Finding a New Rhythm

This post first appeared on Assist News Service in October 2015.

I just returned home from my morning walk. Though born purely out of necessity, it is now one of my favorite parts of the day, a peaceful interlude for a mother of four living in a bustling metropolis.


Getting Established, All Over Again

Kyiv skyline

This post first appeared on Assist News Service in September 2015.

Last month I shared the sad circumstances surrounding our family’s relocation from the quiet town of Ternopil in Western Ukraine to Kyiv, the bustling capital of the country. I told how a dear friend and the pastor of a church in Kyiv had confessed to adultery, and the church leadership had asked us to come pastor the church. I wrote about the challenges and uncertainties we were facing as we transitioned from the pastorate of one church to another and prepared our four kids for the move. At the time, we hadn’t found a place to live, and we didn’t even know if our family budget could accommodate Kyiv’s higher rental prices or if we would be able to get our kids enrolled in a school nearby. Since then, God has graciously led us to the answers to these and other questions.



My husband and me studying on the 6-hour bus ride to Kyiv, one of a number of trips to Kyiv that we have made in the last month.

This post first appeared on Assist News Service in July 2015.

A month ago, our lives turned upside down. In the ensuing chaos, my husband and I missed the anniversary of the day we met and let Father’s Day come and go without celebration. I am even routinely forgetting the day of the week and losing track of which city and sometimes which country I’m in. What caused this insanity?


The Luckiest Kids in the World

This post first appeared on Assist News Service in May 2015.

We live in Ukraine. My husband and I are missionaries, and we have four sons (ages 8, 6, 4, and 2) who are growing up here. Three of them were even born here. In some respects, their childhood is unfolding similarly to how it would if we were living in the United States. In other respects, it is very different. I think these differences are enriching, rather than impoverishing, and I want them to recognize that too.

Recently my kids and their American cousins who also live here in Ukraine were playing make-believe. But while some kids play Doctor, and other kids play Cops and Robbers, these kids were playing something quite different.


Faith and the Ukrainian Medical System

This post first appeared on Assist News Service under the title “Medicine and Faith” in April 2015.

My first exposure to the Ukrainian medical system came early on. I moved to Ukraine to begin life with my husband, who had already been living here for ten years with his parents and siblings. At our wedding ceremony in Kyiv, one of the groomsmen, my husband’s 11-year-old brother Aaron, fainted. I will never forget the sickening sound of his head striking the tiled floor. He ended up spending about a month in the hospital.

During that time, my mother-in-law practically lived at the hospital with her youngest son, but I didn’t know why. Later I would learn that most nursing care in Ukraine only provides medical services. Nurses give injections, administer I.V.s, take blood pressure, etc. If a patient isn’t able to fend for himself, he needs a caretaker around the clock. My brother-in-law needed someone to feed him, help him use a bedpan, give him sponge baths, change his sheets, and even turn off his I.V.s when the fluid ran low.


Peace and Safety

This post originally appeared on Assist News Service in March 2015.

After an absence of more than two months, we’re settling back into life in Ukraine. Once every three years or so, we take a two-month family furlough to the United States. With many traditional furloughs lasting a year, two months sounds incredibly short to some people, but to us it feels like a long time to be away from the work God has for us in Ukraine, which is church planting. However, we’ve found that it’s the shortest possible amount of time in which we can accomplish all we need to do when we visit the States, and we’re so grateful to our ministry team here in Ukraine and the wonderful people of the church who are able to keep things running smoothly while the pastor and his family are away.

When we returned from furlough this time, people were especially glad to welcome us back. Given the uncertainty, violence, and economic instability that have become the new norm for Ukraine, I think some wondered if we would come back at all. While there has been no fighting anywhere near where we live, it’s a heavy fact of life that Ukraine is essentially engaged in a war fought entirely within her own borders. There are constant reminders.


One Perk of Living Here

(This post first appeared on Assist News Service in December 2014.)

Here in Western Ukraine, fall is gradually morphing into winter. We actually had our first snowfall back in October, and though it melted off with the return of somewhat warmer weather, it let us know that winter was not far away. The trees are bare, and the world has taken on that dormant look that comes after the autumn harvest is over and the plants prepare for the cold, dark months ahead.

In our family, the passing of the seasons is marked most vividly by the changing availability of seasonal produce. After a long winter relying on root vegetables, cabbage, shrivled apples, and imported citrus fruits, it feels like a holiday when the first strawberries appear in late May. We celebrate by consuming two or more quarts of the delicious berries per day until they disappear from the farmers’ markets about a month later.


Culture and Language through the Eyes of a Missionary Mom

(This post originally appeared on Assist News Service in October 2014.)

As I write, I’m sitting in one of the cute little cafes that abound in the city where I live in the western part of Ukraine. I love this city. It’s not too large, but big enough to have just about everything an expat like myself could want, including well-stocked grocery stores, markets where you can buy Western groceries at discounted prices, movie theaters showing most of the American blockbusters (not in the original language, unfortunately, but that detail isn’t too much of a hindrance to me anymore), and a wide variety of places to eat out. Granted, there are no American fast-food chains here yet, but I’m not a fast-food kind of girl anyway. In my opinion, the prevalence of unique, inexpensive cafes more than makes up for this lack.

I’m in this cafe for two reasons: to have a little bit of time to myself free from the constant demands of small children and never-ending housework and to experience the culture, language, and city on my own. My husband and I were talking recently and decided that both these goals were important enough to warrant him holding down the home front for a few hours each week.

My husband has been living in Ukraine for much longer than I have. I’ve been here for eleven and a half years, which sounds like a long time, but I still feel like a newbie compared to his veteran twenty-two years.


Between Two Extremes

Hatne Sunrise

(This post first appeared on Assist News Service in September 2014.)

It’s early morning, my favorite time of day, and almost the only time when my mind is alert enough and our home calm enough for me to write. Unfortunately, years of late-night studying in college, over a decade of being married to a night owl, and the last seven years of breastfeeding our four children have so altered my sleep patterns that until recently, if I managed to see the sunrise, it was most likely because a small child’s unwelcome interruption had me stumbling around groggily at that hour than because I got up early enough to greet the new day. Or it was the dead of winter when the sun doesn’t rise until about 8 a.m. at our latitude anyway.

We live in Ukraine. Until recent events brought Ukraine to the forefront of international news, I wouldn’t have expected many people to be able to find the country on a map. Even though I have always loved geography, I had to get a map out myself and look for Ukraine after I met the man I was going to marry, an American who had been living in Ukraine since the age of 16 when he moved here with his missionary parents. All I knew then was that it had been part of the former Soviet Union, but I wasn’t very familiar with all the republics that had splintered off with the break-up of that regime.

Fast-forward thirteen years, and my outlook and experience are much different.

Baby Joys Inspiration

Four Birth Stories, Part 2

This post is a continuation of an earlier post. If you haven’t already, you should read Part 1 first. 

Nothing is as precious as a newborn; this was our third-born (photo credit: Oksana Dyachenko)
To me, nothing is as precious as a newborn; this was our third-born
(photo credit: Oksana Dyachenko)

These contractions were stronger than the practice contractions I’d been experiencing for months, but they didn’t establish the textbook pattern of getting stronger and closer together. I was in frequent contact with my medical-school friend, and we decided that it must be false labor. But false labor or not, it seemed to be accomplishing something, and I was reminded of my first labor, when I had experienced weak, irregular contractions for 48 hours before finally going to the hospital and finding out that I was already 7 centimeters dilated, almost ready to have the baby!

The anxiety I had been experiencing turned into a strangling sense of dread. This oppressive feeling blanketed every waking moment, like the foreboding that a prisoner on death row must feel as his execution date nears. Frantic from the suspense, I was almost ready to check into the hospital and brave the medical system, but my husband, ever calm and logical, convinced me that was a bad idea.