Ukraine On My Mind

Like many others, I woke up this morning with Ukraine on my mind. As I listened to my snoring husband next to me, I searched my phone for any new updates. Stomach in knots as I read about the 13 soldiers on Snake Island who took a defiant last stand, the woman who confronted a Russian soldier and the plight of two sisters separated from their parents while holding out in a bomb shelter.

From the warmth and safety of my home, I sat there trying to wrap my mind around the trauma and fear Ukrainians are dealing with. They’ve been down this path before. I can’t imagine.

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of listening to two Ukrainians who started a ministry to provide loving, safe families for abused, neglected and abandoned children in their home country. Their hearts and passion for children flowed through each word they spoke. During a call with them, they soaked up all they could about trauma-informed care and yearned for knowledge to help restore the lives of broken children.

I also listened to a coworker who traveled to Ukraine and worked directly with the families and children at a summer camp. He held back tears as he talked about the humility and warmth of the Ukrainian people. He also broke a little when speaking about one particular boy whose trauma absolutely split his heart into pieces.

As I sat in my bed this morning with Ukraine on my mind, my thoughts immediately turned to them. It’s devastating to consider the work they’ve done, and still want to do, is now at risk. It angers me that trauma-upon-trauma is spilling out onto the people there.

It seems selfish to worry about what to fix for dinner or to run to Starbucks or any of those things we do on a typical day in my country. My kids are safe. They are warm, sleeping in their beds. Our family isn’t separated. We’re all here. Oh, the things we take for granted; the twisting of our version of freedom into concerns of trivial things.

Friends, let’s keep Ukraine in our hearts. Lift up the parents sheltering their children and the elderly who’ve already fought this war time and again.

Pray for Ukraine and its people.

Pray for courage, strength, protection and peace.

Let Freedom Ring

photo (90)As July 4th came to a close, I decided to go for a run through my neighborhood.  The neighborhood we live in has a couple of lakes that all connect by a system of drains.  Large trees, wide streets, light traffic, and streetlights make for safe and scenic evening runs.  The rushing of water running alongside me, chirping crickets, splashes of bullfrogs hopping into the water, and the steadiness of my breath are sounds I have grown accustomed to on my runs.

On the fourth of July, I could hear the sounds of fireworks going off in the outskirts of the city.  The popping noises and blasts were not a distraction; instead, they reminded me of the annual reunion our nation has with American pride and independence.  The sounds of the night did not frighten me or cause me to wonder what was happening in my city.  No, they were the sounds of celebration.

For some in other parts of the world though, the harsh non-celebratory sounds of blasts are heard.  For those in the midst of a warring nation, or a nation in revolt, these popping sounds must evoke terror.  There are also many in the United States who are enslaved in violent relationships, addictions, and hopeless situations.  The more I ran and listened to the fireworks echoing throughout the sky, the more I was reminded of what freedom means for someone like myself, and maybe even you, and how it must evade many.

I’ve been confronted this past week with the word freedom from a variety of sources.  Last week our church showed a video of a church member reciting a spoken word poem about freedom.  He spoke of freedom in Christ.  He reminded us that Jesus used his freedom to set us free.  In the end, he asked, “How will you use your freedom?”

On July 4th, my dear friend’s wall post on Facebook caught my eye.  In it she justified her reasons why she spends time on a weekly basis organizing, cooking, and serving food to homeless people in our community.  She is part of a grassroots effort to serve those in our society who are often invisible to most; even to those of us who are active in our faith.  I do not know why she felt the need to give her reasons, but I suspect something was said to her, or she was questioned about why she would help “people like that”.

My friend is serving others in a way that some of us who claim to follow Christ are not, or would not consider doing.  How many of us cook food for the homeless?  How many of us take our children along to help serve street people?  How many of us offer a hug, smile, or kind words to lift up someone who has been rejected by society?

Sadly, how many of us walk on by and pretend these people are not out there?

Her post stuck to me the rest of the day.  It humbled me.  I thought about it on the evening run I spoke of earlier, and at work the following day.  While sitting at my desk, I noticed the following Scripture on the calendar hanging in my office:

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. –Galatians 5:13

There it was again.  The word free staring back at me.  As a believer in Jesus Christ, I know that my freedom is not solely represented by fireworks or the fourth of July.  There are many who are not physically free in this world, but have found freedom through the unfailing redemption of Christ.  There are also many who boldly serve others because of their freedom in the Lord, even if it means possible persecution for themselves and their families.

We are a very blessed nation.  American Christians are probably some of the most free believers in the world; and yet, what are we doing with our freedom?  Do we use it to judge those who are different from us?  Do we use it to buy things that please us?  Do we think “someone else will take care of that” when it comes to the lost in our own communities?

How are we using our freedom?

I say, let freedom ring in the way we act towards one another.  Let the sound of our freedom be one that is undeniable.  There is someone in your community that needs for you to show him or her the greatest love and freedom you have ever found.  

We are not called to be served by our Savior.  He’s already done that.  We are called and set free to serve one another.

Let freedom ring, my fellow Christians, let freedom ring.

Thankfulness

Happy Thanksgiving!  Here’s my top ten list of things I’m thankful for:

  1. Grace – the Lord knows I’m a mess, but He loves me anyway.
  2. Love – my husband knows I’m a mess, but he loves me anyway.
  3. Adoption of my children – my life is much more colorful because of them.
  4. My job – I’m blessed to work for a child welfare agency that understands that our own families come before those we work with.
  5. Freedom – to get an education, to go to church, to live without fear.
  6. Salvation – Jesus chose us over His life.  What a beautiful Savior!
  7. My parents – for their support & for never allowing me to be a victim of my own set of circumstances.  I cannot imagine how painful my hysterectomy must have been on them.
  8. Revelation – the Lord has spoken His will into my life and has shown me that His plan had a purpose & for that I am so grateful for.
  9. Friendships – my friends also know I’m a mess, but they love me anyway
  10. Reading/writing & fellow bloggers – I’m so glad I stumbled onto writing.  I always knew I enjoyed it, but never realized how much of an outlet it is.  Thank you all for reading my blog, and thank you for sharing your worlds through writing your blogs.

Oh yeah, I’m also thankful for moments like these, and so many more!!