Saturday, July 14

Lessons Learned and Bittersweet Goodbyes

It’s been four weeks since I’ve come home- although it seems shorter, and as many times as I’ve tried to write this post- I could never bring it to completion, but that was because I was relying on myself to tell my story. The moment I turned to God- something that’s not always easy to do, I found the right words. 

My time in Ukraine was more than blessed. I love my team, and miss them dearly, but those are not the only people that touched my life while I was there. Our translators, Masha, Sveta, and Artoum, told me about their lives, about their dreams and ambitions, their families, and their passions- and I made friends that will last a lifetime. The team of Australians that shared their testimonies made me bolder about sharing mine, and I know that if I ever find myself in Australia, I’ll know exactly where to find some of the most God-loving people there. The workers at the camp- many of which I regrettably can’t name because I’m awful with names- blessed me with their constant joy and passion to serve. Their smiles and broken English never failed to brighten my day, and the countless joking offers I got for marriage arrangements never ceased to make me smile. The children that hung on my arms and legs, that gave me trinkets even though they had nothing, that went full speed ahead in Ukrainian, even though countless times I expressed that I don’t understand, that used the few English words they had, searching to find a connection with someone that would love on them, the smiles, the tears, and everything in between, it changed my life. However, no matter how extraordinary any of these people are, no matter how much they touched my life- they would fail in comparison without the lessons that Christ taught me in my short time there. Christ used those people to change me- I know I am a different person now than when I started on this journey, and although it’s taken me a while to go full circle and really realize what those changes are, I know that although my time was cut short- I learned there what Christ sent me there to learn- and that is how to love.

For those of you that know me- you know I’m not an openly emotional person; I don’t go around hugging people and saying ‘I love you.’ I don’t seek closeness with people, because I won’t know the first thing about it, and I definitely hate crying- it’s up there with throwing up my guts and stabbing myself in the eye with a rusty fork- that’s how much I hate it. It makes me ugly, it’s hard to breathe, and most of all, anyone that happens upon you while you’re crying has one of two responses: they immediately try to console you, even though they have no idea what’s going wrong, or they stare awkwardly till they regain the ability to move their legs that they lost from shock, and quickly shuffle away. Neither of these things are helpful to someone who is truly sobbing. Because I shy away from anything that requires an expression of emotion, I’ve missed out on a lot of great opportunities in life- many of which God probably dropped in front of me like ton of bricks, to which I responded by taking a few steps back, staring, then walking right around it. I’m realizing now, that I probably went into the World Wide Witness program with selfish intentions- I got to travel, something amazing was going to happen in my life, I was going to get to feel good about helping people, I’d be able to say that I’d been to a different country, it would look good on my resume, it would be a notch in my social work belt. I went into this program thinking a lot about me, and quickly realized that nothing was about me. By the time I was on my flight all I could think about was how God was going to use me to help someone else- which was a complete turnaround from my initial thinking. I’m not saying that at first I didn’t want to help people- because I truly did, that’s just what I feel passionate about in life- but by the time I was on the plane, I wanted to help people for a completely different reason- it was for them. My three weeks in Ukraine were brief, unfortunately so. But I know, that God knew from the start what was going to happen, that I was going to be blindsided, and that every plan I had carefully constructed, was going to be torn to shreds. 

That’s lesson number two. I am a planner- and God showed me that all the planning in the world, cannot change his plan- which so often is completely opposite of our own. I am a planner- always have been, and always will be. But being in Ukraine has helped me learn how to deal when your grand plans get tossed out by forces you can’t control. It’s a process- learning these things.  I’m sure it will take me my whole life to get used to my plans being thrown out a window- and maybe not even then, but I know that when they do, instead of scrambling to piece together the broken shards of a plan, I can just hold my hands out, and God will give me a new one- one that is immensely more perfect than my own.

There are a million more lessons I’ve learned, a hundred more stories that I could tell, and this blog post could very quickly turn into a book- but that’s not what this is. This post very well may be not what you were expecting. I know many people are expecting an explanation, of exactly what happened, why I’m home early, and was it my fault, and if it wasn’t my fault whose fault is it? But I’m sorry- you won’t get it. To be honest, I don’t completely understand why I’m home, other than the simple reason that God wanted me here, in little Lake Worth, Texas- to learn a few more lessons. It is nobody’s fault- because faults are a childish way to explain God’s plan- if you ask me. Trying to explain the happenings of life as a result of a person is well, useless- because it’s not we who are in control.
Now I’m sure that from time to time, Ukraine stories will be told- whether it’s while I’m sitting in a restaurant with my friends or in a blog post or journal entry- because the ending of this blog does not mean the ending of my time in Ukraine- because it will forever impact me. Something will happen and I’ll have a pang of longing, or I’ll see something in a new light and glean a new revelation from an event, and I’ll tell someone about it. Ukraine is engraved in my heart, now and forever- and I’m a different person, all because of Ukraine.

I'll be writing in a new blog- my personal one which I'm awful at keeping up with, from time to time. You can find it here.