Celebrating Twenty Years of Independence

Ukraine Independence Day 2011
celebrating Ukraine's Independence

Last week the streets of Kiev were decorated in her customary blues and yellows. Thick bunches of balloons greeted metro passengers in many stations. The main street downtown, Kreshatik, was closed to traffic allowing pedestrians to stroll along enjoying the gorgeous autumn-like weather. Music filled the air and later so did a magnificent show of fireworks.

August 24, 1991 Ukraine emerged from a collapsed Soviet Union battered and torn but  ready to fight for her freedom. She has had many difficult moments trying to maintain independence while developing a national identity, but this past Wednesday  Ukraine celebrated twenty years of independence.

For a country with such a long, complicated history filled with war, violence and oppression it is difficult to believe the country is only celebrating twenty years. Ukraine still struggles to find her place amid the pressures of big brother Russia, who always seems to be lingering around like a bully, and desires to be more European. Corruption continues to be a major issue and the mullet is still too common a haircut style, but I am hopeful for this country.

I feel like Ukraine is like any other 20 year old. Sometimes there is a sense of being lost, unsure where to go from here, which direction to take, yet knowing that whatever path is chosen will effect her future immensely. It is overwhelming to see so many areas that need change, while feeling trapped by certain expectations or past fears. Ukraine has the potential to break out of her box and become a truly great nation, but will she?

Working with university students is a wonderful opportunity to build relationships with future teachers, leaders, and thinkers that will shape Ukraine. Many students are discouraged by what they see in their country, while still being fiercely nationalistic. I find this encouraging. We want students to feel a responsibility for their county and, ultimately, for them to be mature Christians that will bring the love of Christ coupled with necessary skills to bring about change.

That is a small portion of what I get to be a part of here in Ukraine – “Changing the world one student at a time.” And I hope that 30 years from now I’m around to celebrate Ukraine’s 50th independence day.

It’s All Good Til He Starts Answering Your Heart’s Cry

I’m Yours to take and break just make me sensitive to You

I’ve come to far to turn around now, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do
To hear your words of life, Lord, to be as close to You
As any man has ever dared to come, 
I’m yours
I’ve heard Misty Edwards sing these words over and over the past few months while listening to the IHOP-KC web stream. From the first moment I heard them something in me cried, “YES!!”

Sounds great doesn’t it?

Then God takes me up on the request.

I think with a smile He looks down and says, “Oh baby girl I love you so much and I’m so glad you want to be close to Me.”

broken mirror
Photo by saxarts. Creative Commons License

Then He breaks me.

He allows situations that give opportunities to trust Him, to lean into Him, and to draw closer to Him.

And it hurts.

It doesn’t feel very good.

And it is extremely uncomfortable.

And for a moment I think, “Hmm maybe I should watch what I sing!”

But the reality is this is what my heart is longing for, what your heart is yearning for, why we were created – to be close to Him.

If I’m honest I want to run from the pain and the loneliness though. I don’t enjoy brokenness. I want to be somewhere comfortable and surrounded by those who understand. I want to have a close friend here to be Jesus with skin on and, for goodness sake, I want to just be able to order a meal and get what I want!!

In the midst of my own “issues” I am also looking around at a lot of students in need. I’ve had conversations about the really tough, crappy things in life and the really big, hard to answer questions of faith. We have walked the streets of Kyiv over discussing possibilities and the obstacles, dreams and fears, victories and failures. My heart hurts with them.

Then I look around at a nation about to celebrate their 20th anniversary next week. I see a land rich in beauty, but scarred by years of war and injustice. I’ve grown accustomed to the beggars and the babushkas. I now blend in with the city’s inhabitants, their blank stares and cold shouldered shoves into public transportation. But when I get past my hardened outer shell and pray for this nation I am brought to tears and I sing the same words over them that resonate so much for my own heart, “make them sensitive to You.”

So, I’m feeling pretty broken at the moment. I’m painfully aware of my weaknesses, but encouraged by 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

If that’s true then Superman watch out because I have some serious strength right now!

When was the last time you walked through the brokenness with Him and pressed into the pain to see the beauty on the other side?

Maybe you’re there now, if so how can I be praying for you?

Maybe you’ve come through not too long ago, do you have any wisdom for the rest of us?

The invisible barrier got me

Have you ever been skipping through life, smiling, sun shining  and everything glorious  when suddenly you seem to run face first into a huge brick wall? You don’t just hit the wall, but you slam into it and then slide down into a stunned, battered, bloody, whimpering position on the ground.

I’ve had one of those weeks.

The frustrating thing is that I cannot point to any one thing… any certain moment, conversation, event… nothing. Just BAM!! Down and done.

It shouldn’t be one of those weeks. A couple of my closest friends from last summer are here. There have been moments of laughter so hard that it literally hurt and left me struggling to breathe. We enjoyed a relaxing evening in the sauna yesterday and we are celebrating a beautiful wedding tomorrow. Life really is wonderful.

Do you ever step back and look at life and think, “Wow I am so blessed and this life is so amazing, but I just feel empty”?

I’m there.

On This Day In Christian History: A Review

To those who know me, I don’t think it is a secret that I like love to read. Generally in a foreign country the craziness of life keeps me more than busy and distracted.

Last fall I received On This Day in Christian History: 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories about Saints, Martyrs and Heroes. While I am horrible with daily readings of any kind (which is why this has taken me so long), this is an interesting book to peruse, especially if you have any interest in Christian history.

For every day of the year there is a short story to read coupled with a related Scripture verse.

If you are looking for inspirational stories of men and women from the last 2,000 years and an easy read, then this is for you. If you are looking for an inspirational devotional book to accompany you through the next year and really enjoy history, then I would also recommend. If, like me, you are bad with commitment to books over a long term or like in-depth, detailed stories then you may want a different book.

I received this book free from the publisher through the Booksneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

My Rating: 3 out of 5