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.