Monday, October 6, 2014

Celebrating 10 years!

“Sometimes life takes us places we never expected to go, and in those places God writes a story we never thought would be ours.”

My sweet mom sent this little note in my birthday card last month.  Upon reading it I stared at the words, realizing somehow they are the epitome of my life (apparently she thought so too!).

Today marks 10 years since I first arrived in Ukraine.  A country I had to find on a map before booking my travel adventure.   Has one decade really passed?  I did fly with a paper ticket (remember those?), so clearly it’s been awhile.

Lately I see anniversaries posted of friends’ weddings on Facebook celebrating a decade or more of marriage and I find it hard to believe how quickly the time has passed. It seems like just yesterday I was watching them walk down the aisle and say ‘I do’ and now they are celebrating 10 years! 

So today I guess I am celebrating my unlikely marriage to this nation that has oddly become my home.  Perhaps I don’t get to show my cute- 20-something self in my wedding dress—but a cute short haired version of myself holding a stray Ukrainian kitten will have to do to commemorate the moment. 

As the quote so brilliant states, this is not the story I would have ever thought to be my own, and yet I so clearly see God’s fingerprint in my life and the lives He has intersected with mine while living here.

I guess the marriage analogy fails when comparing my relationship with Ukraine, as I don’t know that I ever really came on this adventure saying ‘I do’ for the long hall.  Those, after all were the ‘missionaries’ that scared me! I remember chatting with one dear friend early on who had come with her husband and children on a 5-year commitment.  I thought that was amazing (or insane) at the time! Who could ever commit to any country for 5 years before even arriving? Certainly not this girl here

But God has a funny sense of humor with me.  Like with many things in life, we can only bite off one small bit at a time.  If we knew what was around the corner, we might start running the other direction, and so in His wisdom, he just shows us the little bit that we can handle.  For me that’s been just one year at a time.  One year at a time that has somehow managed to add up to 10 years.

Last year I wrote a similar reflection on 9 years living in this land.  Call me a romantic or sentimental, but dates and anniversaries of events have always meant a lot to me and cause me to reflect…and sometimes get a little sappy.  Perhaps it has something to do with the growth the years mark or the memories represented in the middle of the dash.  Or maybe it’s simply because I have a memory like an elephant…or so I’m told! 

When I was reflecting at this time last year I never would have dreamed in a hundred million years that one year later I’d be living in a country that’s in the midst of war and turmoil.  I never would have dreamed that our daily efforts at work would switch from adoptive families towards refugees.  To me that word always referred to people living in Africa or the Middle East…. but refugees within Ukraine? I wouldn’t have believed it.

Sometimes I still have a hard time believing it, even though it is our reality.  My heart breaks when I think of all the death and destruction that this nation has experienced in the last 10 months, and even more when I know it hasn't ended.

It has been a trying year for me in many ways. Like living on high alert. I can honestly say I’m glad I didn’t see the full picture when 2014 began.  Just like I am glad I didn’t see the 10 years on the horizon when 2004 began!   I don’t know that I could have stomached the picture.

Through the challenges of this year I am reminded now more then ever that in a world of so much uncertainty I am so thankful for the certainty of our God.  In the midst of the war and sickness and the broken hearts and relationships I see around me, God is still God and He is still at work and He will never leave me or forsake me.  And I don’t say these words tritely.

"Things which sound like platitudes become vital, living and powerful when you have to learn them in dark tunnels"- Elisabeth Elliot

The dark tunnels of this year have taught me that the only certainty I have is the Lord. In the midst of the chaos, it is really only in Him that I can find an inkling of peace.
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the vines produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, YET I will rejoice in the Lord.  I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign Lord is my strength, he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”   Habakkuk 3:17-18

Habakkuk had eyes of faith to see beyond his circumstances, beyond the reality of what his natural eyes were seeing.  That's the kind of joy that doesn't make any sense to the world.  Habakkuk recognized that joy and strength were found in the Lord not in his surroundings or circumstances.   This is currently the sermon I need to hear most often,  so I'm preaching to myself and pressing repeat.

I don't know what the next year holds or the next decade for that matter, but I’m so glad I don’t have to know.   It helps me exercise my trust muscles a bit more. And Lord knows they need some strengthening.   

So here is to celebrating 10 years, and trusting God with the next part of the story.  For my beloved Ukraine, and in my own life as well.

took me 10 years...but now I finally have the look!


Tara G. said...

NAILED the look! :) Love to you!!

ecfc said...


James Eric said...

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