Archive for January, 2016

I’m just amazed and thankful today, and I want to write about it here.


My first child was born in 2005 (then 2007, 2012, & 2014), and for years, it really bothered me that I didn’t really experience warm, fuzzy lovey-dovey feelings for my kids. I figured I was just emotionally a bit defunct in this way, but heigh-ho, on we go, and God can fix it if He ever wants. But it did bother me at time, sometimes a lot. I think I’ve even prayed about this, too.

Being my analytical self, I analyzed about this. Like, I had “negative” loving feelings— I could worry about them. And I knew I would be terribly sad if one of them ever died.

But I didn’t feel what I imagined most moms have- warm, happy lovey feelings.

But you know what? After 10.5 years of parenting …. Today I did. Today my heart felt positive, happy love. It feels warm and big. Inside. It’s like a consciousness of a real happy-type love feeling. A fullness. Warm and big. Inside. In the seat of my emotions. It’s physical.

And I want to record a bit of the path the Lord’s led me on in order to develop this.

The early stages of parenting, I was pretty good at. I’ve been reading about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, etc., since I was about 15 years old. Piece of cake. (I just didn’t realize how much it was a piece of cake because I had studied it so much prior!)

But yikes. Actual childrearing?

I don’t think I’d read even one book about it! The one parenting book I started parenting with was Ted Tripp’s book– a friend mailed it to me.

I will merely say, at this moment, that people have various reactions to this book’s content. I react to it by becoming strict and demanding, and as he teaches only spanking as the means of teaching a child (and words), I was woefully inadequate and just unaware of what else existed as far as childrearing was concerned.

The assumptions or foundation that this book is laid upon is that children are sinners and have hearts that need to be turned to God (through punishment/spanking and words).

What if I had never turned from digging down that path? What if …. ? What would my heart be today towards my children? (Not, what would be every single parent’s heart who’s read that book and liked it… just my heart.)

God sent other Christians my way, in the form of books and friendships. Ross Campbell is one– I highly recommend Relational Parenting. Clay and Sally Clarkson were others. Clay Clarkson is the author of a book called Heartfelt Discipline.

Some of his main assumptions or foundations are these: That children are designed by God to be especially dependent upon their parents, and they are designed by God to be especially open to the teaching and influence of their parents.

At the time I read this, I was so struck by it. By the enormity of my role in the lives of my kids. Those are such positive and life-opening perspectives! It made all their (heretofore irritating) dependency upon me have a great spiritual purpose! They are so designed to be dependent and it correlates with their openness to my influence!

And I didn’t realize until recently, when I went back and reviewed that book, how much those assumptions had taken root in my heart. And they have grown and grown.

And then Ross Campbell’s teachings about communicating unconditional love to my kids, and how, exactly, to do that….

And all the other books I have since studied that have given me tools to work with my kids in teaching them … character, behavior, how to be in relationships, etc. The books explaining their stages of development (and I was just reviewing the 3-Year-Olds book, as Andre is in the 3 and a 1/2 stage of negativity… and how to go through it gracefully and full of love).

And also, in all this process of learning to parent, seeking not to just become used to the irritations (and just accept them on that level), but to actually follow Christ and become a transformed person, a person who, by the Spirit, is actually more patient, gentle, meek, kind, self-controlled, etc.

And …. So today, I was tasting some of the fruit of these good years of my discipline–my hard exercise of learning to do something difficult. The fruit is this big, warm feeling of love in my heart. Finally.

Finally. When I had even stopped really thinking about it.

And I still have miles to go!

And thank You, God! It is Your will that I go on, in Christ, growing into His love and Person.

Thank you, God…. I want to remember. I am remembering now what You have done all these years!


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I realized today, after cleaning the kitchen floor well, that I’m getting the warm fuzzies for my kitchen. In all my years of homemaking in Ukraine, I’ve never had this. So. Let’s have a little party.

Well, OK. Let’s not have a little party, but let’s at least record the moment!!

My heart ornament from my birthday party ornament exchange–hung above the stove–oh, and there’s a part of my heart right below it, too!

20160123_130603I love these colorful rugs!


A Bible verse on the windowsill– reminded of the time in my life when I lived this verse: “God is my portion forever.”


Notes, cards, pictures– hung across the window–I like the friendly busyness.


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Maybe they’re not herbalists in the American sense of the word, but it’s one thing I love about living here. The pharmacies (which are every few meters) are full of herbs– teas, tinctures, etc.

And doctors know and prescribe herbs often.

They have drug medicines, too, of course, and they are probably taking over the medical system, but …

Using herbs and plants for sicknesses is pretty common here among the general population. I remember getting a cold years ago– my first year here. And my Ukrainian roommate advised me to grate up some onion and put it up my nose.

There are a lot of such tricks. And I love them for it and do many of them myself  now!

So, there you go 🙂

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As follow-up, on these planning forms, there is a place for a bit of evaluation of how it went and what to do differently.


Here is what I noticed:

  1. As far as I can tell, the food was awesome. Menu: Pineapple-glazed ham, mashed potatoes, Korean carrot salad, beet salad (with nuts and prunes). This was a mix of American-Ukrainian that worked. The ham dish is traditional American, and the others were Ukrainian. It was all well-consumed and hugely praised. Thank You, God.
  2. They didn’t mind the buffet-style. I was a tad interested in this, as my friend who is a missionary in neighboring Georgia said that her guests pretty much refuse to eat buffet-style and re-set-up with the table in the middle, tightly spaced and all. It Must Be That Way, apparently, in Georgia. I forgot to ask Vitaliy, and he said nothing when we started, so I brought it up as a topic of conversation, asking if it was OK. They answered that it’s not their way, nationally, but they don’t mind it.
  3. The house was a good level of clean, for me. There was mess in the kitchen from cooking, but the current dishes were washed. And things were picked up well throughout the house–that’s a challenge with Una throwing things all over the place. She was asleep when they all arrived, so that gave us time to get the floors hazard-free. I also wiped down the toilet, but I didn’t get to the sink in the bathroom. It had some paint smears still on the sink from last night’s painting escapade. Oh well, I guess.

Saturday was my prep day, and I realized that I would be staying home Sunday morning with Andre and Una as they are both coughing again, so I could relax more on Saturday and not try to get everything done.


Here was my challenge, and I did pretty well. I’m determined that my experiments in housekeeping and hospitality will not torture my family. I want the process, the entire process, to be enjoyable for us all. Yesterday tested that. I awoke with big plans of what I needed to get done, and we were hosting Ladies’ Bible Study that night too.

So, I need to start factoring Vitaliy’s spontaneity into my plans. Around 9am (or later?) on Saturday, he started talking about taking Skyla and Vika ice skating. (School keeps us pretty rigid this year, so weekend spontaneity should be a planned thing, I guess.)

My Saturday plans became a lot of just being with Andre and Una. It was actually pretty fine. I got things set up in the living room. I made a salad. But I wanted to make a desert for Bible study and thought I needed to get to the store for buttermilk (or a substitute). But after a while, I found the same recipe with ingredients I had on hand. There were a few moments when I calmed myself down and reminded myself that I wasn’t going to be unpleasantly demanding things from  the family during my learning and life in general, and the hospitable spirit would be going all along and not just when guests walk in, and ice skating is a great thing to do with dad, and he’s leaving for a month soon …


I postponed my shopping until after Bible study. Kind of late, but since I was home Sunday morning, it was fine.

Skyla was appointed to stay home and help me this am. We peeled potatoes and beets, sliced ham, sliced bread, mashed potatoes, made sauces and stirred them, set stuff out on the table, kept Una and Andre entertained.

People came, I was calm, got things out in a good way, we ate. Some who were going to leave quickly stayed a bit longer to try the food. The man who organizes the mission trips is extremely gregarious, so that was fun, and his wife is so nice, too! We photographed ourselves (this is pretty Ukrainian perhaps).

Then we who remained had coffee or tea and peach cobbler and cookies and talked a while about stuff.


Dishes washed!


Things to improve: Screens. They are so everywhere. They need to be somehow contained. Or handled with a plan.

I’m still thinking about how to help the kids with politeness skills. They are all pretty quiet and non-smiling with first-time enterers. Thinking about how to handle this, some of it might be a matter of time, but we can be talking about it, too.

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In this book, by the same authors


The Christian Homemaker’s Handbook

they put a form for planning an event. It’s looks like this:



sorry it’s sideways– it used to be easy to edit that, but now I’m not sure how….


I have my first two “events” this weekend (Ladies’ Bible Study tonight and lunch tomorrow) so I went through these pages and just made some lists of things and got ideas of how to arrange the furniture and stuff.


So, I started today by cleaning up the living room in ways I normally don’t. Details and time. These are things I usually skimp on, BUT not now. This is Real Life University. And it’s a lot of fun, hands-on learning 🙂

Dusted! I could count on one hand how many times I’ve dusted in the last 12 years …. OK, slight exaggeration, but … not too far from the truth. But this cabinet really needed it. It had a thick layer of dust on the glass shelves. I also put some family photos inside and cleared out some books that made it look junky.


Some of Vitaliy’s artwork was laying in there, so I hung them in small places.


And I dusted around the computer, which always needs dusting. And rubbed old tape off the glass in a few places. Straightened books and stuff.


Moved furniture. Thinking this through, I’ve decided to do a buffet-style lunch instead of trying to cram us all in around a center table. It’s just so tight. I think circular seating with a long table to serve oneself might work better. Going to try it, if Vitaliy’s game with it.


I even gently ironed some wrinkles out of that green tablecloth. Before, I would’ve just let it go. Yes, it was a pain to get iron out and I nearly killed the computer trying to find a way to get it plugged into some outlet, BUT I did it!

I’m also praying about ways to include the kids. They are at such helpful ages. But I am not sure. I’m going to let it be spontaneous requests this time. Maybe plan out their tasks for other events, when I have a better idea of what I want them to help with.

Hoping to get salads made now, and clean the kitchen while Una sleeps….. But, we’ll see what happens 🙂

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Yes, these improvements cost money.

There are books that will tell you, oh, you can make your house homey with *no* to *low*  budget. Yada yada. After 12 years of doing that, I find those statements very irritating. Maybe they are even judgmental, like if you can’t do that, then …. Because there’s a lot you can’t do when you don’t have money. A lot you just have to live with. Especially in Ukraine where there is not the second-hand furniture options like one can find in the States. (ANd we have been gifted some nice things, but it’s piecemeal.) One can clean things with very little money, I think– like dusting rags and soap and baking soda type thing. Though, many things in Ukrainian homes, you can clean all you want and it will still look 30 years old and dirty.

I think it’s more correct to say, that if your home becomes your priority, you’ll find a way to spend your money on it.

So anyway. … Just getting that out of my system. I need a few deep breaths and to step away for a bit to pray. Honestly….


So, I’m not alone doing these home improvements. They’ve been my initiative, but Vitaliy’s jumped right on doing it with me. And we’ve not had conflicts about it, personal taste differences, etc. We’ve been in a good groove, and I’m so glad! This is important and a big pleasure factor.

For my 40th birthday, I asked everyone just to contribute to some nice kitchen knives.  I didn’t know what I wanted, but just that I wanted nice ones. I won’t explain the story, but I ended up doing what this blog recommended, and I got four Victorinox knifes from their Kiev division.

They are wow.


They are more than wow.

And I wanted a magnetic bar to hang them on, so Vitaliy was humoring me, and stopped at the Ikea here, and he saw what I was talking about, and right there in the store, he ordered an online one for 2/3s the price including courier delivery to our apartment.

And he hung it that night! (And it didn’t require intense drilling, which I feared!) And he likes it! and I like it!! (I might get another one for my spice jars!)

20160113_215526WE LIKE IT!

I also got some throw rugs, and they add a lot of color and warmth to the hall and kitchen.

A fairly-free thing I did for Christmas, and I want to keep it up all year and change seasonally, is this string across the kitchen window with all kinds of little things hung on it. It adds a lot of emotional warmth to the kitchen for me.


In the living room, there is this one couch. It’s rather painful even to sit on (the bar down the center of the back)– it’s not stuffed well–and there’s no paddings on the arms. We walked by a couch store and two caught my eye. … And viola! We ended up buying them, on sale!

They were delivered last  night. One is for the living room:

(The spaces in the armrests are for storage–to hide from Una 😉 I love the back shelf on it! And the armrests are great for sitting for little kids and putting computers and stuff.)

The second couch we put into the girls’ room for their bed. They’re getting older and starting to care about what things look like. So,


It folds out into a bed. Ukrainians are space-savers like that (couch during the day, bed at night), and I’m sure it’s not only this culture.

Here’s the rest of their room:

I put this nice blanket over the offending living room couch, to warm it up.


And here I am doing some mending today! A teddy bear, house slippers, a shirt …




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I’m reading Practicing Hospitality, and one author recommends having a Hospitality Journal, writing down things I realize or fear or face as I grow in being hospitable.

I love  journaling, so of course I thought this a great idea. And I think I’ll do it on my blog, as I’m in a stage of life with way too much paper to keep track of as it is.

This Sunday we’re hosting the small group (for lunch after the service) that Vitaliy is going with on a missions trip to the taiga in Siberia. (That was a lot of prepositions.)

I’m familiarly nervous about it. So, as the book recommended, I write down exactly what I am thinking/feeling.

  1. I’m nervous about the menu. I do these weird American/Ukrainian dishes sometimes that don’t really fit here or there culturally, I feel.
  2.   I’m nervous about preparations/organization. It’s hard to have everything ready when these apartments are so small and cramped and lived in, and trying to get all 6 of us peacefully out the door for church, then have things ready for guests and a lunch fixed when we return. And getting things set out while people are milling around. And we don’t have sufficient plates and bowls and spoons, and they are all mismatched.
  3. I also just feel this, after analyzing this in the back of my brain all day, …. I feel this unwelcomeness in my own apartment. This is opening an old and deep wound that I have tried to ignore for a long time. … I hate the walls, the furniture, the smallness, the … everything pretty much.

I feel this unwelcomeness myself in my own home, and having company over, where I’m trying to make others comfortable, raises the submerged feeling of discomfort that’s always flowing around down there. I’m having physical reactions just writing and thinking and focusing on it right now. And I’ve never really worked through it–I’ve accepted it and kind of stuffed it down as a thing I can’t really change–and that is a better level than it was before. Before, it constantly irritated my psyche, my senses, and constantly frustrated me.

I think this is the year to move farther. I’ve gone from frustration, to resignation. And now, I need to move further. Into what, I see not. I guess we’ll all see as the year goes on.

What makes me pondering this is a quote I read in Home Comforts:

Her [the traditional woman’s] secret was that she identified herself with her home…. She lived her life not only through her own body but through the house as an extension of her body; part of her relation to those she loved was embodied in the physical medium of the home she made.

And it’s hard to do that when I literally “hate” my home.

Homemaking was something I never dreamed about when I was growing up. I was always dreaming about ministry. And it’s been hard even thinking about it or spending money on it as missionaries, too. But with children, … the raising of children develops so many areas, especially related to home. Because they are my  my closest neighbors, and those with whom I am primarily hospitable.


This is all somehow terribly exciting.

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