Ministry friends

Give thanksWe felt so privileged to be invited to share Thanksgiving Day with Cara and her friends. Actually Cara, Jim and I were the only Americans, but many of the guests had experienced Thanksgiving celebrations over the years. It was quite encouraging to hear each guest reflect what God has done in his/her life over the last year and what to expect for this next year…this is a tradition for Cara and a great one.

Thanks, Cara, for including us in a wonderful day with amazing taste sensations and delightful company. Thanks, Susidko kids, for letting us take part in your games. Thanks, Sergiy and Tanya, for the lift to and from the metro…it gives us a few minutes to catch up with each other before the chaos of a full house!

And did I mention that a wedding took place at Cara’s right before dinner? How about THAT for a reception meal?? Yum!

Thankful that I didn’t nab a second piece of pumpkin pie…so tempting, though. And the apple pies were masterpieces though I didn’t actually have a slice.

Thankfully full.

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Classic movies

Give thanksThankful for this season and the movies that we traditionally watch. Of course, one of our unwritten rules is that we don’t watch Christmas movies until after Thanksgiving. But with the combination of a very late Thanksgiving Day this year AND the fact that we will be heading to the States in a few short weeks, we ran out of available dates to meet with friends and simply enjoy a movie…

So tonight was the opening night for our holiday viewing. Thanks so much to Chris and Mary Malone for door-to-door pick-up and delivery PLUS dinner and popcorn. We opted to watch a movie that wasn’t ONLY Christmas… we considered Christmas in Connecticut (with Thanksgiving included) and Holiday Inn (with most holidays included). Holiday Inn won out and was a hit with everyone — I love introducing old classics to the next generations…thanks for watching with us, Hannah, Bethany and Seth!

Thankful for traditions…

Grandchildren

Give thanksSo thankful for the privilege of being a grandmother. I don’t think I ever realized what an amazing relationship it is. I was blessed with two grandmothers who definitely spoiled me… And my children enjoyed two grandmothers briefly, and still have my mother in their lives. I don’t take for granted the love that my children have for my mother — and how much they want time with her. Intentionally planning trips to be with her…driving 10 hours one way for a long weekend with her. Priceless.

Now that I am a member of that prestigious club of grandmothers, I can say that it is beyond amazing to watch your own children parent their little ones. Such precious moments to behold.

We are so looking forward to Christmas with my mom and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I anticipate lots of hugs and snuggles and giggles.

And as I watched our three grandsons via skype today running up and down the hall squealing with delight, I realize that this is NOT going to be a quiet Christmas. But it will be the best ever. Family. Christmas. Traditions. It doesn’t get any better.

Our veterans

Give thanksHow can we ever truly express our gratitude for what our veterans have done for each one of us who claims American citizenship? Separation from family for extended time, witnesses to the horror of war. Thankful for the camaraderie among them, particularly when many veterans did not receive much thanks upon their return to the USA.

Thankful that citizens are realizing, hopefully, that freedom isn’t free and our veterans paid the price. Some with their very lives.

May our country work harder at taking care of our veterans upon their return. It is shameful, actually, to compare their ‘benefits’ to the benefits of those who create the laws that do not compensate financially nor emotionally to their well-being. Thankful for businesses who actively seek out veterans to offer jobs.

Saying thanks just doesn’t cut it. I pray that veterans really know how many of us understand the price they paid (and are paying), and that we pray for them regularly.

Hug a veteran today!!
Veterans

Providence Presbyterian Church

Give thanksYes, indeed, it is truly November 1. I know that some folks begin to seriously think about Christmas right about now — Christmas is NEVER far from my mind. We’ve actually been planning our time in December for MONTHS with family and friends in America. But I certainly don’t set up our trees or begin playing Christmas carols before this next most-wonderful holiday: Thanksgiving!

I love this holiday and have so many wonderful memories of the various ways we have celebrated this day both in American and here in Ukraine. I treasure the traditions — not just the scrumptious food but also the focus on those things for which we’re truly thankful. So this month I’m going to spend a little more time writing about these things. Who knows? It may become once a day…

Today: I am most thankful for the Church universal, but specifically for Providence Presbyterian Church in Salisbury, Maryland. This is the church that we attended before we moved to Ukraine, and it is the only church that my children remember attending while growing up. It was here that we were discipled, challenged, exhorted, encouraged and from here that we were sent to Ukraine. What a blessing to know that now my grandchildren are also attending there! Like most churches made up of sinners, this Body has had its challenges and is seeking how best to glorify God in all things. We pray for this congregation and I am thankful for this Body of Believers and its care for my children even while we are so far away. I’m afraid to begin the list of ways our family has been blessed by these brothers and sisters…either directly or indirectly. My heartfelt THANKS is not enough to express my gratitude to all.

But I’ll say it anyway: Thanks!

Table for two

Table for twoWhat a beautiful day in Kyiv…the forecast had been for a hot and rainy day, but instead a real delight. Oh, the cool breeze was ideal.

Dinner once again on the Balcony Cafe…table for two. Stuffed peppers. Coffee and dark chocolate afterwards as we overlooked the passersby — lots of families, babies, and dogs were out and about this evening. I am noticing that more and more ladies are switching to flat shoes, though we did see one impeccably dressed and high-heeled mama pushing a stroller.

Looking forward to celebrating Easter tomorrow…twice. In Russian in the morning and in English in the evening.

Christ is risen.

Marseille

Beautiful Marseille. A city on turquoise waters. Blue skies. Warmer temperatures. Quaint narrow streets bustling with shoppers.

NOT.

DSCN4149We looked forward to an extended weekend in Marseille visiting missionary friends, speaking a little French, enjoying long walks while taking in the sights. Well, can you believe that we hit Marseille on the coldest days of their winter thus far? And to add to the chilly temperatures, the mistral winds were a-blowing! It was definitely cold and our first sightseeing day found us surprised by snow flurries. And by the time we settled on the perfect place for lunch the flakes were growing larger and larger each time we glanced outside — which was often because we were sitting in a glass-enclosed room.

DSCN4160That night we viewed an Alfred Hitchcock film with Jacki’s intermediate English class. They really did well following the movie and also speaking with the American guests. We had lots of opportunity to engage them in conversation because we first shared pizzas and later had an intermission with desserts. And then discussion of the movie itself. I was trying to imagine myself in such a setting…I had much empathy and was very proud of their efforts!

DSCN4151Jamie, Jacki and Angelle kept insisting that this weather wasn’t the norm and that we should see some blue skies soon. Really? We knew there might be a problem when Jamie checked the weather online and exclaimed, “Oh, no!” Le Mistral was headed our way. We needed to prepare for amazing winds. Smokestacks across the way showed powerful winds as the smoke ran parallel to the ground. Good news accompanied the report, though, because Le Mistral would blow all clouds away and we would see the true Marseille.

Sunday was simply cold and windy. We attended their church, partook of the Lord’s Supper with new Brothers and Sisters and then returned to the Gildard’s flat to celebrate Jackie’s birthday with several close friends of the family. Such warm fellowship. But still unseasonably cold outside. And the wind knocked over the furniture that had been moved to a balcony while Jacki and Angelle painted Angelle’s bedroom.

DSCN4183One more day in Marseille. We planned to take our friends to lunch, but they needed to pick the place…we wanted some traditional French fare. We awoke to no sound of howling winds. The sky had a touch of blue here and there. And the cold temperature didn’t feel quite so chilly without the wind. Hopeful.

We visited Notre Dame de la Garde, then walked to the exact spot where Jeanne D’Arc was stopped dead in her tracks. Only Jamie would have delighted in this historical spot. Who knew a tank was actually named Jeanne D’Arc? We drove back to the city limits and found a place to park and then started walking. And walking. And walking. We decided on a cafe that specialized in crepes and we were most certainly not disappointed. Yum. We had both meat/cheese-filled AND a dessert crepe with lemon filling, strawberry sauce and way too much whipped cream! So, so tasty. We were actually thankful to be walking again after that meal.

DSCN4186We climbed roughly a bazillion steps to reach the train station where we needed to ask about a partial refund on our earlier travels — apparently these trains are not supposed to be more than 30 minutes late. We learned that the refund was not cash, simply a credit towards another trip. Jacki plans to take Angelle to Paris so we know the credit will be used by friends!

Tuesday morning and we’re up and out of the flat early for our mid-morning flight. No wind. A few clouds. A great day for flying.

The Gildards sent pictures that next day of an absolutely ideal day. Oh, sure. They expect us to believe warm temps, blue skies and no wind?!

Looks like we’ll have to take a return trip and see this weather phenomena for ourselves.

New Year’s Eve eve

DSCN3964Jim and I spent some time last evening walking around Maidan (the main square in downtown Kyiv) and other nearby spots so that we could see the excitement building for New Year’s Eve. Our plan is to NOT be on the square tonight at midnight, but we DID want to get a feel for what’s happening.

The lights are really amazing this year. So many of the buildings facing the square and along the main street Khreshchatik are decked out with bazillions of lights!

We started at the TOP of the hill and walked down to Globus and overlooked the square. The New Year’s tree is really a beauty this year — I have been disappointed that the past years have been more commercial advertising than a festive New Year’s tree. The lights on the tree are in continual motion…adding a layer every few seconds until the full tree is lit, but only for a few seconds. Almost immediately the bottom layers begin to darken and we wait again for the brightness to return from the top down.

DSCN3970We then strolled up the street where the ‘House with Chimeras’ is located. I felt like I had stepped into Narnia — frozen gargoyles and other strange creatures amidst snow and beautiful lights. Made me pray for Aslan to end the snow and bring on spring. Very strange.

We cut through the Passage and stopped for a cup of coffee before reaching the hustling bustling street level of Khreshchatik and the Square.

Several kiosks are selling souvenirs as if we were on Andriivsky Uzviz (the shopping street), but some of the kiosks took on the flair of a Christmas bazaar. And of course lots of food and drinks were offered.

DSCN3972Huge screens with winter scenes helped create some of the atmosphere, along with a carousel (with see-through covering to protect riders from the wind!), more than a few Father Christmases, sleighs and carriages as props for family portraits, and the unfortunate headless Minnie Mouse. Children enjoyed the train ride around the square as well.

One of the large screens was more of an advertisement than adding atmosphere…no question that Bud has arrived in Kyiv and is alive and well!

DSCN3977As we slid back home on the thick ice, we thought about the revelers that will be out and about tonight and were thankful that a quiet evening at home suits us so much better. Time to talk, to enjoy special foods, and to thank God for an amazing 2012…and appealing to Him for direction in 2013.

Happy New Year!

Memorial Day

Never ever forget the cost of your freedom.

Christmas morning

Better late than never, I say. At least as far as posting pictures goes.

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Christmas morning with a little one in residence, but this year we were fortunate enough to have our first grandson, his mother, father, and aunt.

What a life, eh? Stuffed animals. A stocking or two. A spare straw. And a tall glass of cold milk.

Love that little smile.