So in two or three sleeps we'll be on a train then a taxi then a bus then a plane and then we'll be in England. Beloved England. And it'll be almost a year since we came to live in Ukraine.
So a year since...everything. A year of this. A year of Yook(raine).
What should I say on a momentous occasion such as this, what could be said now? I have bitched so much, complained so often that it may not be easy (for me or for you) to see the threads of gold that have tied this together, that run through what we have experienced and experimented in the last twelve months.
Don't get me wrong - the bitching has been justified. Not going to be polite about that one. You take your marriage and your seven month old and you fly into a storm of culture shock, pressure, misunderstanding, illiteracy, religion and orphans. You try being upbeat. You would be lying and we would not be friends because you and I could never get along. I don't fake it.
So yes, the thing you all know about this year is that it has been very, very hard. I know lots of missionaries and they aren't all missionaries anymore and I completely understand why. We were warned but we were naive and we fell down hard. Not in a spiritually triumphant way like what people write in books 'oooo I was so humbled by my struggles'. Nope. My spiritual fruit tastes bitter.
Sorry. You want tidy, happy endings and warm fronts and everything is fine because Jesus wants me for a sunbeam? Can't do it. And if I tried to properly explain the extent of, or the reasons for, the sheer impossible that is moving to Ukraine, I would just be annoying and self justifying and it wouldn't work anyway.
So yes. This year = hard.
Have I made that clear enough? ;-) Oh good grief I've resorted to emoticons in a blog I'll never be a proper writer...
So the goldy bits? What am I on about?
Yeah my fruit tastes bitter but it's ok cos my God's sweet enough.
I've been stropping about, thinking things and ignoring things and doing things and being lazy and busy and frantic and exhausted and somewhere along the way staffed a DTS and cuddled some orphans and got to take in a teenage girl who is already grafted into our family. Proud of her like I'm proud of B. It makes no sense and I don't know where it came from - that's a total lie, it's Jesus, stoopid - but it's good.
This life in Ukraine? If it was all down to me? Yuk. Rotten, bitter apples that don't make anything tasty or good.
But when I look back on this year my bitchy self can't obscure the beauty of what 'since we left' looks like. It's just gorgeous. I've messed up so many things and messed up so many times but there is still love in this house, it runs through like a river and it makes things live. Things have happened through our family that I could never be stupid enough to claim but my hands were allowed to be the hands that picked a wailing motherless baby out of her cot to snuggle into my shoulder and to learn what eye contact feels like. My hands were allowed to stroke her hair and to hold her hand.
My bitchy mouth silenced by the beautiful things my hands can do. My sour fruit transformed by that sweet taste the Holy Spirit leaves in your mouth.
My life is an apple crumble. Hah!
I forgot, recently, what joy and peace feel like because I wasn't expecting them. I still struggle to expect that God is good which is a little unfair and quite the slur on his character because my life is just flooded with the proof of his heart and of his care for me.
Money nowhere to be seen? have a massive 'pay day' oh and here's a bazillion pounds for the transition home
Visas are impossible? Nope, they're not, look...
Exhausted and ill? Meet Candy, she is from South Africa and she says I just told her to babysit for you today while you go sleep (*confession, I spent this morning watching Vampire Diaries not sleeping but it was very restful and I feel much better*)
Lonely? Tell me about itHad enough? Well here's your plane tickets home
And there's the stupid little things like this one republic album through these amazing earphones, like learning how to take nice photos, like the Bethel live album that our Bethel is obsessed with, like baths and bedtimes and paddling pools and grocery shops and oh yes. Life is good. He is good.
He is the golden thread, the river of life and living and He is the sweetness that makes this year worth something, He makes all things tasty.
And we're coming home.