Separation Anxiety

Sometimes God speaks and we simply don’t want to hear. I think I have been like the child with her fingers stuck in her ears saying “lalalalalalalalalalalala” at the top of her lungs to avoid the unwelcome news being spoken.

Because there are moments when I just don’t understand God.

And times when I don’t want to understand.

Times I just want it to work out the way I think it should, wrapped in a nice and tidy little bow that makes everyone involved happy and causes me little to no pain. Thank you very much.

“Warning: Love causes extreme emotional imbalance.”

On the good days you float along, noting the beauty in every detail, and you soar on wings of happiness you didn’t know before. However, the pain you feel is unmatched on the not-so-good days and the battle wounds seem to take longer to heal.

When I first came to Ukraine in 2009 I was unimpressed and ready to go home. Within a matter of weeks, my heart was captured and I knew life would never be the same.

Life in Ukraine has brought more laughter than ever before (and I’ve entertained my fair share of strangers trying to navigate cultural potholes). It has also driven me to my knees countless times and found me in tears all too often. People never cease to amaze me with their generosity, creativity and patience. They also confound me with the lack of logic found in every day encounters.

I cannot fathom what Ukrainians feel during recent months. I know how deeply I feel about the things I see, hear and experience and I can only imagine that it is 100 times more to each of them.

And so I find that I don’t understand God’s timing. I can give you a list of reasons why I’m coming home. They are all valid and true, but really I don’t know why. I just know it’s right. I just know it’s necessary. I just know that I have to follow His leading. Even if it feels, in some ways, like walking in the wrong direction.

I cannot imagine life without this place, without these people, without my Ukraine and so leaving I cannot help but trust that I will return.

But if the past several years have taught me nothing else, they have taught me to hold onto expectations loosely. We have no idea what a year may hold.

In a few weeks I’ll be back in America. I am not the girl who left several years ago. Since I have been home for visits since then, you and I both know that is true. But this time I don’t have a ticket back, and it’s going to be a tearful time.

So please be gentle with me, I’m a bit fragile at the moment.

American Ukrainian


When Everything Changes Overnight

When things change in Ukraine, it happens overnight… Literally.

About a year ago I was sick and forced to remain in my apartment for a weekend. I emerged Monday afternoon running late to a meeting and planning to take a bus. I walked to the place to catch the marshrutka, the same stop I had walked to for almost two years, when suddenly I realized that every automobile was going in the same direction. The two-way street I lived on had become a one-way street and I had no idea where to catch my bus.

No signs indicated the change. Nothing to prepare you. It just was.

Flowers and candles fill Maidan as people come to mourn
Flowers and candles fill Maidan as people come to mourn

And so looking at current events in Ukraine, part of me really isn’t so shocked by how quickly changes have occurred in recent weeks.

About two weeks ago, things turned violent again downtown. The transportation system was crippled. People were dying. Rumors were flying. Ukrainians sang and prayed together even as fires and threats surrounded them.

And then… Yanukovych disappeared from Kyiv. His estate suddenly became open to the public. People gathered to lay flowers and candles in memorial to the “heavenly hundred” that were killed.  The atmosphere became quiet and mournful.

An interim president was put in place. Early elections were set for May. The riot police were disbanded. Yulia Tymoshenko was released from prison. The country started the work of trying to discover the path to go from here.

Then, sensing a bit of weakness, Russia moved into Crimea in the southern part of the country. Suddenly, the world decided to pay attention. Not because the world cares about Ukrainians, but because suddenly this might effect the comfort and prosperity of their nations and may cost them something. Maybe that sounds cynical, but I think I speak for many that this is the reality we see.

And so here we are. Wednesday, March 5th, 2014. I dare not guess what may be in a week or even what we may wake up to tomorrow. I only know our trust must remain in God. We must pray for those who seek only to harm. We must find a way to love and forgive.

I am not Ukrainian. I cannot fathom the depth of their turmoil. But as someone who has come to love this nation deeply, who has found a family among her people, and who has grown to love this crazy city, I find these days that I am often near tears and a mixture of exhausting emotions.

So, in answer to the many messages and emails that I have recently received:

Yes, I am safe.
Yes, I have an emergency plan.
No, I’m not okay. 

I’m not okay because my Ukrainian family is not okay. I’m not okay because if things go poorly a way will be made for me to leave, but who will be concerned about those who cannot run for the border? I’m not okay because this isn’t just some political chess game to be won or lost, it is the lives of people. I’m not okay because I feel powerless to change any of it.

But I continue to pray. Continue to try finding a way to love, to hope, to live in a time and place where things change constantly and quickly, and not always for the best. Continue to be thankful for the small victories, believing they will lead to the large one. And continue to trust that God is in control  and will make what the enemy intends for evil to be something that will cause people to praise Him.