Sunday, October 7, 2012

Far From Home...

"Wherever you are, be fully there".
Jim Elliot

Great words, right? But if "home is where the heart is" now and then some things make it painfully obvious that our hearts and our homes are divided. Or is it just me?

When I first decided to move to Ukraine I asked a dear American friend (who already had lived here a few years) how he dealt with living between two worlds.

"How - when you're in America - do you not feel guilty with all the abundance that we enjoy knowing that so many of your friends in Ukraine are in need?", I asked. (Even after just a couple of trips to Ukraine I could see ahead that this would tear at my heart.) "And how - when you're back in Ukraine - do you not feel jealous for all that excess that seems taken for granted in America?"

Not pretty - the thoughts of my heart - are they? I'm not proud of them, but I also doubt I am the only one that has lived in between two worlds that hasn't thought these things. And knowing the blackness of my soul, I knew I would struggle with these questions. (And I don't live in India, or Africa or elsewhere in the world where basic clean water is not even available!)

"You pretty much can't really think about one when you are in the other", was my friend's advice. Enjoy blessings when you have them and be happy for the blessings of others even when you don't have them, is what I've taken his advice to mean. Add to that - be thoughtful in how you live in order to bless others - and it's a good way to live. Comparing is such a slippery evil slope.

But then - worlds collide. ;)

Little 8 year old Yanna from Kyrgyzstan comes to have surgery in Ukraine because the medical system is so much better here than there. But still the days are filled with running to the drugstore every day to get her medicines, buy food to cook for her and bringing in a fan to combat the sweltering humid summer heat. (I helped somewhat, but really it was mainly Yanna's aunt with some help from girls from our church that carried the load). Here you bring your own soap, towels, sheets, toilet paper, etc. etc.  Yanna's aunt Anya squeezed into the same hospital bed with Yanna to stay there to be able to cook for her and be company before the surgery. And then sleeping on a rollaway (or in the chair!) after the surgery to help feed her and turn her when she hurt (Yanna had back surgery to combat spina bifida) and give her medicine as needed, even eventually having to learn to place the catheter. After Yanna's surgery she couldn't walk, so if they went outside Anya carried Yanna outside to sit on a bench if the beat-up child's stroller they used as a wheelchair wasn't available. And on and on.

Then my mom has a stroke back home in Oregon. I show up late at night to the hospital after a really long flight and a crazy overnight layover in the Moscow airport. The nurses help me make out the couch bed in mom's rom, get me sheets and a pillow, show me where the coffee maker is and fridge stocked with juice, pudding, etc. is and repeatedly ask "you're sure you don't need anything else"? There are 3 or 4 nurses that are openly Christians and are encouraging with words of Scripture, etc. (even one playing the piano and singing praise songs with me!) and all the others who are all equally kind. After two brain surgeries things were tough with mom...emotionally, physically, etc. But regularly nurses would come in to check her vitals, administer her meds, or just see how she was doing. World's collide.

Yes we pay through the nose for that kind of care in America. And yes not even everyone can afford it. And yes my mom's hospital is a particularly nice one. And in Ukraine there are capable nurses and doctors who give good care even if they don't have all the trimming that are standard in America. I'm not criticizing or complaining. It's not about that...those issues are all important, but other posts for another time or even another writer.

I'm just's collide. A young American on a short trip here tells me I lack compassion. Maybe so. A dear person in America tells me I'm ungrateful. Maybe so. You know how they say "the best offense is a good defense"? I've decided the best defense is no defense. ;) "I am what I am by the grace of God" and - thank God - I know He doesn't let me stay in one place for long so all these defects will be addressed in His time. :) All I know is that life is not as neat as some would like and guessed it...worlds collide.

Sometimes, thankfully, worlds collide in beautifully serendipitous ways, too. :)

A hard day, my back in real pain for days, caught in traffic on my way to the post office over an hour away from where I live (which is just across the city!), I'm told I'm at the wrong post office. :( Argh. Get to the "right" post office and pay to pick up a package (a couple of dollars only) sent from someone whose name draws a complete blank for me. BUT..I see the name of my hometown on the return address and soften a little. I open up the package to find...what I can only call "a hug from home". A copy of the Grants Pass Daily Courier (our local town's little daily newspaper that I used to deliver!), mint chocolates (a combination not found here, as far as I know) all the fixins for S'mores and MAGAZINES IN ENGLISH!!! :) It was a care-package from folks in Calvary Church in GP. I nearly cried. :) Not because any of those things are necessary to life. They're not. And not because life is so hard here. It's not. I love it here. I have amazing friends. A beautiful home and even a car (after years of public transport). My days are filled with the joys and heartaches of helping people finding their way in this world and I couldn't be more fulfilled. It was just....worlds colliding. Ya know?

And then today...awesome sermon in church Ukrainian. ;) I speak Russian and although I understand Ukrainian to a great extent it is still an exercise in concentrated listening to get the most out of my pastor's sermons. After church my absentee ballot from America is in my mailbox (!) and I enjoy a quiet lunch of tuna sandwiches and salad (ok, fried potatoes, too! I do still live in Ukraine! ha!) with Vica - the latest girl to live here at our transition home. The day before dear friends from a sister church came for a baby shower. It was a raucous, LOUD, totally fun group of young families with their kids (LOTS OF KIDS) whom - it seems to me - only yesterday those parents were the kids! Great! Tiring (I'm getting old!), but great! The day before a young Ukrainian couple - the pastor and his wife - came and stayed overnight. We stayed up late talking - alternately in Russian, English and both at once! - about life, and making ends meet and the mystery of people and God and life. And then tonight catching up on laundry and emails and what-not watching "Walk the Line" (the Johnny Cash story) with Russian, of course. ;) Good thing they didn't translate the songs, though. :) World's collide...but sometimes in the nicest, craziest cacophony-of-cultures way. dear friend Lori used to call me "her all or nothing friend" and here I am - the "anti-blog Queen" again proving that to be true. No posts forEVER and then this epic saga. Oh well... :)

So what's my point? "Wherever you are, be fully there" where are you? Where am I? I am not in Grants Pass with my dear mom as she continues to recover (but my beautiful sister Janice is, and her wonderful daughter Caitlin was, and my brothers Mark and Matt are not far away, and as ever our great dad is there - and God willing I will be again soon...we are blessed), my heart and my prayers are there. I am not in America facing the struggles that many of you are with the current economic and social issues, but I got my ballot and pray that God will give me wisdom for my vote to be there. I am here in Ukraine, but not being Ukrainian, not having grown up here and endured through the hardships and victories that has made Ukraine into the nation it is today, even if my body is here till it lies in the grave I can never expect to ever be "fully" here feeling and understanding everything as those who were born and raised here.

So where am I? "In Your presence oh LORD, is fullness of joy, and at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore". (Psalm 16:11) Aaaahhhhhhh.... if I were my cat right now I'd be purring with  my eyes closed. Where am I? With God, I pray. He's my home, my love, my life. What can I lose if all is in Him? What is the tragedy of my life but only to lose Him? Still, my body is here. And I lose sight of the reality of God SO often, but He is so faithful to woo me back, take me by the hand and invite me to turn down the noise, listen to the music and dance again. Mmmmmmmmm.....

So, I need compassion. ("Everyone needs compassion"...or so I hear.) ;) I need to be more grateful. I want to be there, but I am here. I am happy to be here, but my heart and thoughts are there. Where am I? Safe in His embrace. Lost in His arms. Holding on and being held onto. And I wanna be "fully there" each time worlds collide.

Just some thoughts I had tonight.... Love you all, dear friends and family. :)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


So, these kinds of things always happen to me. :)

I had just gotten out of my car to take a picture of a sailboat that had run aground on the beach in Santa Barbara. I don't know what happened, but because the area was having some of the worst storms in quite some time, it wasn't too much of a surprise. The streets were littered with huge palm branches that had been blown free from their towering trees. Streets and lawns were flooded and everything in this celebrity locale known for keeping up appearances was quite out of sorts.

There was an ambulance at the ready (not that I saw that anyone had needed it) and many other "Lookey-Lous" like myself taking pictures and taking in the sight. It was quite impressive. Here was this beautiful, lithe boat stopped, stuck in the sand, just sitting there like the subject of a painting by one of the great masters. But, and I know this is silly, because it was still upright, it almost seemed as if it was letting itself be pummeled by the waves. It seemed that at whatever moment it might choose it could simply pull away from the shore and sail confidently back out to sea. Of course this wasn't to be, but that was the feeling I had, something of grace and dignity about this tragic event.

As I stood there (this is the part that seems to always happen to me) a woman shuffled by swathed in one green army blanket and carrying another one over her arm. She mumbled something and I said "Excuse me? What?" (which I suppose probably explains the reason why these things always seem to happen to me.) She came closer and at first I thought she might be homeless. I couldn't really see her clothes under the blanket, but she wore new looking soft suede deck-shoes. (The shoes usually are the clue). Homeless or just California eccentric? Who knows. Here in Santa Barbara, where "artists" of all types abound and homeless folks once registered to vote using a huge historic tree near the train tracks as their address, anything is possible.

She walked on past me and then abruptly turned around and - with one hand half-covering her mouth and the other still clutching her blanket - she started in.

"This! All...this!" she proclaimed with a wide expansive wave of her hand, blanket still in hand. "So, so, so much....things, and material, and, so much, just material stuff. And you know, just abandonment. Abandonment! Just abandon it all to, to, to the ruler, the ultimate ruler, the ruler of everything, and just abandon, just abandon to Jesus".

She was on a roll. She went on to say that maybe the owner of the boat, "maybe he was in counseling, and maybe his counselor told him to just, you know, let go. And he just, you know, let go." And on and on.

Then, just as abruptly, she stopped, slapped her free hand over her mouth and - sort of smiling, sort of sheepish - she said "but then, maybe YOU are the owner! Maybe that's your boat! Oh no. Oh no. Oh no." But she was smiling and even laughed a little. It was actually cute.

"Oh no. I'm with you all the way" I quickly added. "Sad, what happened. But I get your point - abandon yourself to God".

With that, she shrugged her shoulders, palms upraised, turn and walked away. And I took a few more pictures. This kind of stuff always happens to me.

Friday, January 15, 2010

"God waits to be gracious to you..." Isaiah 30:18 this beautiful, or what? Thank God for His creation! :)

So, long time no blog. :) Sorry for the absence. Right now I am visiting my church family and friends in CA (hence the beautiful sunset at Shell Beach). Most of you know that I recently had surgery to have my thyroid removed. The good news (that most of you know, too) is that the pathology revealed no cancer (as was thought there might be)! That was truly good news. And God has provided for all my bills to be paid! The hospital wrote off their bill and then part of the Body of Christ (who didn't specifically request to be anonymous, but who I think would like it that way) transferred some money from "God's right pocket to His left" (as a friend of mine calls it when one of God's children helps out another of His children...cuz it's all His money anyway!) and paid off the surgeon's bill and the endochronologist. God is good. The whole process was a long and amazing story of God's care and provision for me, but I will have to leave that for another time.