Stand with Ukraine

Yesterday, 25 Ukrainians died and over 200 were left bloodied and injured in the most violent day of protests since a stand off began in early December between the Ukrainian government and the people who oppose this government.

The rest of the world must take note of what is happening in Ukraine right now. This is, perhaps, one of the most important battles for freedom happening today, and the Ukrainian people need to know they aren’t alone.

To understand what’s going on in Ukraine, you have to understand a bit about their history. They are a people who have been fighting for their freedom for a long, long time. Throughout most of history, Ukraine has been a central battleground for freedom, and now they are a nation divided between East and West. The more Russian leaning West sides more readily with current President Viktor Yanukovich, while the more Ukrainian leaning East wants autonomy and freedom from the chains placed on them by Russia.

The protests began when Yanukovich moved away from the European Union in favor of accepting a massive financial bailout from Russia. This would, in effect, put Ukraine back into the Russian government’s hands, something that a majority of the country does not support.

These are good, peaceful, loving people who want nothing more than to live and operate under the banner of freedom. They want freedom from corrupt politicians like Yanukovich, who squanders money away while his people live with very little. They don’t want to be ruled, once again. They want freedom, and we need to let them know that we support them.

Please watch this video and share it with others. Let’s stand together with Ukraine to show our support for their quest for freedom.

Thank you!

In Gratitude

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 NASB


A One-Year-Old Sloan sporting his Red, White and Blue. Lawdy those rolls...

Today we remember. It’s not just another day – at least it shouldn’t be. Today is the day we stop and pause. For so, so many today is not a day to celebrate. The remembering is real and it comes with heartache and pain that cuts deep and burns to the core.

Today we remember freedom and the sacrifice that comes with it. We honor the men and women who have gone before and stood between us and those who would like to bring harm. There is no greater love, no greater sacrifice, than that of one willing to die so that others might live.

Thank you.

We recognize you all today. To those currently serving both here in the States and in far away lands – Thank you.

To those who have served in the past and now hold the honored status of veteran – Thank you.

To those family members whose loved ones laid down their lives and did not return, we thank you in their honor. Thank you for loving them and supporting them and know that we don’t take the loss lightly. To you, sacrifice is real and it is for a lifetime.

We honor you – all of you.

Today is not just another day to eat and watch football…or baseball…or basketball…or whatever is playing on that squawking box in the middle of the room. (My husband will probably make fun of me for that last sentence – is football even in season right now?! It’s not, is it…)

Today is not just a day off. It is a day to pause, to think, to revel in the joyfulness of family and friends, but mostly it’s a day to remember. We remember that freedom is, indeed, not free. It comes with a price that too many people know too well. Freedom is marked with the pain of sacrifice.

Did you know that the word remember means “to recall to the mind by an act or effort of memory?” You knows what this means, right?

It means that sometimes remembering takes work.

It means that sometimes we have to stop and actually try to recall to the mind. Every generation is affected by the loss – some generations more than others and some losses more fresh on the mind. But none of us are exempt from the work of remembrance. We can all remember and maybe – maybe we could take a bolder step?

Find someone to thank personally today. A friend who served or currently serves. A family member who is a veteran. A neighbor who’s son is walking the dusty streets of danger for your freedom. Who can you thank?

Join me today as we remember. If you would like to leave the name of someone you want to honor in the comments, you are welcome to do so. We will remember them and honor them on this day together.

Happy Memorial Day.

Do you ever wonder?

Do you ever wonder if, perhaps, we as Americans have gone to far with our freedoms?  Do you ever wonder, when you walk inside a church that looks more like an amusement park than a house of God, if maybe we’ve lost sight of what faith is?

I do.

Do you ever wonder if maybe we’ve made church a little too exciting for our little ones?  Do you ever wonder if maybe they’ll grow into adulthood and not know how to worship unless they’re being entertained?  Do you ever wonder if we’re short changing our kids by not exposing them to the beauty and theology of the hymns?

Do you ever wonder why we feel we need to put on a rock concert in order to make church exciting?

My friend, Joe, recently posted this article on his Facebook page.  I found it both hilarious and fascinating.  And by the end, I was a little sad.  Do you ever wonder if we’ve made church so much like the world that we leave our young people with very little challenge to be separate of the world?

Do you ever wonder if American consumerism has, perhaps, gone just a bit too far?  When you walk inside a church and are immediately faced with a Starbucks, do you wonder if maybe those things should be kept apart?  Do you ever find the blending of the two a little uncomfortable?

Do you ever wonder if maybe the very thing that is our greatest strength in America (freedom) has, perhaps, also become our greatest weakness?  That maybe faith has become a little too easy?  Do you ever wonder what those who sacrifice everything in the name of faith must think when they see that we can sacrifice nothing for the same faith?  Or is it the same faith?

Do ever wonder if we even have the ability to possess the same kind of faith as those who suffer true persecution?

Do you ever wonder if maybe church has become a little too easy – too…comfortable?  Do you ever wonder if you possess strength strong enough to truly make a difference in the world?

Do you ever wonder any of these things?

If you do, what is your response?

The In-Between

He didn’t want to try it. Fear prevented him from true joy, from enjoying to the fullest that which stood before him. The vibrant blue waters of the pool were enticing and he tasted the joy when he stepped into the water.

But fear held him back.

He couldn’t bring himself to put his face in the water. The fear of the unknown was too much and so he simply watched in longing. Every once in awhile he put his chin beneath the surface, delighted to feel the cool water – such a contrast to the blazing heat of the sun. If, by accident, water splashed into his eyes he cried and dashed for a towel, wiping it away before realizing how refreshing it could actually be.

I wondered if he would ever overcome this fear. I wondered if he would ever experience the miracle and joy that comes with taking the plunge and diving beneath the surface. I wondered if he would ever realize that conquering fear leads to freedom.

And then one day he did it. He stepped off the edge and took a leap of faith. Faith that he wouldn’t sink, but would indeed return to the surface as promised. Faith that fun awaited if he just took a chance. And do you know what happened?

Photo courtesy of my sister-in-law, Becke'

Inexplicable Joy.  Freedom. And he hasn’t looked back.

We’re stuck in the in-between right now.  We’re in Arkansas for a week visiting family, which simply feels like any other vacation.  I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that we won’t be going back to St. Louis from here.

We head to Clearwater to stay in my parent’s condo until we either find a house or decide to rent.  That, too, will feel like a familiar vacation, which in the past has always ended in us returning home.  But Florida is home now.  It doesn’t feel that way yet, but that’s what it is.

Mark Twain once wrote, “Change is the handmaiden Nature requires to do her miracles with.” I so hope for miracles as we make this move.  What does a miracle look like?  I don’t know.  Maybe it will be something big and measurable.  Maybe it will be something that can’t be seen but only felt…realized only upon looking backward after time has propelled us past this unsure moment.

Maybe the miracle is our willingness to take the plunge – to face our fear of change and dip our head beneath the cool waters of the unknown.  We would have been fine splashing in the waters of familiarity, but then we might have missed out on the joy and freedom that comes from taking a plunge beneath the surface.

Maybe the miracle will be my children suddenly waking up each morning with smiles on their faces and nothing but kindness on their lips.  Maybe the miracle will be my children sleeping past 6:30 every morning!

I can dream can’t I?

Change leaves your heart and spirit in a vulnerable place.  When you’re cut off from the passivity of the familiar, suddenly a whole new world of options are opened before you.  There are no schedules to keep up with, no obligations to meet.  Those will likely develop quickly, of course, but in the beginning, when life has finally, mercifully, slowed down the prospects of a clean slate leave me excited.  What will we finally do that we’ve been dreaming of but lacked the time?  What lies in wait for our fragile hearts?

It’s terrifying and exciting and wonderful.  A tightly woven ball of “What if?”  What if we had the time to finally do that?  What if we were closer to finally participate in this?  What if we finally set aside the resources to accomplish that dream?  What if we watched in grand expectation and looked for the miracles?

While the in-between has given me a touch of vertigo, unsure of which way to turn, it’s also left me excited.  I love what ifs.  I love to see miracles happen and for the first time in a long time, I’m finally watching for them.

“Change is the handmaiden Nature uses to do her miracles with.”

Have you seen any miracles lately?  Let’s share and all join in the excitement!

“For I know the plans I have for.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you a hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

For more pictures by my awesome sister-in-law, visit her blog.  We’re having some wonderful, sweet cousin time.

May Day

On Saturday, Lee and I took the kids to a 70th Anniversary Commemoration of the Nazi Invasion of the Soviet Union.

Try saying that five times fast.

For an hour and a half, we heard stories from local veterans about their experiences during World War II.  Most of them were Jewish and experienced the effects of the Nazi hatred as well as the Soviet hatred.  It was emotional and poignant and beautiful and sad.

The kids didn’t appreciate it at all.

“When can we go,” they whined over and over.  And like any good Mom, I shushed them and shot them daggar eyes, melting them from the inside out.

At then end of each testimony, each speaker (most of whose stories were read by younger family members while they stood up front), made very similar statements.  They lauded freedom.  Freedom to practice religion, freedom from oppression, freedom to survive, freedom to love.  Those men and women are deeply loyal to the lands of their birth.  But they are also deeply loyal to their adopted land.

Attending this ceremony cemented my desire to bring the history of the former Soviet Union alive.  It reignited my passion for the people of Ukraine, in particular, as several of the speakers were from Ukraine, from towns and cities I have visited.

We Americans have no idea the depth of suffering other parts of the world have experienced.  That’s not to say we can’t sympathize, of course.  I feel deep pain for the suffering around the world.  But I don’t truly understand it because I haven’t lived it.  My pain at the suffering we endured on 9/11 is even different from my fellow countrymen who were directly affected by the loss of loved ones.  But think of this perspective:

It’s estimated that Ukraine lost up to 10 million people during World War II.  That’s half of the population of the entire Soviet Union and twenty percent of the entire world’s death total.

I know my children are young and I don’t expect them to appreciate or even understand why I continue to expose them and push them toward the language and history of that part of the world, but I hope to the depth of my soul that someday, as they grow in maturity and understanding, they will develop not only a love for Ukraine and the russian language, but also for all the different cultures of this world.

I also hope that they will grow with the understanding that they have been privileged to be born in the most amazing country in the world.  It is a flawed nation, to be sure.  But America is a land to be loved, a loved to be applauded and a land that deserves our deepest appreciation.

That’s the lesson I’m hoping to teach my children as they grow.  One of them, anyway.