Monday, 1 December 2014

...and the soul felt its worth

Christmas isn't that big of a deal here. New year is the main event. Christmas still gets people excited but not as much as the huge 24 hour knees-up that is New Year.

I suppose, and guess, that in a country that was communist for such a long time that the main reason for Christmas got diluted, faded, in the light of other holidays. Holidays less threatening to a government that's trying to kill God. Holidays that don't display divinity quite so blatantly.

Every time Alla accidentally calls Christmas 'New Year' (in her head they're interchangeable but they couldn't be more different - worship versus self congratulation) I find myself wanting to argue with her but the only language I have to do that is to shout 'No! Not new year! Happy Birthday Jesus!' and that's just stupid.
I'll probably still do it though.
But why? Why does this bother me so much?

Christianity is full of boring stuff. Awkward stuff. Uncertain things. Confused theologies and arguments and terrible fashion sense (please could 30 something Christians stop wearing bootcut jeans? Please? And chunky skate trainers? We'll be trying to bring back the one strap back-pack next and then I will be forced to crawl into a hole and die of shared shame.) and things I don't know how to explain and daily grind and not a lot of glory. Not a lot of skies rendered by angels going mental.

And now we have a two year old and she wants to understand the songs we sing and words like heaven and love and thank you. She wants to understand what a stable is, and a manger, and why Jesus was away in it. So I find myself rediscovering Christmas and it's beautiful like I don't think I ever realised before. I'm one excited mummy right now.

So this is why it bothers me that my girls don't understand Christmas:
Because it's beautiful.
It's beautiful in a way that renders everything else grey. It takes everything, absolutely everything about being a person on this planet and ruins it, makes death impossible, makes sin weak, makes curses slip away.
The moment where God declared, in the cough and gurgle of a newborn baby,
I am here.
I got this.

For the poverty stricken, the homeless, the poor, those who can only sleep with the animals, the refugees hunted from their homes, those for who it isn't safe to return. Those who haven't got hospitals to trust in the terrifying thing that is childbirth. Those who do these things alone and scared in the straw, holding hands and praying when that's all you've got.
He's here.
A baby boy born and, yup, lain in a manger.

For the rich, so wealthy they can devote their lives to studies, who yearn for something else, someone else, for the broken hearted who move among the richest in the world and know they can't trust the Herods. To feel outside and alone even when they've got everything they should want, those who are still hungry despite all their wisdom and riches.
He's here.
Stars in the sky to show the way.

For the thugs. For the unemployable. For the ones who don't fit in and do the jobs in the dark, where nobody has to see you. The ones who don't get included in anything.
He's here.
A sky full of angels.
I would so love to know what it sounds like when the sky is full of angels. Pretty scary, apparently.

For my girls.
Nobody told them, ever, what they're worth.
Nobody told them that He's here.
For those abandoned as babies, rejected and put inside walls built by corrupt governments, to grow up strong but full of longing and so afraid, for those who don't know how to navigate this terrifying thing called life because nobody ever cared enough to show them. For those who have been rejected as ugly, as deformed, and for those who have wished themselves deformed because their beauty causes agony. For my girls, for those who are despised as lesser because they don't know how to get the grades, how to fit in, they don't know how to win. For those who never stood a chance, for those who never asked to be born and now don't know who to ask for life to the full.
Nobody ever told them He's here.

So I want them to know. I do so want them to know about the baby in the stable, the star in the sky, the sky full of angels. I want them to know about the God who wants them, who can redeem and transform their unthinkable sorrows and give them unlimited joys. The God who saved me, who still saves me, who has taken thirty one years to get to know me and with whom I'm going to spend a lot more time.
Yup, I want them to know.

I want them to know about Christmas. About the look on His face when he saw what was done to them. I want them to see the look in His eyes when he smiles over them. That fire. I want them to know about how much He wants them - that he would call me to give up my family, my loved ones, my security and my financial future and my childrens' schooling and not on the high street dot com and kale smoothies and all the things I miss because
he wants them.
He will chase them,
to save them,
and my obedience is the only thing I have to give Him in this. I can't communicate it any clearer than my presence here, the sacrifice it is and the daily things my hands can do to bless them.
I want them to know about Christmas.
I want them to know about themselves. How I would give up even more than this, for them, for Him, because of how much He wants them.

I want them to be loved.
He's here.


Friday, 24 October 2014

On why we're rubbish at doing stuff.

We are not very productive. Just going to come out and say this - for the last two years we've been walking this journey of 'foreign missions' (hello, jargon) accompanied by an annoying tiny goblin called Mr.Guilt. He's mean and he doesn't go away, and he's there because we constantly feel like we should be accomplishing more.

I'm gradually coming to understand that although in my mind I should be achieving more things for God - which is in itself a dodgy concept, methinks - it's ok that every day is a struggle to get things done. The stress of trying to achieve coupled with the guilt of not having achieved anything much is ridiculous, so by way of processing for myself and sharing with you, here is an example of how ridiculously bad we are/ how ridiculously difficult Ukraine can be.

In two sleeps Beth will wake up and leap upon the necks of her grandparents. Sim will wake up and vomit upon the necks of said Grandparents. This is very, very exciting and I have planned a lovely menu and we need to pop to the local supermarket ten minutes down the road and buy groceries.
In England I could do this by myself - bit stressful with two tiny ones but completely possible to hop in the car, pop to Tescos and get enough food for the next few days. Here, however...
Step 1: Decide to go to Metro (Tesco equivalent). John goes to load the van up with a weeks worth of rubbish - we have no trash collection so we drive our own stinky business into some bins and get shouted at, but it's hijack other peoples' bins or burn the rubbish, so we brave the angry ladies who guard the bins. Loading the van takes 20 minutes. There's a lot of bags.
Step 2: While John does the bins change the baby's nappy. Dress baby in three layers plus hat. Do all this while engaging fully with, and being emotionally available for, the toddler.
Step 3: John comes back in covered in snow, panicking that the van has frozen into one solid lump of ice. No windows or doors will open. John goes back outside looking grim, wielding tools.
Step 4: Baby is cross because is too hot, so carry baby on one hip while finding toddler's snow boots, snow trousers, coat, hat and gloves. Today is the first day of snow so everything is buried. Pull numerous muscles contorting self into bottom of cavernous wardrobe without dropping/ breaking the baby.
Step 5: John re-enters house looking distraught, can only open one door of the van but has managed to get it started and brought it round to the front of the house. He grabs car seats and runs out into what is now a blizzard.
Step 6: Twenty minutes have passed, place angry baby in car seat and rock him with one foot while prizing toddler into multiple layers. She is beside self with excitement/ fear re snow and keeps trying to escape out of the front door.
Step 7: Baby is screaming for a nap. Frantically rock baby while toddler watches daddy scraping a cm thick ice covering off of the windscreen.
Step 8: Baby falls asleep. John scoots in, grabs toddler (who was on her way out anyway, down the perilous icy concrete steps) and runs to the van. Grab own coat, phone, keys, boots, hat, scarf, intentionally and absolutely avoid looking in the mirror, exit house. John screams through the snow that the baby has awoken and to hurry up.
Step 9: Slip and nearly kill self on the steps. Remember that these are not your good winter boots.
Step 10: Trek through snow, find van door loosened, clamber in, sit down in the front, twist around and shake rattle in baby's face while shoving snacks into the toddler's hands just to shut her up. 'I want to go now mummy' 'whats daddy doing mummy?' 'mummy I want daddy to drive now' etc.
Step 11: This has taken about 45 minutes. Realise this. Despair.
Step 12: John climbs into the driver's seat, turns to you and proclaims 'one of the tires is burst'. You discuss this. You conclude that when a team mate borrowed the van yesterday to pick up some orphans he must have driven through a savage pot hole and burst it without realising. You both stare at each other, panic stricken. Then your fabulously manly husband shrugs and says 'I'll go outside and fix it'. So he does, in the whirling snow, standing in mush, while you do a weird rocking the baby in a stationary fixed in place car seat thing. He goes back to sleep after 15 minutes. You don't stop rocking him. You will never stop rocking him. With your free hand you continue to bribe the impatient, strapped in toddler with bread sticks.
Step 13: John climbs back in to the car, like an angry winter yeti, and mutely starts the van up. You drive up your dirt track, finally facing the front and hoping the baby doesn't wake up.
Step 14: Arrive on Vinnitsa's city limits, see Police preparing to stop a motorist. Pray very hard that it's not you (you don't have legit license plates because the factory that makes the plates is in the east and thus has shut down so the van isn't actually legal right now but there's nothing you can do about that but wait and go back every week) and breathe again when it's not you. Take a left turn and wend way through muddy snow to the bins, nearly crash with man who is texting while reversing. Escape catastrophe. John unloads the trash, it takes three trips but at least the angry lady of the bins isn't there to shake her fist at him this time. He may by now have frostbite.
Step 15: Reverse out of the bin area, the baby is still asleep. Drive to Metro. This only takes ten minutes, park up and breathe. You made it! Your husband is amazing! You are a terrible mother who didn't even pick the rock salt off the bread sticks!
Step 16: Sit in the car and debate further action. If you take the baby out into the snow now he will wake up, and will not stay content in his car seat (you're not allowed buggies in Metro so instead have to have two trolleys - one for the food and one with baby and car seat inside. The toddler sits in the food one, not in a seat but just in the trolley and you pile canned goods around her until she gets annoyed and wants to walk i.e. run off while you try to find olives that aren't stuffed with fish) and as it's taken such a long time to get to the shop he will need a feed when he wakes up. Obviously one does not feed one's baby in public here (grrrr) so you decide that you should just sit in the car for a few more minutes to let him sleep and then wake him up, feed him in the car and then go shop. Joy.
Step 17: Toddler is quivering with fury re STILL STRAPPED IN CAR so you leave husband and baby in car and walk around the freezing car park. She is dressed for snow and loves it. You're wearing stupid boots. The van's horn toots and you rush back panicking that the baby has woken up/ exploded but actually husband just sat on horn, somehow, by accident.
Step 18: You tire of waiting, unstrap baby (toddler eating more bread sticks because it's actually lunchtime by now) and feed him. Strap him, protesting, back into sodding car seat. Haul family into shop. Continue task.

It took and hour and a half to get into the shop, maybe more.
This is why we're not good at achieving things. This is why my dream of being an independent mum type who pops to shops or does other normal ordinary non difficult things while husband has normal job tasks in other places...isn't likely to happen. We are at capacity, beyond what we can handle, permanently stressed, all the time. Life is stupid here. Partly because we're stupid, partly because we understand nothing and partly because extreme weather makes things difficult. 

Ok so Sim is being grumpy so I must relieve the husband.
Bye! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Tuesday, 7 October 2014


'Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,
For I am yours, and you are mine'

I start every blog entry with 'so' and I think it's because I'm too scared to pause before I start writing, preferring instead to hurl self at blog entry without checking self. The result: semi coherent transfer of thoughts from brain onto computer via fingers and the only word able to carry the words over is a so. 

So. To continue my thoughts and write them down as I think. So. 

Driving about in the van this week John said something about heaven. It was very profound and rather deep and I have absolutely no idea what he said, all I remember is that it made me think I'd like to write about heaven because it reminded me that heaven is important. Sorry hubby, but hey at least you know you inspired me. Inspire me, rather. Daily.

As Christians go I'm not very good at remembering about life after death. I'm so captivated, entranced, galvanized by the things that Jesus said to do this side of dying. Zealous for his world to be transformed by justice, obsessed with living in a way that honors Him, passionate about living this life to the full.
He said 'if you love me you'll obey my commands, and my command is this, that you walk in love'. Is there anything more simple or beautiful than that? Is there anything more difficult and broad than that?
I believe that it's the Holy Spirit in me, the 'God bit' of me that howls in rage when this world destroys innocents. I know that it's my faith that makes me who I am - somebody who thinks it's important to stop suffering, to house and love the orphan, for example. I am certain that without Jesus nicking my life ten ish years ago I would be living a selfish, empty life and would not be changing the world in any way.
My relationship with God, my 'Christianity', has no problem with the focus on the here and now. I fully understand that to preach the gospel with my mouth while withholding rescue from those in pain is obscenity. Me and the social action part of the gospel are buddies.

When I was at uni my friend asked me if I'd gone to see the Passion movie. I hadn't, but she told me to, so I did. Afterwards we were sitting in the pub and talking about my opinions (my favorite topic, obviously) and she isn't a Christian so the whole Jesus movie thing was an interesting topic. At one point she asked me 'do you think you're going to heaven?' and I nonchalantly said something to the affirmative. She looked at me like I was a moron for giving such a blithe reply and said something like 'if only I had that'.

Um. Eh?

My nonchalance was bred from an upbringing in Christian land, from knowing from childhood that God loves me and wants me to be with Him forever. That I don't have to go to hell because of Jesus and what he did to rescue me. It's always been the backdrop - that when I die I go to heaven.

I was taking, and still take, this for granted.

And I was clueless, an idiot, in the face of such huge human condition questing.

When every religion is set up to enable this, when it's all about how to get there and not go to the bad place, when thousands and thousands of years of history reveal our fear of death, I sit with my vodka orange and casually grunt that yeah, I believe that I'm going to heaven. Ridiculous woman. This is not a small deal, this is massive. When did it become uncool to get excited about heaven?

I'm going to abandon any ill fated attempts I ever made to pretend to be cool and get excited now. What is heaven? 

The Bible says that God will wipe away every tear. Everyone who cries now, every sadness, will be personally comforted by the One who made us, loves us, rescued us, holds us.
To be in a place where my sin, my selfishness, can't break things anymore?

Oh this is so hard to articulate, this longing in my heart for home. This tucked away joy for later, for ever, this promise that it's all going to be so much more than ok. This thing that if I look at it I have to swerve because it's too much for this feeble brain of mine to grasp. This hunger for intimacy and wholeness that's held in the certainty of satisfaction, that one day all the holes in my heart will be full. To know that there is nothing that can rob me of Him, of all the joy without all the pain. Untainted. God.
To be without struggle, to be free from the weight of my self obsession, to have every question answered. Every question answered, for now we see darkly but everything will be revealed. Every why or where were you or how could you. All of it, laid to rest, at peace. To know and to understand.
To finally have everything in perspective, to be gazing at Him and to know my smallness and to be relieved. To stop trying. To be loved and to be able, finally, to love without sin blackening my heart's efforts.
To have every hurt smoothed away, irrelevant.

I am a Christian. I know that Jesus helps me now, that the Holy Spirit strengthens me now, and that God the Father loves me now.
I am a lady called Fritha. I know that I am not capable of living without sinning, that as hard as I try, or more often don't try, I will screw up. I will hurt the people that love me, I will not be a perfect mummy or a perfect lover or a perfect friend. I am messed up. I am a human being.

And it's ok.
It's ok now, because Jesus is helping me.
And it's going to be so beautiful then. Forever. For all the evers.

So as much as this life is all about the orphans my heart is listening, distracted, to the songs of the angels. 


Thursday, 18 September 2014

Missionary learnings

It's night time and the little people in the family are finally asleep. The bigger ones are watching How To Train Your Dragon in Russian and laughing a lot - including John and that's a bit surreal - so i'm allowed unfettered access to the laptop. At last!

I love to write but I don't get to do it that often at the moment. Something to do with having a tiny person permanently attached to my, ahem, self. All day i'm musing things inside my mind, lots of deep things I could write about like how weird it is suddenly having two teenage daughters, or how God seems to be holding our heads above water with invisible hands, or how John is starting to deal with the trauma of some of the things that happened when Sim was born or...a million things. But Sim doesn't sleep a lot, I don't have a lot of time and also I'm not that interesting so if you want to know about the deep stuff then email me. You will receive a misspelt answer typed onto a smartphone with one finger while Sim is attached to the aforementioned, ahem, self.
In the meantime here is a silly list that sort of sums up some stuff we've been realizing about missions lately.

What being a missionary gives you:
1) Flexibility.
We were pretty chilled out before we got out here (i.e. completely unorganised) but after a couple of years on the missions field we are bendy like sexy yoga teachers. In the last two weeks we've been told that Svieta isn't going to move in, and then that she is going to move in, and then that she'll be sleeping a few nights a week in dorms, and then that she actually doesn't like it there and will be coming home tonight for dinner. And that ain't nuthin. Things change so much out here that trying to keep track would give one whiplash and thus we keep our knees bent, our eyes on the horizon and ride the waves of change as if we've never made a plan in the first place.
This annoys the bananas out of family who need to know days in advance when we can skype. But we don't know. We have a plan, but the plan is written in pixie dust and liable to dissolve. Sorry. Blame the people who design our days. 'Cos it's not us.

2) The Giggles
Things that once seemed profound/ worrying/ important start to seem, well, just kind of silly. Oh no, my laptop is broken. Hahaha!
Oh no, Beth is having a strop again. Hahaha!
We haven't had our date night. Our what night? Hahaha!
We regularly, every day, spend our time with children who were dumped in orphanages at three months old. We cuddle babies in hospital who are alone and scared and nobody comes when they cry cos it hurts. We deal with corrupt police, civil war and not understanding anybody ever.
It makes one a little frothy in the face of things that used to be a big deal. Things that once would have prompted an indignant blog rant have been demoted to 'silly'. That and also we're hysterical with exhaustion and despair. Wheeeeeee!

3) Sugar issues.
We comfort eat. We crave food with energy in it. We're borderline diabetic. Send celery.

4) Weird kids.
Beth's speaking age in England is that of a four year old, which is fun 'cos she is two. It got a bit ridiculous, even trips to the park ended in accolades for the smart kid. Random grannies were impressed. It was nice.
Here she is regarded as a slack jawed moron by local kids who, to be honest, are themselves essentially pond life. Because she can't speak Ukrainian. As a proud mother I hate that her true genius isn't appreciated as it should be, and that the locals aren't wearing t-shirts emblazoned with pictures of her FACE. Everyone should have one.
But it's ok. She doesn't care. She thinks it's normal and she's learning the new words super fast and she potters about making up her own languages in the sandpit and employing classic toddler choosiness when meeting strangers. Think blank death stare if you're speaking Ukrainian. It's brilliant. I love her.

5) Owbies.
Last week we decided to travel as a family to one of the orphanages that we visit. Why? Because two hours each way isn't a big deal (see point two). Because it's good for the kids out there to see, and learn, what a loving family dynamic looks like and because it's really fun for Beth because there's playgrounds and piles of dirt and feral puppies and possibly ebola. Also it's fun to do things together. And everyone loves babies.
On our way home Beth snuggled in to me - face covered in chocolate ice cream, mud, sweat and blood from a monkey bars induced fat lip - and it was perfect. Sim passed out in the car seat, tired from too many gentle head strokes and pokey fingers. Maternal guilt is a fairly constant state but this time I decided to shrug it off, all those thoughts of 'what if' and 'oh no' and 'what will people think'. Instead I decided to hold my sweaty bleedy princess while she dreamed of dirtpits and be grateful that this life affords her a little adventure. I don't believe that God wants me to (s)mother in fear, I think that although I will never forget every single bump and graze and the terror of serious harm...I think that I can give all that to Him to deal with and learn to rejoice in the freedom of raising a slightly feral child. Because I want her to know her own capacity for bravery and joy. I want her adventures to shame mine.

6) Some things that look a bit like Jesus.
There's a new thing at the centre of me and I think it's joy. Maybe. Peace? I'm not sure what to call it, and please bear in mind the sleep deprived-ness of me, but I don't recognise myself from ten years ago. Or even last year when culture shock was making me a crazy person.
If you'd told me a few years ago the kind of thing I'd be dealing with in 2014 - two ridiculous childbirths, learning how to raise babies, learning how to love a new culture and the teenagers that it brings into my home that isn't even my home and how do I deal with that and working in orphanages and sourcing things and having permanently high blood pressure and and and and and. I would have kicked you in the privates and run away screaming.
But now there's a God-bit within me, forged and being forged, sharp. I am held together by the prayers of the saints at home but also the core of me is getting more like Him. More peaceful, more joyful and more content.
Oh dear I'm tired and talking rubbish.
Over and out. xxx

Sunday, 27 July 2014

babies and babies and babies

Have somehow landed with a toddler napping and baby napping (hopefully) in buggy whilst being pushed around by daddy.

When Simeon was born I felt God point me towards the psalm that says 'children are a blessing from the LORD'. Or maybe it says a reward from the Lord. Either way, something good.

Doesn't always feel good. Often I am too complainey and selfish to really cherish the moments, to revel in the gorgeousness that mother hood can, and maybe should, be. So here's a poem, and it's probably going to be terrible, but my sleep deprived brain can't handle full sentences so with my apologies, here goes...

Children are a present, a wrapped up for nine months,

going to burst out of the box, 
going to wreck the parcel,
and it's going to hurt,
kind of a gift from God.
A you can't sit down for weeks,
a you aren't sure who you are anymore,
a covered in puke and panic
kind of gift.
A why are you crying
and i've pulled all the muscles in my neck
because you don't want me to put you down
kind of present.
The kind of present that ruins your life,
your body,
your security,

your rest,
your you time, your food time, your clean house time, your community time.
Your married time.

I don't remember asking anyone for that kind of present.
One could assume that the giver
hates me
and wishes to cover me in korma poo and sodden nappies.

But these presents,

they are stealthier than they seem
with all the screaming 

it's easy to miss the soft whisper of a heart shifting over
making room
for one more
for now we are four
and these presents are wrapped up in so many layers
the velvet feet
the complaints at night that mean 'i'm alive! I arrived safely and whole and the odds were stacked against me but i'm here...
now feed me again, 
mother. '

Mother. Mummy.
Not forced to do this but

empowered to choose this
to be swept along 
surrender control
forgo selfish things that don't fulfill,
to be surprised by the satisfaction bestowed by first smiles
even if he's smiling at the shower curtain
instead of me.
The terror of harm befalling the tiny ones,

the heart break of seeing big sisters uncertainty
and not being able to go to her 
sweep her up in cuddles and kisses
because i'm chained to the second kid
and the first one hates cuddles anyway and would just run off to play with Grandma.
The endless concern,
the fear, 

the gift of caring more about someone else than about myself,
the step closer towards being like Him,
the blossoming of my depraved soul into something more beautiful,
the knowledge of love,
to experience what it feels like to long for another's health and happiness

and yes, to long for more sleep.
The holiness of this mundane mummy life
that I would have scorned as unfeminist, 

and demeaning,
but now I find that this girl who ran national charities, wrote books, bossed people about, notched up adventures all over the world,
has never been so empowered as when she did a VBAC.
I did that.
Screw equal, how about divine?

Children are a gift
and maybe the giver
loves me enough to make me

more aware of the weak bits that need help,
more selfless
more insane with love/ sleep deprivation,
to revel in the simple existence of another person,
of these two people whom
I adore

and who He adores more.

Agh the baby's home got to go xxxxxxxxxxxx

Wednesday, 11 June 2014


Hello. From gorgeous England, hello.

We flew home about a month ago and it's been a constant exercise in 'why don't you live here anymore?'
Why are you stubbornly sticking to Ukraine? When this country you're in right now fits you like you were born here (because you were), when this nation feels like comfort, when there is such fun and community and love for you here. When you slot back in like you've never been gone. When the children can, and will, talk to your daughter in a language she understands. When democracy is prized here and when the doctors agree with you and you agree with them. When clothes fit you. When you have the freedom to do anything because you can talk to anyone. When it's easy here, why would you be there? Why?

For the first few weeks, we didn't know the answer to that. Some people think we're returning to Ukraine out of guilt, out of a commitment upheld and nothing further. Stubborn.
Some people think we're going back because we love the orphans. Noble.
Some people think we're going back because it's fun. Tourists.

Not sure any of those things apply.

If I was motivated by guilt then I would generally behave better in life. Guilt's never stopped me doing something selfish and it doesn't prompt me to good deeds. If I feel guilty I just get defensive and blame others and sink further into my fortress of judging. Guilt's a rubbish motivator. That isn't it.

Also, don't tell anybody but my heart is not noble and I would one hundred percent put myself before others every time the choice came up. So it's not about the orphans.

Because it's fun? Yeah, Ukraine is all about the merry japes. (That's sarcasm, just to be clear.)

So, then, as we face moving back with an as yet unborn tiny bundle of vulnerability, why would we leave England? Why are we falling in love with England all over again even as we book our tickets back to Ukraine?

I have an idea, some ideas actually, and I'm not going to YWAM it for you. Not going to coat it in glossy sheen as if people only like to give money to happy, confident, thriving missionaries. I could start face book again and spin our lives round and round til you can't quite see what we do but you think we must be very good Christians and come away so very impressed and moved to give. I could lie to you in the name of the orphans/ my vision/ my purposes/ my denial.
Not going to.

The why is complicated and messy, but I'm going to try to explain. To wit: Everything is basically meaningless.

Keep coming back to Ecclesiastes and it's one depressing rant in places. Drinking? Done it. Religion? Done it. Hard work? Done it. Money? Had it. Conclusion: It all means nothing.
So all the fun I'm having in England, all the lovely food and easy healthcare and smooth friendships and driving on the left side of the road, it's all meaningless. There is no eternal, life giving point to life in itself. I think this is the kind of conviction that is only liberating if God shows you it when you're needing it - and I need it now. I need to realise that pleasure and esteem are weightless, pointless, and will not fulfill me or mine. Pleasure and comfort are not in themselves enough to keep me here. The access to takeaways is wonderful but will tarnish quickly should we tarry. Quality family time, while precious, is not a reason to linger. Even our lovely community here would not fulfill, as much as telly tries to convince me that all I need in life is money, friends, parties and a house...even if we had all those things, we would still know discontent. And we could still have all those things in Ukraine. And they would still be meaningless. Because life is not about 'living well' but about living to the full and to me those are two different things.

The reasons to stay here aren't good enough. Don't need a house of my own, don't need lovely furniture, don't need farrow and ball. Don't need play groups or pre school in a language I understand. Don't need iplayer. Don't need ready meals or posh herbs or morrisons dry iced veg. Don't even need pork pies. Don't need country roads bathed in sunshine, don't need running in the rain with Beth, don't need cinema or restaurants in English. Don't need the ten o clock news or Beth's grandparents or not on the high street dot com.
Some of those things are silly, but some of them, like Beth's grandparents, are a treat that it will break our hearts to walk away from. Some of those things we don't need are still very, very nice to have even if it's for this bittersweet two months.
But no, not essential. England's standard of living is incredible - we spent the first week back here going to ASDA repeatedly, for no good reason, just to marvel at the shiny aubergines and cheap home furnishings. But shiny aubergines never saved anybody from anything. ASDA may be my happy place but it doesn't actually make me happy. 

Why don't we stay in England? Because everything is meaningless, so we might as well be in Ukraine. I know it sounds like a crap reason, but to me, it's not. The things that could keep me here are not actually good enough to keep me here.

The things that thread meaning through my life all come from somewhere other than either England or Ukraine. Things like John, Beth and tiny baby boy. We will be together wherever we will be.
Things like knowing that we are still doing what we think is important. I think that looking after Ukrainian orphans is important so I will do that.
Listening to God has meaning, obedience has meaning, and God hasn't told us to quit so we're going back. That gives me huge satisfaction that is very difficult to explain.
Seeing my husband thrive makes me happy, and he is perfect for his role in Ukraine. He fits in Ukraine. Even though the lifestyle comes with huge struggles and sacrifices, he is the man for the job and that makes me happy. Contented in his day to day because I don't know anybody else who could handle what he handles and move with such grace and strength. Ukraine gives him meaning.
Also, trying to stand against injustice is very important and what we do out there tries to change things. That's a pretty good/ God reason to do anything.

So that's kind of it. Not very varnished and not very inspiring, but right now it's the truth. Might get all fired up later but right now content to abide in 'blessed to be in England, blessed to have a purpose to go back to'. Does that make sense? Probably not. Sorry.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Punch Fear in the Face

So here I sit, in my broken leather armchair in my broken country, trying to think clever and deep things to say to you after such a long cyber absence.
We took a step back from face book because it felt like the healthy thing to do, and it was, and we're not really up for getting back on the promo wagon. Freedom from living life in the light of other peoples' eyes, freedom from comparison and striving and also in my pregnant state I have a tendency to non-filter the rage that spews forth from my face. Status updates were getting a little bit offensive, because the inside of my head is often quite offensive, and it was time to step back and cool off a little bit.
I've avoided writing the blog because honestly I haven't felt like anything I could say would be worth reading. Have been quiet in myself lately, not needing to rant or vent, perhaps because I've been concentrating on growing a mini human in my tummy while nurturing the other mini human in my house. John can be so demanding.
Just didn't feel like my thoughts were worth inflicting on the internet, felt like I needed to go away and be quiet and helpful for a while.

But, well, the last month happened and I think maybe it's time to break the silence.
Because we need to punch fear in the face.

It's time to step up to the mic and shout down the panic until it's left the building. It's time to shame the enemy, by pointing at the King.

So we've been here in Ukraine through revolution, peaceful and violent. We've been here through panic buying, gas shortages, power cuts, shootings in our city, street blockages, wars and rumours of wars. We're here as a certain captain naughty pants strolls around on land that isn't his, parading his big tanks (compensating for anything?) and his big missiles (really? You're making this too easy) telling the world to be afraid. And the BBC, whom I love, jump up and down shrieking about the apocalypse until we're ready to panic buy all the train tickets home.
Our conversations strive to pick apart a future that hasn't happened yet, we say words like contingency plan more than once a day. We're planning for visas and passports and airplanes and embassies and the kinds of things that normal people don't have to spend that much time discussing. We go for dinners and wonder aloud who it was that our friend saw shot that afternoon in the park. We go to parties and debate how many months until we're made to leave the country in a hurry. We make plans like 'I'll row you across the river to Moldova in a blow up dinghy', which was reassuring thank you husband. 

The thing is, the panic can build. The peace can be diminished. That Human Rights degree can backfire when your head is full of Amnesty reports on war crimes, when you know the awful things we can do to each other, when you know too much to remain brave. When your nights are packed with nightmares of war. When you fear for your children. When you freak out when your husband is home late, imagining his face covered in bruises. When you've booked your tickets home a thousand times.

The thing is, all those worries, all that anxiety, it's whispers of hints of possibilities made huge by fear. It's not real.
Hosea says that God wants to be acknowledged.
I need to acknowledge him. The things he has done. 

And the thing is, I've learnt about Him and fear. He's bigger.
A few years ago I was told by a doctor that I had an anxiety disorder. I was offered a lot of treatment options, a whole world of band aids to slap on the wound, an array of things to pacify and soothe and heal nothing, just to numb the symptoms. I opted instead to go a bit deeper, scrape this thing out from the bottom.

Not many people know about what was going on in this season of my life, but the line I used with the people who did know was that I'd been through some stuff in my life and had healed but not quite right. Some bones needed to get broken so they could be re set. Some scars had to be cut into again so we could heal them better. Broken to heal.

Counselling, with a gifted and kind woman who loves Jesus, got me a long way. Broke the bones to reset them, this time with Jesus doing the operations instead of me in my ignorance. DTS finished the job. By the time we came home, baby in belly, a revolution in Egypt witnessed, a world of poncy travel pics and pretentious stories to tell, I was better.

I've been better ever since.
It's not been that long but I'd like to venture that a woman given to worry doesn't pack up her seven month old infant and move to a new country to live and serve people she barely knows. With no formal wage, no pension, no insurance, no ASDA (ASDA is my happy place), no family, no security.

Furthermore, I don't think worriers sit around in a war zone making jokes over pudding.

There is a peace in myself that reaches beyond what has happened, what is happening and what could happen. There is a woman in this house who mothers and works and wives (that's not a word) in strength and I think her name is me. The person who was crippled by fear doesn't recognize those feelings when they try to crop up, the worry that became my identity for some time has no place in the life I live now. Fear is alien.

So to acknowledge him - I've been writing this to 'see beneath your beautiful' by Labrinth and Emilie Sande and it needs to be said: I am healed because He has healed me. What's inside me is Him.

I am brave because He is King/ Lion/ Ruler/ Volcano maker.
I am here because that's where He's said to be.
I am whole because He loves me.

He used counselling and DTS and my friends and my pretty darn perfect husband and he took those opportunities to take my crap away and give me happiness instead.

So yup, wars and rumours of wars.
And we're not going to panic and run about in our pants wailing, although that could be fun, we're going to stay until He says go.
Because fear and me?
I'm over it.