Saturday, October 10, 2009

Reflections on 5 years

This past week marked my 5 year anniversary of the day I first arrived in Ukraine. October 6, 2004. I think the fact that it has been a full five years has caused me to be a little more reflective lately than normal. I look back at these past five years in awe of the blessings that the Lord has poured out in my life and also in awe of the fact that I’m still here!! That was definitely not a part of my plan!

I recently found the original email I sent to family and friends when I was first preparing to leave and laughed to myself as I read the so called “plans” I had:

….. “I am so excited for what this next year has in store in all aspects.  I really feel that this is the perfect time in my life to explore overseas, and to see how the Lord will use this year of my life to teach me new things and grow me into the woman he desires me to be.”

I guess that growing into the woman the Lord desires me to be meant staying a little longer than I anticipated! And I have to say that I wouldn’t go back and change a thing. In some ways, I can’t believe how fast the time has flown, but in other ways, I realize my life prior to Ukraine seems like another life time, and like I was a different person.


new pictures 070These photos were taken in November 2004, when the Lord first captured my heart for the orphan- in a group of 12 year-old girls. Ira, (below left) was the first girl who won me over when she took my hand, and who I had the honor and privilege of seeing adopted into an awesome Christian family, one year later- a family who has now become dear pictures 157


IMG_7888 These are two of the current princesses that have captured my heart and who have been waiting for almost 2 years for their adoption to be a reality.   Please pray for Zina (L) and Rima that their soon to be family- and pray that soon will be just that- soon! I look forward to the day I’ll get to wave them goodbye!IMG_7886

25 Things living in Ukraine has taught me…

*Goodbye’s get a little easier every time you say them…just a little.

*Distance causes you to lose some friendships completely- and others become surprisingly closer.

*Kindred spirits are found all over the world.

*The bus or metro is NEVER too full for one more person….or perhaps 10.

*It can be very freeing not to own a car and have the ability to get everywhere on public transportation- it also doubles for a good work-out plan!

*It requires humbling one’s self to learn another language and at times sounding flat out stupid.

*Dress warmly and do not wear flip-flops after September 1st if you do not want to be scolded by a babushka.

*Standing in line and waiting is an art form in Ukraine that I’m finally getting a hang of.

*What women wear (or don’t wear) in public never ceases to shock me.

*Never expect for your entire group’s meals to arrive at once when in a restaurant—just be happy if they get the orders right and your food is hot.

*Never buy more than (or something heavier than) you are willing to carry home with your own two hands- especially when you live on the 5th floor with no elevator.

*Approach all cashiers/clerks with the expectation of being yelled at or ignored. If they treat you kindly or heaven forbid- smile, you will leave pleasantly surprised and perhaps even shed a tear of pure joy.

*One can never drink too much tea or eat too much chocolate when in the company of Ukrainian friends.

*When you realize that you’ve come to enjoy the taste of instant coffee…perhaps it means you’ve lived here to long.

*It is possible to overcome the fear of “scary” toilets…at least most of the time.

*Letters, emails and phone calls from friends at home are always a sweet surprise and openly welcomed.

*28 seems a heck of a lot younger than it did 5 years ago!

*One can live quite happily without a dryer- clothes just take a lot longer to dry in the winter…and sometimes freeze if left out too long.

*Kiev is a BEAUTIFUL city…especially in the Fall and Spring.

*Going out of your comfort zone is a hard thing…and also where we tend to learn the most about ourselves and God.

*Sometimes a girl just needs her Mama.

*Seeing a child adopted into a family never gets less exciting.

*Seeing teenaged kids living in an orphanage never gets less heart breaking.

*Sometimes you have to be willing to let go of your plans in order to be a part of something greater than you could have  ever imagined.

*When you let Jesus guide your life, it is never boring, never easy and always the most exciting place to be!

Thank you Jesus for the time you’ve had me in Ukraine…and thank you Ukraine for being a place where I continue to learn so much!




ukrainiac said...

The Lord obviously has you just where He wants you. You continue to be an instrument in His hand...obediently and joyfully serving Him. His joy is written all over your face!

I love the lessons learned...though I have not yet adjusted to instant coffee. I'll go for tea if that's the only option...

Vanessa said...

Nice blog Karen-it does seem as if the Lord has used you and grown you up in many ways than you ever expected! I can relate to the part of distance losing friends or some growing closer. After being a missionary for over 15 years, I've lost many friends but gained more! May God bless you tremendously as you continue to step out in Him!

Stoesz 7 said...

Karen, your beautiful...and we love you so much! We are so blessed the God brought us into our lives and how you have touched so many children and families! Thank you for all you do - I hope your trip to Kherson is wonderful! It's snowing today in Colorado and it is quite beautiful. God is good!

Natasha said...

Oh, our beautiful Karen - we love you sooo much! Thank you for everything you've done for the children of Ukraine!!! You are a blessing to so many children and adoptive parents!!!
I LOVE the 25 things you learned in Ukraine. Brings back lots of memories! :) Mmmmm...instant coffee - I still love it to this day!
My favorite:
*Dress warmly and do not wear flip-flops after September 1st if you do not want to be scolded by a babushka.

Heidi and Felix said...

Wow - loved the princess pix! It's surreal to think we'll be able to bring Rima home soon. Shopped for some things for her today...what a great feeling!

Loved the 25 things, too! A few comments:

* couldn't agree more about clerks' attitudes. I shed a tear of joy the first time I went through the McD's drive through in CO after our adoption trip. The cashier smiled at me!!!

* I was wondering how people carry those monsterous watermelons home and up 5 flights of stairs? Who buys them?

Love you!!

Elizabeth Joy said...

I LOVED reading your lessons. I've been learning some similar things as well... though you're much more of an overseas pro than I am ;-)

Steph Bradac said...

I so enjoyed reading about all you have learned over these past 5 years! Let's skype soon! When works for you?

Kelly said...

Absolutely Beautiful!!! So blessed to call you friend!! Love you!

Lisa said...

LOVED your 25 things list...I can so relate! Amazing you've been there for 5 years already!

Angela said...

Oh girl, right on. I hope I haven't quite fallen into the category of friends you lose with distance - but I know I haven't done a great job staying in touch. Thanks for the updates. Keep sending them!