Thursday, 27 December 2012

photos of stuff

Hello again, 

for a couple of weeks I have been intending to do a grown up blog entry all about what we're up to with photos and stuff. But then we went to hospital and I got all angsty and needed to vent/process/celebrate with y'all.

However, you are due an update and i'm not due to write a newsletter for a few weeks so:

Here is a bit of what's going on at YWAM Vinnitsa right now.

Our DTS starts in just under two weeks and thus the team have been working incredibly hard preparing for this. We're a new base so it's not just the admin, staffing, planning side of things that's crazy - we also have to build our facilities! Hence, the attic conversion.
It's a huge space because it's the same size as the other floors just without being split up into rooms, so what we thought would take a few weeks has taken a few months.
Obviously the other ministries we do couldn't stop so the team has been working stupid hours getting the framework up, the dry wall up, fitting new flooring, mudding and other such things that I don't understand. I think John is upstairs right now trying to fit a door. The electrician is here installing heating - the guys have been working in a drafty open to the elements -20 environment for weeks. 
This is Dante, she's on staff from Canada and is stomping the mudding. What an odd phrase.

This is the attic. Half of it, anyway. 

Quite a bit more to do, but it's going well...

We haven't been by ourselves in this, a couple of outreach teams have come and done amazing jobs. (John just came down and told me that he spent hours fitting the door, stood back to admire his handiwork and realised that it's upside down. He is now sitting on the couch eating a twix. I think he's had enough for today.) We've been so blessed by the company and kindness and skill of all the teams that have come through.

So what do I do? After having come to terms with the fact that I kind of run a base building (for now, until next year when DTS is over and we start making it a transition home) I am embracing my role! I cook a lot. Seriously, cooking an impromptu meal for 11 people with no ingredients? Easy.

Also, I do a lot of this:

Baby + living in a building site + many guests living in our house = muchos laundry.

So with that glamorous post I shall leave you. Because this is my to do list, 

and onwards I must forge. 

p.s. A few people have asked for photos of orphans and shocking conditions and that kind of thing, but for the moment i'm not going to be doing that kind of thing. It feels voyeuristic and I don't think i'm comfortable telling peoples' stories for them - want to give others a voice not shout over them. So hopefully we'll get some interviews/ guest posts going on but until then i'm afraid it's just us and our story! Enjoy the pictures of washing machines! 

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The Difference

Here she is. 

She's doing really well, a bit of a cough but still super-cute and she likes Christmas dinner. 
Soundtrack to this post: Um. Taylor Swift. Don't tell anybody.

So here you go:

This week I am very aware that we are different. On Saturday we walked into the hospital carrying our little bundle of poorly British baby and were told that our medicines were wrong, my techniques were wrong, my perspective was wrong and I felt very out of place indeed as I handed the life of my kid into the hands of people that I don't understand. And who don't understand me.

With no internet, nobody to check with and no British doctors to reassure me it was a case of suspending control and just choosing to trust. No idea what that medicine is. But here you go, fruit of my loins, have something on a spoon. Praypraypray.

I don't want to dishonour the doctors that served us by slagging off their working environment, so i'm not going to write a lot about the hospital. You can skype me if you want details. The care we got was great and my baby is better. And we got home in time for Christmas. We had a lovely Christmas day full of skype and chicken and chocolate and Christmas movies...

But, and this is the point of this post, we do not fit here.
I've got a friend from church, she's called Oksana Kastanda and she translates stuff for me 'cos i'm mono lingual. (Go team England and our terribly arrogant education system.) I've got very used to her raising her eyebrows to the ceiling and seeing her eyes turn into saucers when I do something odd. Which is often. You still breastfeed? You let your baby feed herself with her own hands? Your hospitals don't make people wear plastic bags on their feet? You wear that? You don't wear this? You cook that? You don't eat this? 
(Oksana loves Jesus. A lot. She walks in the Spirit and doesn't even know it half the time, she turns up with exactly what you needed and she gives exactly what you were missing. And she likes hanging out with foreign nutters, and I appreciate her and like her a lot.)

But that raised eyebrow-ness follows me around, and never more so that in the hospital. I got tutted at a lot for things that in my Britishness I consider to be entirely my business and definately none of yours, mrs nurse lady who comes in without knocking at 6.20am to tell me my room is untidy while my sick baby tries to sleep and I lay in my sleeping bag watching to see if she can breathe ok. Get out.
So the downside of this post is that i'm wrong here. Different. My baby looks different, my pyjamas are different, my shoes and my coat and my scarf and my accent and my attitude are different. My baby's bed is different. Big old foreign wrong person who doesn't fit the mold.

You know what though? Take that wrongness and explode it from our fingertips and see the light spill out. Because damn straight i'm different. I'm God's. I'm saved, rescued, redeemed, crowned, held, blessed, taught, guided and indwelt by the Spirit that raises people from the dead.
I belong to Jesus.
So as we walked those corridors he came and gave me stupid peace, peace that stands out and is reflected in my baby's grin in the face of the doctors who are confused by her happiness.
'You are funny happy people'.
Smiling is different.
And I will laugh my way around this ward as you scowl and I will hold your gaze and like you even if you don't like me.
And you will end up liking me and finding excuses to come into my room and play with my gorgeous baby who 'is a missionary baby with so much freedom'.
I will sit and eat your manky food and I will read my Bible by the light of your bulbs and you will look at me and ask my friends why someone would leave their lovely country and come to yours.
You will not believe me when I say I like Ukraine and you will fall backwards when I say I have chosen to live here permanently.
You will be offended by my purpose because 'nobody is that good'
and you will be confused by the presence of my husband who will not abandon his family.
You will laugh with me as we try to catch a wee sample in a jam jar. 'Your baby likes everyone, Ukrainian babies scream when they see a doctor'.
You will giggle with me when I try to speak Ukrainian and you will stare at the mental foreign mum who does really weird things.

Yes, I am different.
And as evidence of this difference? This whole week I have felt fine, sometimes my hands have been shaky as people talk around me about my child's lung 'spasms' and often i've been confused by my own peace but this whole time I haven't cried or freaked out or punched anybody. I've barely prayed because of busyness but I have been contained in that calm that comes from Jesus saying 'I got this'. He's got this. 
And that's funny because two days before Beth went into hospital I said to John 'I don't know if I could handle it if life got any harder than it is right now' (I am indeed one for the melodrama) and then we had to take an emergency late night snowy taxi ride to a hospital. Turns out life wasn't that hard when I was complaining. It got harder. But I'm fine. It makes no sense. I'm actually really happy, and had a good few moments of genuine mirth and joy in the middle of it all. Did I mention catching Beth's wee in a jam jar? Don't try putting a sock into a nappy and then wringing it out. That doesn't work. You end up with an empty jar and wee soaked hands. 

So, the difference.

I'm weird and English.
But with Jesus that weirdness turns into light and love and something beautiful.
And i'm different because i'm ok. Because of him. 

peace. xx

Friday, 30 November 2012


I've been trawling the blogs lately and it turns out that there are a lot of blogs. There's 'I know Jesus better than you so here are my (generally unoriginal)  thoughts' blogs. There's 'I made cookies!' blogs and 'life is what I decide it is, here is my half baked philosophy' blogs. I particularly enjoy 'photos of my face in a variety of shades' blogs. I genuinely waste hours on photography of babies blogs, and I will not be ashamed. Babies are awesome. So is craft, I also like craft blogs. But i'm vexed by the religious type blogs. And i'm vexed that i'm adding to them. It's noisy out there.

So I need to say sorry for when I get preachy - I don't want to fill cyberspace with more BELIEVE MY WORLDVIEW or I AM PERFECT or I AM COOLER THAN YOU.

Although, I am cooler than you.
So i'm going to be trying to make this blog a space where i'll just try to tell the truth about  my life. Words like missionary still kind of bring me out in hives. Words like sin and prayer and Bible and freedom and healing need to be dusted off and tried again,
until maybe we can see through them and glimpse something real. Through the veil.
Maybe we could take the veil away.

This is where I reach my meandered point - we're running a Discipleship Training School.
I've always been a bit snobby about YWAM's 'University of the Nations' ('it's not a real university' etc etc) (and it's not) but it doesn't need to be. It's better. It's something else. It's not trying to be the jaded institution where I wrote essays on old books and then someone gave me a bit of paper that reassures potential employers and my mum that I was able to attend at least half my classes and tick the boxes and say the right things and prove myself an independent thinker as long as I was reading the right books.
Disclaimer: Education is wonderful, and as a woman I am only just realizing how privileged I am to have been raised with the expectation that I would get a degree. The opportunities and career options offered by having a degree are still exciting and beautiful, and I loved my time university. Proper, proper loved it.
But the reason I loved it? Apart from the obvious things like thinking I was a grownup because I cooked my own meals and sat in a library dressed like a boho scholar filling my mind full of interesting things? And because I love exams?
I loved it 'cos of Jesus.
I will always treasure the three years where I fell in love with Him and discovered what adventure feels like.

And that's why we're running a DTS, because even though the world scorns Bible College and all the concepts therein, I don't care because DTS saved me from stagnant, selfish, stupid Christianity.

DTS took my lukewarm (ish), constrained faith and blew my brain into a million pieces. God used those 5 months to take this wounded heart and breathe peace, child, into my lungs. Filled my head with stuff that actually matters. I wrote that the teaching felt like a sunrise, and it still does every time I open my notebook. Cheesy. Don't judge me.

And now we're halfway through staff training, tired and brain dribbly and aware that we're not Holy enough to disciple other people, but standing grateful and glad to be trying. So pray for our next month as students ask to come along and we say 'sure!' and then try not to freak out as we look down the barrel of a travelling outreach with small babies. As we start trying to be strong or kind enough to not alienate someone from the process of letting Him in.

It's going to take grace. I think that's ok. But pray? 'Cos we're going to try to take the veil away. 

And here's Beth. Because I know you're all like 'but where's BETH?' and crying and stuff. 

She dribbles a lot. I made some bibs. She dribbled them to death. Now my sewing machine's broken. Wheeeee!

Good night. xxxx

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

You know you're a (very bad) missionary when...

- You hide Marmite from guests.

- You find 100g of cheddar in a supermarket and it costs three pounds fifty, and you buy it.

- The cheese on toast that results from this is the highlight of your week. 

- Your water comes from a well in the back garden, and turns your kettle orange but that's ok because 'it's only sulphur'.

- Annabel Karmel cannot help you here.

- You have fed your baby jarred rabbit. Once by accident, and a few times on purpose after that.

- You go into clothes shops but leave without buying anything because
a) you're too fat for the clothes
b) you understand nothing

c) the woman guarding the fitting rooms spoke to you but you couldn't work out what she was saying so you ran away

- Your tumble dryer is from the 80's. And it's German. So you spend hours on Google translate and then just have to risk it and set the bed linen to 'lack moisture' or 'completed fail'.

- Your child has never experienced Cbeebies. Instead she is very excited about pirated, low resolution Pingu. In Russian.

- You have only got the money (and will) to decorate one room in your house, and you don't go in it but sometimes hover in the doorway just looking at how beautiful it is. You post pictures of it on the internet.

- And yet you're so busy that this room is somehow strewn with clothes you don't remember wearing.

- Your baby has probably said her first word. You have no idea. She doesn't speak English. 

- If you open the laptop in front of your baby she will get a bit desperate to look inside it, because that's where her Grandparents live.

- Your baby's latest soft toy was stolen out of a bag of beanie babies donated to an orphanage.

- You're terrified. All the time. Of everything. If you could you'd just stay indoors forever.

- You make your own frozen ready meals.

- You forgot to pack toys to help her develop so she's still just licking teddies. And the mop. 

- You try to buy her toys to teach her to count and shiz, but a flashy singy ball costs thirty pounds and you leave the shop in bewildered shame.

- When people ask you what you want for Christmas you don't know what to say because 'everything' isn't acceptable. 

- Your main expenditure is air fares.

- You own the Lada that Jeremy Clarkson reviewed as 'the worst car i've ever driven'. 

- Said Lada fills you with contentment and happiness, and all your missionary friends would also like to own a Lada.

- You drive around for ages getting lost trying to find a baby stuff shop, you finally find the big signs to the baby stuff shop so you park up. You wake the baby. You assemble the buggy. You insert the baby. You follow the signs. You round a corner. It's not a baby stuff shop, it's a car wash

- You can buy really nice wine for two pounds! 

Monday, 12 November 2012

Screw it.

This was a hard post to write because it's super personal and also i'm super poorly. So as a form of light relief I shall now choose a fun song for you...
This is 'feel again' by One Republic and it makes me happy. The video is a bit meh but if you turn the song up really loud and jump about it's FUN. I will do that when I can walk and stuff. 

So let the thinkings commence:

So we live in community.

If you're not a Christian or haven't read the same books as me, you might not get what that means to me or what i'm trying to tell you.

In the book called Acts, inside the bigger book called the Bible, there's a bit that talks about what Christianity looked like when it was new. And nobody wanted for anything because everyone shared everything.

Sounds simple
and as a heady newbie to the Jesus following I was passionate about this - about doing relationships intimately and well, about bringing a bit of heaven's joy to the people around us, about living together in big groups and seeing each other all the time and helping each other and learning how to love in the face of the consumerist isolation of the culture I grew up in.

Yep. I'm a big ol' hippie.

The thing is: it's not that simple.
I've experienced Christian community in a few different ways - boiler rooms, church, DTS - and find myself now looking down a road of long term commitment to a small group of people who I don't yet know that well.

If I was perfect, this would be easy.
Every slight would be ignored, all wrongs instantly forgiven and forgotten, all belongings surrendered, no offence taken, no offence meant, no offence caused.
I'd share everything, right?

Instead, this is what me living in community looks like (it's an honesty smack down, people):
I get angry when people break my glasses.
I get angry when people draw on my sofa with biro (seriously, this happened like 3 weeks ago and i'm still writing about it, there is something wrong with that).
I get angry when people wake my baby up.
I get angry when people put things in the wrong place.
I get angry a lot.

But there's more, and it's more sad than a bit of sleep deprived stroppyness. It's actually really sad, and i'm sad when I see how broken my reactions are to things. (Sad.)

It's taken 10 years of Christian community for me to own this fact: I am insecure.
I don't mean about my weight or my ability to apply makeup or any of those other token insecurities that girls apparently must have, and I don't mean about my ability to follow or lead or write or other things we might consider deep.
I mean bone deep, soul deep insecurity, graven in scrubbed through etched insecurity. 

Not sure why - some hurts from life, some lies from the world, mostly just because I am a tiny human person walking small in this big scary world. And sin. 

You know how I see this insecurity in me working itself out? Judging. Judging others before they can judge me. Mouthing off. Slagging off. Justifying myself. Oh, what a messed up person I am. Scared and hateful and pretending. Which makes living in community quite difficult because of all the time and energy spent on building walls, keeping my scared heart safe, being numb, raging at everything, undermining people who should inspire me, coveting stuff, defending myself when nobody's attacked me...
(You're messed up too. Everyone is. Deal with it.)
So that is what I must confess this week, to the weird world of people I don't know who read this blog and trusted friends who read this blog and people i'd probably prefer if they  didn't read this blog...I am insecure.

And here's the twin conclusion:

1) This is very sad, but: I have not been left like this.
This insecurity - this sin, this falleness, this hurt, this fear, this unforgiveness - is not what was intended when God created us and we. are. not. abandoned.
I've got God, and he is healing me and urging me on and his kind, kind heart will take this muddled me and there will be a day when I will feel awesome ALL THE TIME. It's called Heaven. It's called Grace.

2) In the meantime, it's also called Grace. It looks like me realising that insecurities are smaller when you call them out of the shadows, that the fear is placed in nothing but lies, that the power of my God blasts through these stupid walls and windows and doors and this cage we accept called sin? Screw it.

Monday, 22 October 2012


Here she is.

She has found a visor.

Because she is a super hero. A licky super hero. Her super power is licking everything.

Soundtrack to this post: Bethel's snores in bed next to me.
There's a DTS lecture going on downstairs and she's too poorly to sleep anywhere that i'm not, so we're all three of us holed up in our bedroom. It's quite nice. John is reading Harry Potter and thus is in his happy place. I'm trying to type silently, but it's not going well because of all the thumpy PASSIONATE THOUGHTS.

This post is probably going to suck because i'm a bit poorly too. My head is full of thinkings that are half thought because of headache fog that gets in the way, and I should probably be napping too but that would be to admit defeat. Shan't.

So I think today we (the royal we? my many personalities? Beth is helping me type?) shall write about winning. Because i'm in a nation, and on a planet, that thrives on confrontation and aggression and assertiveness.
On a local level, people are snappy and quick to disapprove - you're doing this wrong, you've got that wrong, you need to hurry up, you need to slow down, you need to be less stupid or hot or cold or busy or lazy...I have grown to expect obvious disapproval whenever I venture out of the house. Should probably just stamp FAIL on my own forehead. Would save time. 
On a global level, things just seem to suck. Fighting for freedom, fighting for money or for power or for respect or for stuff or for someone else's stuff. This world seems to me - from my tiny vulnerable stranger in a foreign land perspective - to be big and angry and a bit scary. Don't believe me? Watch some news. Google people trafficking. Talk to someone who has been abused. Look at how many children self harm. Look at how many mums and dads have to watch their children die of stupidly treatable illnesses. Find out where your bank invests your money. Try going a night without a home. Try being a woman in a country that considers you less than a dog. Try being a man in a culture that demands you show no weakness and need no love. Try getting off heroin.

I live my life against a backdrop of this knowledge of a broken globe, and I think we all do. Seeking family in a hostile world, relieved by the love and comforts around us, sometimes engaging but generally hiding from the things we can't change. Refuge. It's a beautiful thing and it's of God.

But you know what else is of God? Justice. Compassion. Holy Rage. Action.
I've got a lot of rage.
In all the passion of hating suffering, do I get angry too? Do I get confrontational too? Do I stomp about shouting at the world to change because if it doesn't i'll count to three? Do I pick up a sword to kill a murderer? Do I launch a missile at the bad guys?

What Would Jesus Do? (It was only a matter of time before that got in there, people. I'm a Christian missionary. I can't avoid cheesy Jesus acronyms. I need help.)

They came to kill him, to arrest him illegally and try him with no defence, to torture him to death because he told them God is love and you're not loving. They proved him right with whips and with nails, with wood and with thorns.
So his friends get angry, they get some Holy rage, they take some action and take out their swords and they draw some blood. Yeah! Justice! Defend the weak! Assertiveness!
But he told them to stop that. Put the soldier's ear back on (he can do that kind of stuff y'know) and freaked the guy out a bit. Put his hands in the cuffs, his head in the hood, went with them on purpose. Took it.

So t
here is a different way to change the world. Stropping out or taking arms may not work out. It hasn't yet. 
Last night we were worshiping and our friend Daniel was holding his tiny baby girl and she is so beautiful and small, and I realized something important. God
 is the God who invented babies, tiny little bundles of handle-with-care. He sees the planet he made that is tearing itself to pieces, and against that backdrop he is the God who makes life. Tiny life with chubby hands and wondering eyes and licky dribbles. He made that vulnerable, gentle, sweetness that is a baby. That is part of who he is.  

He is at odds with the suffering we see. He is at odds with aggression. He heals the soldiers who come to kill him. 

he world is often violent and angry and hurting. People are often violent and angry and hurting. But there is a weapon we haven't all worked out how to use yet and it is gentleness. 

Taking it.

This is what I need to do here: the Bible says to come at things in the opposite spirit. You yell at me? I'll whisper back. You want to win? I'll step aside. You take my stuff? Here, have some more.
You want to shout at me in the street? I'll say thank you, yes of course my baby needs a snow suit in June, you're so right. Turn some cheeks. Smile.

Is it hard here? Yes, the culture is much more aggressive than i'm used to. But this country is beautiful, these people are worth so much more than I will ever be able to give them in my lifetime, and i'd like to see how British people would behave after centuries of oppression and communism.
So I will try to be gentle.
Because that way things may start to change. Jesus FTW.


Friday, 12 October 2012

A Positive Post! Freakish!

So this is Beth, looking like a fifties bather/ pilot. 

I did arty effects to this photo.
I am regretting this decision.

Soundtrack to this post: Newsboys
Because when one is happy, one should listen to cheesy happy Jesus music. That said, about half the tracks are so annoying that I instantly skip them. Can tolerate so much cheesy happiness before I get irritable and start craving some Beardy Emo Jesus.
So we're in trouble because over the last two weeks I haven't felt able to update the blog because of not having much positive to say about Ukraine, and the tendency to continuously complain can alienate one from people. Not goths, they like it. But I don't know many goths and i'd like to keep my friends please so thought i'd avoid yet more cyber ranting. 
But now we're riding the flip side of my gloom, hovering over stupidly happy, flying a little bit high on the realisation that when my God-dad sent me here, he knew what he was doing.  

When we got back to the Ukraine after two wonderful weeks of family-friends time, diagonal split in John's arm notwithstanding, I was gutted. Walked up the stairs to the house smelling that rural smell that is not much like shopping centres and more like chicken poo, and my heart dropped a bit. The first few weeks here were so very difficult and at that moment I could happily have quit this stupid adventure. So I breathed in and muttered to Him 

'but your Kingdom come, and your will be done'

and I felt like he got it. And that he was pleased. And like he was standing with me as I unlocked that front door and stepped inside. 

So that was my little decision, made again, made often, to do this thing called missionary life. Come what may. (Moulin Rouge re appropriated, people. You are welcome.)

Two nights in, that made again, made often decision has been an easy one because it's been fun! Beth slept through last night, we've been eating and laughing with the team, I haven't had to feed the chickens yet, John is wonderful, the heating works in the house, I get to wear my winter knitwear and my baby is crawling her over excited way about the house. She loves crawling. She loves crawling so much that she hyperventilates and laughs and disco slides across the kitchen. And eats poo from secret dusty poo collection corners.  

Oh, and lots of you prayed for our return journey to be easier. For those of you who I haven't ranted at, journeys home involved night trains in cattle class in beds a foot wide in the corridor six feet up with no railings, on the trains that suffer from an abundance of stinky men who like to snort in their sweaty drink sleep. With a baby.
It was fun.
Because i'm a super mum.
I would like a cape.
Made by Cath Kidston.
This is turning into a poem.
Or an ode.
Stop that now. 

People say I need to do proper updates, not just existential ponderings, so here's what we're up to:
- Getting the house ready for a team of 8 from America who are coming to do short term mission out of our base.
- Hanging out. Buying food and stuff.
- Preparing for a week of teaching on evangelism that John's helping with week after next, when we'll be hosting a DTS of 15 from Kiev. 
- Playing with Bethbaby and her new friend Camilla who is also gorgeous.
- Going to orphanages and all that jazz.

Right, going to go give my lovely handsome fit kind funny clever husband a massive snog. Lucky boy.


Thursday, 20 September 2012


Firstly, I think it must be noted that our baby is an angel.

She's got a halo and everything.
Yes...that's a gym ball. No, we don't use it. Ever.
Soundtrack to this post: Hillsong's 'Aftermath' album.
I find quite a lot of their stuff annoying because sometimes it's a bit 'Jesus is my bestest buddy and he gave me an ice cream made of my dreams ooooh fa la la', but this album is actually full of depth and longing and struggle and relief. It gets me. But not track 2.

This week has been a good week, in that I stopped sulking like a little biatch. This has not been down to my own resolve or grit, but because of shiny distractions that make me forget my AHEMsorrowsCOUGH. I'd like to say that I saw the suffering of the orphans here and got some perspective, but twould be a lie. I'd also love to be able to profess some mountain top experience of God's plan for my life as revealed by a hundred cartwheeling angels covered in sprinkles, but i've barely even prayed since getting here and wouldn't notice confectionary nephilim if they banged me about the head with a harp.
(Are nephilim angels? What are they? Have apparently not read large chunks of the Bible.)

What am I going on about?
Oh yes. How this got easier.
Not 'cos of me. And not because I sorted out my (appalling) attitude. Am still completely struggling with feelings of loss and grief over all my loved peoples not living in Vinnitysa. Stupid people not living in Vinnitsya, get over here. Stop living in Lewes/Brighton/London/other countries. Stupid other countries.
Anyway (sorry, i'm tired and it's late and I am addled like the scrambled eggs the chickens have stopped laying. Sodding chickens), so even though i'm still very sad about missing people, something has shifted in my heart and now I quite like it here.

I think that might be God. Rescuing me from me.
Rescuing me from my fear by changing the people and situations around me. Everything i've panicked about since getting here has got easier. Some of that stuff isn't exclusively my story and thus would be rude to share, but here's one example:
So was sitting in this massive house, having cleaned all day and cooked all day and hosted all day and juggled my angel halo baby who was not behaving as such...and realised that this is my life now. I'm a housewife. A housewife in Ukraine, which is slightly more edgy but not really. I have an apron. With a chicken on it. And while that's funny it also gave me a meltdown brain because I have passion and fire and rage - and being a housewife is great if that's what you want but it has never, ever been my aspiration. Am stroppy.

I never really minded about getting married or having babies but I have always wanted to be like Jackie Pullinger.

Not feeling like Jackie this week, arms deep in yet another apple crumble.

Had a rant. Poor husband. Something like 'how the hell is this my life? I followed God here  and I thought I was called here but I care about women in the sex industry and I live in a field. I should be in Kiev, or Odessa, but i'm here and i'm confused'. Boo hoo sob me me me and my dreams ME.

That weekend a couple from the Kiev base came to stay. Have never met them before, don't know them, hosting them cos was asked to.
She runs the justice DTS that does outreach in the sex industry as well as raising awareness and rescuing people. She knows the person from A21 who has the materials and contacts I would need to go into schools and orphanages. I can pioneer this work here.
I feel better.

My point is this: i'm safe. Safe from despair or from hopelessness or from emptiness. He has got me. He knows. He cares. He ignores my crappy resentment, my angry selfish tears, my fear that i'm feeling because i'm refusing to trust him and he is doing this with me - orchestrating things to make me feel better.
So I do.

p.s. coming home for 2 weeks. In 6 days. John's got an op. Can't be bothered to explain how I feel about this but...see you soon! 

Saturday, 8 September 2012

A bad day and a good day

Have been unsure about how to write this blog - have been feeling a strange pressure to be positive and upbeat and represent things well. To be one of those well behaved missionaries who doesn't give much away

But this isn't deal or no deal, and i'm not Noel, and I don't believe that 'positive energy' changes reality. 
I'm not in a cult that hides from being real. I'm following Jesus. 
And he is called the Truth. 
So I will be Truthful. 

Moving here has been hard - like really, really difficult. If I knew how hard it was going to be I don't know if I would have been brave enough to do this. (But keep reading, because this isn't the end of my processing, I promise.)

Why so? Because making a baby stay a maximum of three nights in one room before moving her again is a really good way to take eight months of sleep progress and make them worthless. She's never been a big fan of sleeping anywhere other than on me, but we were getting there and the sun was starting to shine through the clouds and I was starting to feel like I could function. But now she wakes up and she screams and she's worried at nights and it breaks my heart because I want so badly to make her feel safe and secure. But she needs me for that. So I don't sleep so well. You won't understand this unless you've had your own babies, but believe me, it's hard. 

Why so? Because I miss you, beloved friends. Now i've got to rely on a knackered and stressed hubby who needs to rely on me, and on a team of people who will be my best friends but aren't yet and it's been lonely without you. 

Why so? Because I can't communicate and I feel trapped inside my own limitations - so frustrated and dependant on the team. Feel so sorry for them having to ferry me around and fight for me - I prefer to fight for myself. I like a good fight. To have to sit mute while people discuss in other languages wether or not you get to keep everything you own/ have dressed your baby correctly is humiliating and demeaning. And comes with a side order of guilt for being such a burden to the amazingly kind and helpful team. 

And finally, because the house we're moving into is so different from anything i've ever experienced before. It's in a village outside of town. I have to keep chickens, clean a flipping monster sized abode, speak ukrainian to buy bread from the local shop, and learn to cook a lot of egg based dishes. I don't really like eggs. I like shopping. I will never be domestic enough to succeed at this. I'm a damn good wife and a damn good mum, but i'm not your typical housewife and I don't understand how i'm meant to fit here. 

And i've been so busy that I haven't noticed the need to pray - to grieve and to hope and to get some perspective. John is a beautiful man who knows me so, so well and this morning after yet another failed night and Beth sleeping in our bed from 5am because I just couldn't try anymore he took B away and sent me into town. 

I was so scared - have never done anything here by myself. After locking myself in a walk in wardrobe and having a good sob (always helpful) (read some C.S.Lewis as well, even more helpful) I wo-manned up and got on a tram.
I got on the wrong tram. Three times. But eventually I made it into the city centre. My conversation with God was something along the lines of 'this is really hard and my heart is hurting and do you love me?'
As I walked into town I started to notice kids wearing face paint, and trees wrapped in brightly coloured fabrics, and stages being put up. I realised that tonight is some kind of festival and that i'd stumbled upon an orchestra rehearsing for an open air concert. I don't know what they were playing but I recognised it and it was like a present just for me - most people were wandering past but I stood frozen and grinning as the sound picked me up and danced me out of my sulk. It was gorgeous and it was mine. 

After a while people were staring at the smiling nutter so I decided to move on. They stare at me a lot here anyway because i'm obviously a foreigner but hey ho, onwards I trotted and then I found an Accesorize! With a sale on! I got a hat and earrings and a necklace for 6 pounds! 

And THEN I found a food shop and bought an almond croissant the size of my head, and ate it all without having to make small talk with anyone or feed Beth with my other hand or carry the nappy bag or worry about offending anyone or having to learn another language or be appropriate - just skipped about in the park staring at people with my sugary face. 

So I managed to get the right tram home, and I rode it so proud of me! My conversation with God was something like 'I know this isn't heaven yet and I know this world is hard and i'm not asking you to make this easier, but please just make me stronger. 

And thank you. And I love you too'. 

This song pretty much sums up where i'm at today, especially the last verse. I love their music. 

These are the ways I can see He's been washing my feet all along: The kindness of the Christians here, their hospitality and their help with everything. Ed had spent two solid days cleaning our bathroom. Also their patience with living with a Baby B who is gorgeous but high maintenance at the moment. 

I'm excited about how the house will be used to make this world more beautiful - i'm hopeful that we will see people healed and rescued by that building and the dreams within it's walls. 

We've been given enough money to buy a car, so we won't be isolated. This is such a relief I can't even explain. 

I'm so grateful for how good my leaders are - that even in just a Skype conversation with Andrew last night I started to relax about settling in here. 

Vova's home and I need to get off his laptop, he's a kind kind person but I mustn't take the mick.

Sorry for the brain mess. Miss you. xxxxx

Friday, 31 August 2012

So Beth's clothes are locked in a shed. She has grown out of all the baby grows I packed.

But no matter! We just cut the feet off. She thinks this is great, but she is seven and a half months old and thus quite easily pleased. She looks equally excited about light switches, my nose, bits of wood and flinging herself backwards without warning.
Oh, where to start and what to say. I want to go to bed so this won't be a long or interesting one but i'm very aware that facebook stati do not a newsletter make. And i can't be bothered to write a newsletter so this will have to do.
John paid an insane man from Poland to drive him to Ukraine. Said man slept for 2 hours but drove for three days and nights, chain smoked (but won't eat white bread because it's bad for his lung cancer), pumped out eastern european dance music and force fed John cheese sandwiches. I'm not sure what to say about the journey, but the fact that the stress of it gave John stomach ulcers/ misc belly pain for days should help illustrate the impact that being held at customs for 7 hours can have on a boy.
After days of being fined for ridiculous stuff and arguing with people, John arrived in Vinnitsya. But our stuff somehow got classified as 'commercial' and thus was seized by local customs. Everything we own is now locked in a shed.

So after a week of Oksana marching about shouting at people, they've said that they know it's personal items but hey ho, we have to pay 30% customs tax on everything. They decide how much it's worth. We find out on Monday how much we have to pay to buy back things like third hand hoodies and a broken sofa.

Every annoying person with a modicum of power wields it with a mighty force. It's all about who has got the rubber stamp, the precious rubber stamp of dreams. And the papers, the legendary papers of faff and the loopholes of merry chase. The corruption and silliness of this part of the move have given us all a laugh.
I say 'laugh' I mean 'hysterical desperate cackling'.

Stupid stupid.

Oh well. Had a good pray yesterday and stopped feeling like at any moment I was going to strop off and humph my way back to England. Got some peace. And some trust. God is big and he loves us.

So...we get the keys to the transition home tomorrow. We've got 6 weeks before stuff kicks off (teams coming from America etc) so we're going to focus on
- making the house more clean and less uggers
- three Ukrainian lessons a week
- working out how to get around the city by ourselves like proper grownups

The team are lovely. Proper lovely, and Ukraine is actually very pretty and nice. I think that when we were here last time my mad pregnant hormone brain convinced me that Vinnitsya was full of pointy toothed high heeled witches wanting to beat me about the head with primitive cooking equipment.
It's actually a fairly normal, nice town with some shops and some parks and quite a lot of fountains. Feel a bit silly for panicking so much about moving here - it's somewhat pleasant.

Right I must retire to the boudoire. And don't worry about us - we're bunked up in a flat that's very nice with people who are very nice, and I completely overpacked for our plane trip here so actually me and Beth have LOADS of clothes! Hooray!

love you. xxxxxxxxxx

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Thank You

Beth has a question.

She'd like to know if 'aaaaah bada ajd da da da?'
The answer to this question must, for the time being, 
be given in the form of a kiss on the forehead 
because I have no idea what she's banging on about.

The soundtrack to this post is: The Rocket Summer 

I'm very nervous of writing this today. I'm actually feeling a little bit sick in my tummy about it, and that's because I recently became aware that lots more people than I thought read this blog. Including friends of John who i've never met and he's not seen in years. And peoples' sisters who live in Liverpool. And people i've met at a wedding.

The thing is, I work out what I think about life through this keyboard. When everything is going at crazy-pace I sit down here and do some tip tapping away at this laptop and hey presto! Slightly offensive rant!

Obviously, i'm a bit of a trying to follow Jesus person and i'm suddenly so so scared that people are reading this because oh my goodness how do I communicate Him and all that He is to the actual real life people who read this? It's like trying to squish a whale into a lunchbox.

What a terrible analogy. 

But it's a week until we leave and thus a blog update is in order, because there are some very important things to say before we leave. So be kind, because my brain that struggles to function at the best of times is being pulled apart by all the things I have to think about. I'd write you a list but it's boring unless you're me. The main thing that i'd like to do is say thank you.

We have been moving at the speed of light for the last 3 years, got used to living out of suitcases and in other peoples' houses and falling asleep on planes and making plans plans plans. At the same time we have always known that we're welcome in Lewes, that when we rock up unwashed, sleepy and pregnant we will be hugged until we feel ready to start running again. 

There are no words (I say that a lot, I should probably extend my vocabulary) for the stillness that comes when you know you're accepted when you fail and applauded when you win. That you can screw up, say the wrong thing, forget the birthday, insult the outfit, judge the intention, or just not be there and it doesn't matter - you're still home.

We've been panicking about that week's groceries and cash has quietly slipped through the letter box. I've been freaking about parenting things and have been inundated with reassurance and time off. My baby is clothed in things much cooler than I ever could have afforded (thanks Jola!). I've needed to vent and there's been bottomless cups of tea. I've needed to celebrate and there's been pubs and wine and so much laughing. I've needed to break and there's been listening ears and a trust in me and my ability to mend. I've wanted to help and people have let me try. I've been honest and I have not been abandoned.

How many people get to say that?

I was in church this Sunday and everywhere I looked there was someone who has held me together in some way - when the hurt was greater than the joy and when the joy upended the hurt.

And i'm not cut up about leaving all this treasure we've found in Lewes. I'm calm. And glad. Because when the last few years leave you with such sweetness and beauty, you don't bitch about leaving it behind, you say thank you.

Sing, Oh Daughter of Zion,
shout aloud, O Israel!
be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
O Daughter of Jerusalem!

The LORD has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm...

he will quiet you with his love.

...At that time I will gather you;
at that time I will bring you home.
Zeph 3:13

Monday, 23 July 2012

So. We booked things.

This is Bethel. Look at her in wonder.
She is eating food. She's a genius.

Soundtrack to this post: Matisyahu

I'm telling you that because his music is beautiful, and gives me delusions of a coolness which I do not truly possess, and I may break into some hiphop speak. Yo.

What to say? I guess an update is in order, but I can't promise to have any organised or helpful thoughts in my mind for my mind is currently a befuddled place. A fairly happy place, but not a place of sense. 
We're off! John's driving out with our stuff and a man who apparently knows what he's doing, and I follow a few days later with a baby and a panic. Not looking forward to the train journey to my parents, the drive to the airport, the flight from the airport and the drive to Vinnitsya avec tiny wriggler but it's got to be done and least I can obsessively write lists in preparation. I like lists.

So how am I feeling about going?
All my 'i'm doing this for JESUS, bitches!' bravado has sort of faded away. I love my friends in England and all I can think is that i'm leaving them and I don't really want to. Am thoroughly sick of meeting people who say 'oh you're moving to Ukraine? To work with Orphans? Oh, you're so good'.

Yeah. I'm so good. I'm routinely selfish and moody, I slag people off behind their backs, I am fairly horrible to my husband a lot of the time, I take the piss out of Christians a lot more than is acceptable, i'm generally impatient and judgemental when people are less 'right' than me, I abandon my convictions in conversations so people will like me, i'm obsessed with the size of my stomach whilst shoveling cake into my gob, i'm the queen of hypocrisy, I swear a lot when my baby doesn't sleep and I top all of this off with a good dollop of pride.

So there we go - not good, not nice, not kind, just me.
And as I tried haltingly to explain to the nice lady I met last night who gave me that crinkly eyed smile of admiration that makes me want to scream: I'm not going to Ukraine because i'm 'good', I'm going to Ukraine because...

God loves people.
God's people are thus meant to love people.
There is suffering because God's people don't do anything about it.
I want to do something about it.
I'm capable of that because of his love.

So it's really all about him.

It's pretty simple. And to nail my colours to the mast even more deliberately, I don't just mean physical suffering. I'm not going to be slotted into that box of 'she's a Christian but she's ok really because she's doing stuff with orphans', I do believe with all of my heart that everyone on earth was invented for relationship with God daddy through his love for them as shown on the cross. Boom. (Yo) So i'm going to try to show that with my life and with my words.

I know that in this country evangelism is seen as the worst thing someone with a faith can do, but I yearn for the message of those who follow Jesus to be shown/perceived/experienced in truth. Because our culture screams that religion is fine as long as it affects nobody other than oneself, but if Christians just sit around and shut up then who will show the world where love comes from? And who will stand with the oppressed or the lonely or the persecuted? And who will point to the One who made us to be free and who wants so much for us to run with him?

This has descended into yet another outloud processing rant and I was meant to be telling you practical things. Here are some practical things- John leaves on Aug 22nd, I leave Aug 26th. I'm flying with British Airways and that makes me happy because i'm not usually such a classy bird, and John is driving pretty much non stop with a hurty back so that's going to be interesting. When we arrive some of the team won't be around which is sad but they have just had a baby and need to show said baby to family in the states which is fair enough! We'll either be moving straight into the transition home but we might get to stay with Vova for a bit which will be FUN - I think Beth may love him a lot.
I think we'll be helping to host an outreach team, and then doing staff training, and then staffing a DTS and then it'll be a year since we got there and we'll start looking at moving in some orphans.

John's home now and B is sleeping like a baby (which she never does, generally she sleeps like an incontinent insomniac) so i'm going to get dressed. Apparently one cannot go to one's inlaws in pyjamas. Stupid social conventions.

K. Bye. xxxxxxxxxxx

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Musings and Rantings

Ahoy there beloved friends!

It's been a while (again) and I blame motherhood (again), but to be honest there's not a lot to tell you about. Whenever anybody comes over I bang on about nappies, poo and sick. I probably shouldn't do that on a blog.

B update: she likes grinning and shouting and doing some odd sounds that I think is what she believes singing should sound like. Poor little one, learning things off her mummy. She's happiest around lots of people and is generally agreed to be beautiful. She can't handle lactose so my ill fated attempts to chug her full of formula at night - sleep is all I want in life - have not gone well, but she's got some special milk now and I live in the constant hope of decent rest for both of us. She loves her Daddy a LOT and lives for his attention, and that's fine as he lives to lavish attention upon her tiny fluffy head. Here is her fluffy head:

So that's the musings. And here come the rantings.

People keep asking us when we're going back to Ukraine, with a tone of 'well you're going to wait a long time until you're really ready'. As if things are easier here, and that when we go to do missions the hard stuff is going to hit.

On one level, the UK is indeed less daunting. It's easier financially, in that I am allowed to shop a bit. It's easier practically, in that I can easily buy food and get public transport. It's easier to have a baby here, there's feeding drop ins and toddler groups and my friends with babies and my friends without babies who are happy to look after said baby. It's easier to communicate, it's easier to have a hot bath, it's easier to cook and it's just a lot easier.

It's also easier to stagnate, it's easier to get religious, and it's easier to gently slide into Sunday evening Christianity. In this country we have so much money and so much stuff, and after a while we start to believe that we need all the money and all the stuff. 

I've never felt this more than since having a baby - the assumption that we're going to focus exclusively on wrapping our daughter in cotton wool/cash. That despite God's promise to love her, protect her and guide her my responsibility as a mother is ignore him and do a half arsed job in my own strength.

Two things: to 'protect' my daughter and cop out on my calling is the most damaging thing I could do. Why would I want my kid to grow up in this culture? Why would I want her to believe that eating disorders, casual sex and self obsession are normal? In this world that will sexualise her, bombard her with self doubt and generally try to break her cos she's a girl...i'm going to give her a life less ordinary. Because my years of youth work in the UK have led me to believe that our ordinary is failing our children. I don't want to fail my child. I want her to grow up experiencing worship, art, compassion, freedom, service, risk and sometimes not owning the entire contents of New Look. 

Disclaimer: many people raise their kids amazingly well in this culture, but my faith wavers far too quickly and my perspective gets rubbish after a few months in the loveliness that is Lewes. This is because we're called abroad. Specifically, I would be a crap mum in England. 

The other thing: to cop out on my calling and stay in the UK would be the most damaging thing I could do to myself. I would love to own the entire contents of New Look. This is not healthy. Even though things are 'easier' here, my main love is Jesus. He's the point of everything and if I stay here i'm going to slot him into a tidy box - a slightly nice God who doesn't want me to swear or be naughty. I'll believe that 'wisdom' and 'sensible' mean the same thing. 
The Jesus I know and the Jesus I ignore when things are too easy looks like this: a loving, all powerful God who hates sin because he loves us with this burning, rageful, ecstatic passion. He's standing with the poor and the oppressed and he's calling us to come find out what it's like to live selflessly. And injustice gives him rage. And compassion gives him joy. And i'm sitting around in England obsessing over my five a day, because I am ridiculous - I have hugged orphans and looked into the eyes of people who have actually suffered and I come home and complain because I haven't got my own car.

And he has got to be the point of everything, because a life lived not orbiting him has to orbit something and in the UK that tends to be whatever makes life easy. That's usually money.

So no, we won't be staying here now we've had a baby. Because we are not strong enough to love God properly when things are easy - we have got to get out and grow up. To be the best parents we can be, because a life lived with God shapes a person into who they were always meant to be. And my baby girl needs a mum who walks in truth and passion. God loves her too much to give her anything less. 

So come on John's arm ops, come on the 63 grand we need to raise, come on stupid road trip across Europe and come on Oh my soul. Ukraine! 

Saturday, 25 February 2012

j + f = b

So this blog entry is a long time coming. There’s a reason for that and it’s shaped like a mini human. 

Not sure where in the last seven weeks to start really, I have to be careful not to just dribble on about baby baby baby until you click BACK. I shall start from the beginning.
Childbirth. These are my observations:
- Gas and Air does nothing. Don’t believe the lies.
- You can go through 40 hours of labour, failed epidurals, SPD inflammation, fully dilating, pushing for two hours and finally an emergency c section, and people will still assume that your caesarean was a cop out. For the record, without the operation we’d both be dead.
- Despite the above situation, I wasn’t scared once. Not when it was all going wrong and the doctors were panicking and John was on his knees in the scrubs cupboard. I felt pissed off and tired but at no point was I scared, and looking back I’m pretty sure this was because of all the prayers people were praying. So thank you, and thank you to Jesus who we know was in charge of it all. Her being born at all was a miracle. She’s our tiny stroppy gurgly miracle. Our miracle that does poo.
- Midwives and surgeons are beautiful humans. Anaesthetists are beautiful verging on supreme being status.

So now we are three, and it’s astounding. She’s seven weeks old and undeniably the most attractive, advanced and alert baby that has ever been born. And yes, that is me speaking objectively. We’re big softies and pretty bad at making her do anything she doesn’t want to do, and as such are wrapped around her tiny little finger but we console ourselves with all the compliments we get about what a happy baby we have. She should be happy, she’s got two full time minions. 

So in other news, John’s had his op to get his plates taken out and is awaiting MRI scans and more operations. It’s horrible having a sad broken hubby and it’s horrible for him to be sad and broken, and it’s not going to get better any time soon really. Poor John. And we’re waiting for the NHS to get on with it so we might be waiting for a while. But on the plus side with him signed off work I have a companion to play with whose vocabulary extends beyond ‘waaaaaaa’ and ‘cooooo’. On a good day.

So life is pretty much baby dominated, with a back drop of ‘when we move to Ukraine’. The current plan is to get a van and drive there, because apparently with a baby we stand a good chance of being allowed across borders without getting all our stuff nicked. Watch this space. 

love. xxx