The lighting was nice and I hadn’t yet spilled anything noticeable on my new white hoodie.. so we took a photo.
Locally here in our town in PA there’s a park with a WWII memorial. The tank is huge compared to the ones you see on display around Ukraine.

Deb and I are pretty excited. Next week, we’ll have all the kids (and grandchild) descending upon our place here in PA. Though we’ve been here for almost two months, we’ve only seen them in fragmented bursts.

Deb and I are on break this week, it’s been really nice. I started swimming and doing laps daily, and trying to get into some sort of shape. The problem is, it’s making me very hungry and I’m not sure if I’m getting in shape or just growing in shape. The girls come with me, the pool is just up the mountain, a 5 minute drive. I’m so thankful for this place, we’re soaking it up, literally.

Tucker arrived last week, he drove up from Florida, so it’s been nice to have an extra car and driver for the boys – they enjoy working out more than I enjoy taking them. Tucker’s only 18 still, its hard to believe he’s already left the nest, at least the Ukrainian one. He’s such a good dude, we really like having the young adults around – especially Deb.

Abbey and Claire got on my phone and discovered an app that turns photos into cartoons. Abi’s blue hair really reflects her spunky, creative personality.
Whatever Abi does, you can be sure Claire is close behind. She’s learning how to swim slowly… but surely. She still has water wings on, but is getting brace and holding her breath under water. The last kid of 8 to learn to swim.. finally!

Besides the ongoing circus that is Covid, we’re keeping our eye on the situation in Ukraine. Though Putin’s end game surely is to secure land access to Crimea and finalize what he began in Eastern Ukraine (land seize of industrial regions), one can never under estimate the human ego. I’m reading, ashamedly for the first time, Solzhenitsyn, and his famous “The Gulag Archipelago” – I highly recommend it for all those interested in Russian history, but more importantly the sheer manipulation and coercive brutality of socialism at its worst. Stalin’s 20-40 million of murdered, displaced or otherwise pruned down society is documented in detail, through the brilliance not of statistics and ideological preaching, but in story. The raw, human details of mothers, fathers, their children, caught up in secular man’s ideology.

For those that don’t realize how Russia has truly surrounded Ukraine, and where we are located inside Ukraine, a little map.

The glaring warning that isn’t as much said by the author as it’s felt throughout, is “consider the depths of human depravity when God is removed from the order of creation.” In all our human progress, in all the advancement of technology and addressing of policies, of glory in liberation and equality… the fly in the ointment.. human sin, evil. We can pretend it’s not there, we can distract and praise ourselves through propaganda, but when push comes to shove, we humans are desperately capable of the worst atrocities, each one of us, when left to our own devices.

I promised myself I wouldn’t get into the book, or politics. I just wanted to simply update my blog with the joys of this season, the gratitude in my heart. I think rooting ourselves in history, like watering a thirsty plan, only ushers in more perspective and thanks. I am not living in 1934 Russia, I am not one of the poor Jews in Hitler’s camps. I’m living in freedom, in comfort, in health, and I have absolute confidence in the material incarnation of our Creator 2,000 years ago. The more I understand human history, the greater my faith is growing, and resting into this place of hope.

One day, I believe, I hope, I will have the time and space to write more about this. The Gospel, for me personally, has taken on so much more weight in the past season. I’m investing now, and feel the Spirit nudging me away from sharing too much, of trying to add my voice to the myriad of sounds pummeling the inter-webs. God is doing so much in my heart, re-focusing, shifting and forming my perspectives, motivations. It’s really quite wild! You and I will have to wait for what that looks like. For now, a lot of reading, the dust is kicked up quite high, and I have this feeling it’s going to get even thicker. I’m ok with the disorientation, in a strange way, learning, when you don’t have a prescribed or identifiable end-game or ideology to defend, is really where it’s at. It’s actually insatiable, the more we learn, truly the more we realize we’ve just scratched the surface.

This is the first of 3 volumes, it’s slow reading for me, because it’s so fascinating and terrible. I have to stop and read it to Deb or the kids often. Not sure I will get through it all before school starts up again in a few weeks.. but I am now Solzhenitsyn fan for sure – I really enjoy his writing style and perspective.

Well, there I went, off on another tangent. I’m hoping to send out a little Christmas thank you to our supporters next week. We don’t have a large group of ongoing partners, but they are such generous, and genuine people. Thank you Jesus for the body of Christ. Deb and I have kept in touch with the crew in Rzyschiv, but also trying to really give space for everyone’s growth as well, dealing with their own issues, making their own decisions. It’s a new season for many of us. Our new building had the roof finally up, so it will not sit through the winter months and hopefully we can get rolling on it in the Spring. Widows ministry continues to serve in many villages, among all our partners. I received a wonderful update from my friend Raphael, who visited my little babushka Galia this week – she wanted to pass on that she is loving the MP3 Audio Bible and Music, I’m so glad she figured it out! I gave her a training tutorial before I left, and she just was giggling and not really paying attention (I thought).. but it’s so cool to know that she’s hearing the Word of God and being encouraged. These ladies are so alone, in these old Ukrainian houses in the middle of forests and dark dusty streets. Jesus shine upon their hearts, break into their days, and nights. Warm them each with your love. You are our hope, the hope of the nations indeed.