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!


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.

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…


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.

The Harpers

Give thanksWe love Sid and Wendy Harper and their crazy family. They have been SUCH an encouragement to us since we met them during their adoption process…what an honor, really, to be on the inside as they began the bonding and teaching process even while the boys were still at the orphanage. Such a treat to witness their hearts. And their patience.

Well, after MULTIPLE missions trips to various locations in Africa, the Harper family is moving to Yei, South Sudan next summer! They have advocated for and raised countless dollars for so many trips and adoptions — not just their own! And now they have set a goal to add 100 partners in 50 days — each pledging $25/month. The Peipons are proud and excited to be one of the 100! I promise you that if you read their story, you too will want to sign on…’like’ their facebook page and pray for them regularly. Please.

So thankful to call them friends.

Our flat

Give thanksWhat a gift from God when we found our current flat ten years ago. We needed a place that was large enough for an American family of five (three teenagers) to have SOME space of their own PLUS an extra room that could be used for Bible studies and larger group gatherings. We really didn’t want to have the living room also be a bedroom, though that is completely normal in Kyiv.

Though two flats had been sold right out from under us — we certainly didn’t know the system well and apparently neither did our first realtor — we knew that those situations were simply God closing those doors for something better. We grinned as we heard about the first place being sold even as we were meeting with an attorney to go over the paperwork before we signed it! I remember our friends asking whether we actually understood that we were NOT getting that particular flat. We responded that we had been praying all day, as we jumped through various legal hoops, that God would make it abundantly clear to us whether we should be investing our money into the flat. So when the flat sold and we weren’t the owners, we were reminded once again that God is faithful and involved in even the seemingly small things in our lives!

So now we’re in a great flat, but there are only two of us living here permanently. Lo and behold, not long after our children began moving out, our previous mission group decided that they could no longer afford an apartment to be used as an office, so everyone needed to work from home. Wow! We had a room that we could easily use as a home office. (And though we are now our own 501(c)3 organization, we still use this space as the office.) We also have been able to open the other bedroom into a frequently-used guest room — no telling how many people have slept at our flat. Adopting couples. Visiting physicians. Friends of friends. Missionaries. And what a blessing these folks have been to us! In exchange for a comfortable mattress, we are encouraged by so many. Even now, we have a guest with us and the conversations are certainly edifying, challenging, encouraging…and bring us much joy.

In addition to overnight guests, our one larger room allows us to host various meetings — council of international Christian medical students, Coalition for Children at Risk, Bible studies, and serves as a place of rest for friends just passing through town.

So thankful for these accommodations.

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!

Map work

Vova and dadLove the first Sunday of each month…not only do we have children’s catechism before the service followed by the Lord’s Supper during the service but we also have a meeting of Helping Hands children’s club. This group is designed for children between the ages of 5 and 10, and the purpose is to help them begin to see how they already can serve their families, their churches, their schools and their communities. God is not waiting for them to grow up before they can serve.

After completing a 2-step art project (an idea that they are experimenting with before possibly using this for part of an outreach), the children located their flats on a Kyiv map. (Well, Masha could only add an arrow at the edge because she is further out than most.) This map work is actually the first step in identifying where we might have clusters of children in anticipation of different neighborhood projects down the road.

I am so very thankful for the parents who escort their children to our flat — yes, it makes a long day for all involved. Thanks especially to Tanya today for being the chief worker bee for lunch preparation. And for Pastor Ivan who translated as needed. Our team is strengthening as our relationships deepen.

Be on the lookout for Helping Hands…they may show up when and where you least expect them!


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


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.

Tevye the Dairyman

Doug provided milk for the ride for each vehicle. Only makes sense...Cheers!We had such a great day on Saturday! Friends have had a long-time dream to visit the village where Tevye the Dairyman lived. (Tevye is the character most of us know us the father in Fiddler on the Roof.) We thought it sounded like fun as well, and the excursion was finally arranged for last week.

We all met in a parking lot (I think we may have been the only ‘public transport’ people, but we were the first ones there!) where crazy Doug presented each of the three vehicles with bottled milk and bread for the trip. He also had small plastic cups, so we each had a shot of milk and a toast before we left the lot.

Drizzly cold rain didn’t make the drive much fun and the further we drove away from Kyiv, the worse shape the roads were in. And though we were probably no more than 30-45 minutes away, once we arrived in the village the roads were disasters! Deep deep ruts of ice and snow. Seriously. I don’t think the roads have been cleaned there since the first snow in December!

DSCN4049At one point we tried to turn into a school driveway, but the ice was so thick that Doug couldn’t get the tires to turn. After three attempts we parked further down the road in a small clearance. Doug’s wife Suzie, though, didn’t give up and on the third try the car somehow skidded over the ice curb, slid sideways, and eventually ended up in the right direction and she simply drove on. Heh. The other driver had 4-wheel drive so she followed Suzie. And they parked directly in front of the school building.

We all met on foot to enter the school and were shocked at our reception! A local choir dressed in national attire greeted at us and presented the traditional loaf of bread…a symbol of hospitality.

The girls invited some visitors to dance with them. Fun for the dancers AND those watching!We then went upstairs to the one-room museum. Or so we thought. No, first we had more singing and dancing — and even some dance lessons for some pulled from the audience. We also heard a history of the village, some facts about the author, and then a bit about Tevye himself. Very informative and quite delightful to hear these young people share their heritage so proudly.

After the visit, we went back to the Stoddard’s house for lunch as we watched Fiddler on the Roof. Thankful for Jim’s projector so that we weren’t all huddled around a computer screen.

Some were seeing the movie for the first time. And most of the single girls were very excited about the way the daughters all stood up for their right to marry the man of their own choosing.

On the other hand, parents/grandparents quietly left the room — you know, taking dishes to the kitchen — and found each other crying…feeling the pain of saying good-bye to children and grandchildren for an undetermined length of time. Moving to a foreign country. Wondering about the future while hanging on to TRADITION!

So thankful that we were able to take part in such a memorable day. None of us will soon forget the range of emotions we felt throughout the day.

(And did I mention that cold drizzly rain turned to beautiful fluffy snow while we were at the museum? And it didn’t stop snowing until we had finished viewing the movie…)