DSCN5494Our hearts are breaking. We have lived in Ukraine since 2001 and therefore experienced their celebration of 10 years of independence, the Orange Revolution, the disappointment and discouragement after no change in Ukraine after the revolution, and now we are literally standing with our friends on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square). Well, I’m not currently there. But I have stood with the opposition during their protests. And what an honor and privilege that is.

I received an e-mail from Jim earlier today with the writings of a dear personal friend:

I do not know where to even begin (or continue?) my updates on the situation in Ukraine. From recent events: (1) we kept seeing more violent actions from our government, (2) courts are not doing their jobs any more (as if they did it before, but now judges blatantly disregard the law and serve the interests of the “family”, i.e. our president and his immediate circle of friends and relatives)… as one instance, a judge who in 2011 acquitted a worker of a court for driving over and killing a woman (mother of three kids), recently sentenced a person for 6 years in prison for alleged planning to demolish a monument to Lenin, (3) the budget that opposition has been fighting was voted for without following proper parliamentary protocol, and this budget (as just one example) increases funding of all law enforcement agencies up to $2.162 billion, which is $764 million increase since four years ago, when Yanukovich first came to power (welcome to the police state!), (4) number of legislations are enforced that prohibit (and punish) Ukrainians to collect and distribute materials that government deems “extremists”, Ukrainians cannot speak against current government as it may be perceived as defamation and punishable by law (therefore, no speaking against judges, police, etc.)…

Just came across another post on FB, which speaks loudly to these issues:

Kolisnichenko-Oliynyk Draft Law #3879 voted in by the Verkhovna Rada by MPs raising hands (!) includes (but is not limited to) the following amendments to the Criminal Code of Ukraine:

– participants of peaceful protests and demonstrations that took place without the permission of police can be arrested for up to 15 days;
– blocking of state buildings is punished by up to 5 years of imprisonment;
– cars which move in a convoy of more than 5 vehicles can be confiscated; (with driving licenses confiscated as well – AK)
– collecting personal information about policemen, judges and other state agents – such as them lying under oath, accepting bribes, etc. can lead to arrest for up to 6 months;
– NGOs that receive grants from any foreign state/fund/organization/individual and that take part in ANY kind of political activity in Ukraine are now considered “foreign agents”, must register as such; they are stripped of their non-profit status and taxed by new, complicated procedure. [translation by Iryna Lysenko]

What can I say? Welcome to dictatorship?

Please please pray fervently for the people of Ukraine — for the leadership, for the military/police, for the opposition.

Psalm 121

“I lift my eyes to the hills —

    where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,

    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip —

    he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel

    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you —

    the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,

    nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm —

    he will watch over your life;

the LORD will watch over your coming and going

    both now and forevermore.”

I’m using a new (to me) devotional this year — The Heart of the Matter. The short entries are written by various CCEF writers. I really appreciated today’s entry written by David Powlison. Here is what he wrote concerning Psalm 121:

The peace of God guarding and watching over us is a theme that runs through the entire Bible. In Psalm 121, for example, David says seven different times that God is watching over you. Who is watching you? The Lord, the Creator of the whole universe, and the one who has ultimate power over every circumstance. And when is he watching? By day and by night. Nothing that happens during the day or the night can harm you, because the Lord, your Good Shepherd, is on guard. When the Good Shepherd is present, his peace is present. Paul says, “The God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9) When you read about David in the Bible, the constant refrain is that the Lord was with him. His life was blessed because the Lord was with him. He failed, he sinned big, he often blew it, and yet the Lord was with him. He grew very frail, and yet the Lord was with him. His life was a picture of living faith — a faith that faced trouble squarely and still knew the peace of God because he knew that God was with him.

I am so thankful that God is not only not surprised by all the twists and turns in our lives, but He also has control over every circumstance. And not only does he have control over every circumstance, He also will always be with us. Not going it alone. ALWAYS with us. Thankful.

How to S.O.A.P. your quiet time

SOAP-Quiet-TimeOver the years, I have been involved in many MANY Bible studies. I’ve always appreciated the accountability that studying together brings with it. Whether the facilitator or participant, I enjoyed the fellowship and the insights/questions from others in the group.

For the past couple of years I have been blessed to be part of an online study group called Good Morning Girls. It is designed to get women into the Word by reading small sections of Scripture and then meditating on a few assigned verses. I can honestly say that this S.O.A.P. approach to Bible study has been a delightful discovery for me.

The next study begins on January 20. Please click this link to the Good Morning Girls blog and learn what S.O.A.P. is all about.

And, if you’re interested in joining a group, let me know. I co-facilitate an international group on facebook…we would love to have you join us!

Lessons from Mark

“…rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”

mark02So many important lessons learned from just the first chapter of Mark.

But probably none so crucial as the fact that Jesus was a man of prayer.

Or should I better say:  Jesus IS a man of prayer. Sitting at the right hand of the Father and interceding for you and for me.

How can any one of us believe that we can do anything of value without prayer?

Make a plan. Work hard. Reassess. Work. Work. Work.

Jesus certainly didn’t just work, work, work. He sought the will of his Father and through prayer he discerned what to do next. Why wouldn’t we??

Lord, help me to remember that it’s YOUR strength that I need, not mine.

And it’s YOUR sovereign plan, not mine.

And it’s for YOUR glory, not mine.

Let’s change the statistics

I have been noticing quite a few articles and news reports about children in the States. And adults as well.

It seems that the reports show that a high percentage of American children do not even engage in moderate exercise for an hour a day. Really? Oh my goodness. I’m living with two children who NEVER STOP moving. Running. Dancing. Climbing. Jumping.

Other articles are pointing out that many people stop reading books of any sort once they are out of school, whether that be at completion of high school, college, or grad school. So very sad. I’m thankful to be living in a home with FULL bookshelves and adults who regularly read these books. No wonder the little ones here love books so much — such great ones to choose from.

Aunt Anna reads to Milan and Alek

I’m not reading as much as I’d like to be — that is of the books that I purposefully ordered to be here when I arrived — but I am definitely reading many books over and over and over again. The boys’ books. And how sweet to have a 3-year-old ‘read’ them to his little brother, his grammy, and his parents.

Parents and grandparents, read to your children. Read for yourself. Talk about the books you’re reading.

And get out there and MOVE.

If we want the trends to change, we all need to be about changing them.

Put down the remote.

Close your laptop.

Ignore your phone.

And engage your families!!

Why read the Bible?

I was just reading an article about why to have babies…and the reasons that people give for delaying starting their families (Why Have Babies?). I am always a bit sad when I realize that I was listening to people/culture when we stopped having children after only three in just under two years. Yes, twins were first. Then a handsome singleton to go with his beautiful sisters. Not being a believer at that time, we could only wrestle with financial/energy/whatever issues from our own experience and those around us.

But that’s not what hit me in the article. A closing paragraph spoke such truth about ANY issues, not just whether or when to bear children:

“It’s not that we weren’t reading the Bible. We were, but we were reading with an eye toward what we hoped to get out of it, rather than coming to it to learn what the Bible says about God. We are people of our age — influenced by the world around us that says you read the Bible for what you can get from it. God calls us to something different. Scripture tells us that we are responsible for studying God’s Word, for hiding it in our hearts, for knowing what God commands and obeying Him.”

191How often we ‘use’ the Bible to support our personal agendas (or ignore it if it conflicts with already-made decisions). As we start a new year — often with fresh goals of digging into God’s Word on a regular basis — may we pray for each other to slowly taste the WHOLE counsel. Chew on what you’re reading. Meditate. Pray for understanding. Get to know God this year. He has so much to tell you about what He’s already done for you. Throw away your agenda. His is so much better. And He will be with you to give you the strength and wisdom and joy to see all things through. After all, He did ordain all things.

So looking forward to amazing insights this year.

Grammy on a mission

Grammy timeJanuary 9, 2014. And this is my first post? Oh my. Life is happening…fast and furious!

Grammy on a mission? Haven’t I been on a mission since before grandchildren? Well, yes. I’ve been a most satisfied missionary in Ukraine for over 12 years. We began said mission with our children in tow…well, not exactly in tow — the girls were 18 and our son was 16 when we arrived in Kyiv.

Twists and turns scattered our family around the globe — Kyiv, Kathmandu, Boston, Salisbury. Boston is no longer a home for our son — Salisbury is — and our younger daughter moved from Salisbury to Delmar. Fortunately those two towns in Maryland are just minutes apart. Well, fortunately for the proud grandparents! One stop and we see them all!!

Our older daughter is still in Kathmandu — though we were ALL together over the holidays, even my mother and sister in Cincinnati. That’s a first in 18 years!

Husband Jim has returned to the European side of the Big Pond and I am still in Maryland. (He will be joining be periodically, Lord willing.)

As hard as it was to leave friends and ministry in Ukraine for several months (the longest time since we moved there in 2001), I know that I am in the right place for a specific time.

Still on a mission.

This time to help my daughter with her two young sons (nearly 3-1/2 and nearly 2) while she prepares for the birth of their little sister. She is considered a high-risk pregnancy (Baby Girl has pulmonary atresia) and she will be delivering this little bundle at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Two-and-a-half or three hours away, depending on traffic. Finding someone to watch her boys ALL DAY while she and her husband make weekly visits to various departments at Hopkins is more than a notion. Energetic. Excited. Loving. Just some descriptions of the boys. It requires someone with no children — just one of them with a cold and the whole plan fails! Sweet friends have stepped up to the plate, but this Grammy was ready for the privilege, responsibility and challenge of spending LOTS of time with these little boys. Once Baby Girl is born she will require heart surgery and will most likely be hospitalized for several weeks. Grammy gets to be the ‘constant’ in the little boys’ lives.

Her delayed arrival at home will also take some getting used to, so I will be available to help that whole process run more smoothly.

Somewhere during this process (early March) our daughter-in-law will be adding a second child to her family. Here in Salisbury. Have I mentioned that I am so so thankful that they are so close geographically? Her mother will be spending two months with them, so THAT’s covered…just hoping to get some little snuggles in along the way.

For my wonderful friends here, please know that I would love to hang out with you. But that will not be too possible until Jim has arrived back as reinforcements! Unless you come to me. Or it’s a convenient time for Jeanne. I am truly here with a mission…four weeks to accomplish much!

To be clear, I am not here as a babysitter…I am here to help Jeanne take care of her children. Not INSTEAD of Jeanne, but WITH Jeanne. I didn’t give up ministry with special children in Ukraine to simply be here so that she can run around town doing this or that as she pleases. Appointments, yes. I’m here and I’ve got the boys. Bible studies? We’ll all go together. Church? We’re a team. Jeanne has never asked me to come help, but I need to be here early to see the different routines that make up the boys’ lives…that way I can simply continue with what they already know about their days.

Trust me, it is not without sacrificing important conferences, ministry, and precious time with my husband that brings me here. I know I am here for a purpose. And I love it.

Just want to make clear to all just what that purpose is.

Pray for us all as we adjust to so many changes in so few weeks!