then to return to Ukraine and apply for temporary registration here. The most economical option was simply to go to the neighboring country of Poland, which is what we decided to do. However, then the story gets complicated all the more by such realities as my husband needing a visa to go to Poland if he wants to come and help me through this process (which the Lord did provide). Whew! The whole process took a great deal of time, energy and money but, glory to God, we survived and succeeded in this great venture! We are very grateful to God for bringing us through it and for the blessing of experiencing Him in this hard journey in a way that we wouldn’t have if we hadn’t gone through it. And I get to stay with my honey!!
We were only in Poland a short time but here are a few pictures from scenes we saw in Krakow, Poland when we went on an impactful Jewish Walking Tour where we learned about the history and atrocities the Jews faced there . . .
Anticipation of a dream coming true!
In my last post, I had expressed the heartbreak of losing a child through miscarriage and yet how the Lord had given comfort, peace and hope in the midst of such pain, as He reminded us of the reality that, ultimately, our child is in His hands and now dwells with Him. Yet the story did not end there . . . We are now anticipating a second child! I am currently about 13 weeks pregnant and rejoicing in this great work that the Lord is doing within me as He magnificently creates a new life ~ our child! As David said to the Lord in Psalm 139,
“For You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written every one of the days that were formed for me, before one of them came to be.”
What awesome truths are revealed in the Bible! Though this is a very joyful and special time, it has also been difficult in many ways, as it is for many pregnant women in their 1st trimester. I have struggled with many typical symptoms that others do, such as extreme (yes, I do mean extreme) tiredness, nausea, and great change in appetite. Though I had heard about these, I had no idea how HARD it can be to be pregnant! Sometimes I have felt like, who am I?!? I’m so different! Needless to say, I have a new compassion for pregnant women and women with children. On the other hand, these symptoms are strangely reassuring that things are happening as they ought to. I’ve repeatedly reminded myself that this is a small price to pay for the great privilege that’s been given to me! Further, I can see that the grace that I’ve needed has been provided. For example, when I’ve needed to work, which has been quite a bit, I’ve been able to do so. Yet, I’ve also been able to have extra time to rest. My soul is greatly rejoicing in God, my Father and my Savior!
A Trial and yet a Gift
A further trial we’ve faced this year has been a time of financial difficulty. This was unexpected, as trials often are, and has been quite a humbling experience for me. There have been various reasons for this difficulty but one of the greatest causes has been a time of economic crisis at Maxim’s work, which has greatly affected the salaries that they have been able to pay. There continues to be uncertainty about how long this will last and how great its impact will be. The reality is that there are many in Ukraine facing similar situations. The company was started by Maxim’s longtime friend and Maxim has worked with him since the beginning, so to some degree Maxim feels as if he is part owner as well.
I call this both a trial and a gift because though it has been a struggle to walk through it, I have seen the Lord bringing about good through it. It has definitely challenged my faith and forced me to ask myself who/what I am really trusting in for my security and provision. Is the Lord really my provider or not? If He is, as the Bible reveals that He is and I have proclaimed that He is, then why should financial struggle and uncertainty cause me to be anxious? This situation and our needs are not unknown to Him and, indeed, He has been providing for them. Thus, I’ve been forced to depend on the Lord and trust in Him in a deeper way and that is the greater thing. I don’t like the struggle, but I’m realizing that I get to see the Lord in greater ways when I’m really forced to depend upon Him and wait for Him to show up.
Further, as He reminded me this past Sunday through Revelation 2:9, though I am poor (or feel poor) I am indeed rich . . . in His kingdom and eternally! Then today I was reminded of the fact that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Indeed, this is true. But what a glorious kingdom it is! I can’t wait to see it in its fullness with King Jesus reigning on the throne!