As most of you know, I took a very sudden and unexpected trip to California. The Lord laid it on my heart to make the trip to see my Mother and Father in law, Ann and Rich. Ann had a knee replacement in April which healed up very nicely. Then, in July she stepped into a hole and herniated several discs in her back. She had been in a lot of pain and was left feeling a little depressed from it all. Right before my arrival, she went in for a procedure called an epidural, which is a conservative approach before surgery.
Before I left Ukraine for California, I wrote in my journal that I wanted to come to be a blessing to Ann and Rich, to uplift and encourage my Mom in particular. I wanted to help her around the house with whatever was needed. I just wanted to bless her in any way I could. I was also feeling some depression trying to take hold of me and I also asked the Lord to encourage my heart, teach me new things, and renew me spiritually during my trip.
Rich, Me, and Ann
I just wanted to tell you all how much God has blessed not only Ann and Rich, but also me! Ann and I prayed together just about every day. We went before the Lord in prayer, asking Him to be the lifter of our heads, that He would lift the pain, and heal her back. Each day, we could see the Lord working in so many awesome ways. Slowly, her back pain was easing up and she was able to do things that she wasn’t able to do before. I would drive her to physical therapy and saw such an improvement in what she was able to do each time she would go. We both began to feel the fog of weariness and depression lift from our lives. We thanked God everyday for the marvelous things He was doing in our lives. I am so grateful for her. We have a very special relationship and from what I can tell, a rare one. She truly loves me like her daughter, and I love her like my mother. I don't know what I would do without her.
I was also blessed by the people I would meet. God always has a way of leading us to the people we need to talk to. I was so impressed by the office where Ann has physical therapy. She goes to Bacci & Glinn in Visalia. Bob Bacci is a Christian and has no problem letting his clients know. He has bibles out to read and also literature from Crown Financial. Another surprise to me was that he contracts from a place called Workforce Chaplaincy. A Chaplain named Paul Gendron visits and provides spiritual advice or counsel for the employees and clients. It was so nice to meet Bob Bacci and Chaplain Paul and tell them about our lives in Ukraine. It was such a blessing to know that Ann is being treated by the best in town!
When I left Ukraine, I brought our dog Boris back to live here in Visalia. The Ukrainian’s thought we were crazy, but he wasn’t allowed to stay in our apartment and we didn’t want him to freeze to death in the winter. Rich wasn’t too happy about the idea at first because we had left our little Jack Russell Terrier (Spencer) here with them and he was hit by a car and killed. It was so hard on them to lose him because they grew so attached to him. Boris was used to life in Ukraine and he had no idea what life here was like. He had never been put behind a fence, never had a dog toy/bone to play with. This ranch is such an ideal place for him we thought. Well, when I would take Boris out of the yard for walks he would go to the neighbors who have children and dogs. He would get under their fence somehow and just want to play with all of them. We were beginning to think that maybe he would be happier somewhere else. I placed an ad for him in the paper. The next day, Rich had a change of heart and decided that Boris deserved another chance. Thank the Lord for such a blessing!
I also made a trip to San Luis Obispo and stayed with my very dear friend from Calvary SLO, Tiffany Cook. I stayed for 4 days and had such a wonderful time! I want to thank Tiffany for her kindness and hospitality during our stay. It was so good to see Justin and Arabella again. My, they have grown! We had such a great time together doing girl things. We went shopping in downtown SLO and she blessed me with some new shoes! They were exactly what I needed for Ukraine. Thank you Tiffany for your valuable friendship and unconditional love and acceptance towards me. And thank you for the clothes that you gave to me to take back for Maxime!
Edna, Maia, and Anya
I visited Calvary SLO on the same Sunday that Jake & Anya spoke at the church about what is happening up in Chernihiv. Jake said it the best when he spoke and said that America is cool for a few weeks, and then you want to go home. I wanted to cry when he said that because it is so true. I felt pure indifference visiting my hometown, which I have always loved so much. It just didn’t seem the same to me. I was really missing my real home in Ukraine. God really sealed that in my heart that day and I won’t ever forget it. I had a wonderful time meeting with the ladies who attended the Fall Gathering on Saturday, and then catching up with those I met with on church that Sunday. I felt so blessed to be counted worthy to serve the Lord in Ukraine and then come back and share with my friends all of the amazing things God is doing there.
I want to say a big THANK YOU to Pastor Bryan. He gave me a $200 shopping trip to Michael’s so that I could get anything that I needed for the children’s ministry at our church in Ukraine, House of Mercy. And thank you to Cindy Ecret, as she donated to me a very big bag of her own assortment of different crafts! Thank you to Roxanne Foote who gave me a big bag of books for us and the boys to read. And Taffy! Thank you for the bags of Butterfingers for the boys! I just felt so full of joy and happiness because those were things that were really needed back home since we began a children’s ministry with nothing but some markers! Now I am loaded up with so many crafts that I had to call the airline and get a missionary waiver for a third piece of baggage. Praise the Lord that I can take the excess piece free of charge!
Me, Tricia, Elijah (who turns 1 next month!), and Mike. They are our old neighbors. I also met the new tenants of our old place (which is behind us) and they now go to our church, CalvarySLO!
On the last day in SLO, I visited as many of my friends as I could possibly fit into one day! If your picture is not posted here, you may go to Flickr and look at all of the photos I took of my trip there. Thank you to all of my friends who greatly encouraged me, prayed for me, and gave to me. It meant so much to me. I felt so much joy that weekend that I thought I would burst! God is so awesome and so faithful to provide for all of our needs.
For the last week, I have been very anxious to get home. I leave here this Monday. The Lord has put so many things in my heart and has renewed my passion for serving the people of Ukraine. He has filled my heart with so many ideas. But most of all, he has truly renewed me, encouraged me, spoken to me, and erased any lies the enemy had created in my mind during my last few weeks back in Ukraine. He has taught me so much during my trip here. Just deep, personal things that have been sweet to my soul. I am so grateful for the time that He gave me here.
And last, but not least! I want to thank my wonderful and very capable husband for what an awesome job he has been doing taking care of our boys and our home in my absence. We've been able to communicate daily via email or sometimes by phone. I am truly blessed to have a husband who is so committed to the Lord and loves me with all his heart. What more could I ask for in life? Praise the Lord for all of his blessings!