Wednesday, November 12, 2014


The yelp from the old dog, Hope, awakened me from a sound sleep at 2:29 a.m.   She heaved her tired body up from the rug, gazed at me from mostly blind eyes and steadied herself for the weary walk to the porch.  I twisted the knob of the front door and braced myself as a gust of wind shoved it against me.   Hope found her footing down the steps while I huddled by the railing, shivering in my flimsy nightgown.  Below the last step, the fall leaves, which only days before had swayed and danced in the breeze, displaying their fiery cloaks of color, lay in a huddled heap.  In brittle, broken pieces they crackled under the icy wind, humbled and spent.  The bitter gusts and black sky seeped into my being and bleakness overcame my groggy mind.

I crawled under the warm covers of our bed and sleeplessness invited thoughts, swirling as if to mimic the treacherous wind outside.  In home schooling our focus in these last two weeks has been on the former USSR.  An upbeat jingle for Geography has enlightened our minds to each country along the Southern border of Russia.  In History we've read of the people, their traditions, customs, religions and livelihood.  And we have read of poverty, struggle, and endurance.  The sharp sting of winter crouching at our own front door reminded me especially of the people of the Ukraine.  I felt guilty over the blessings I have and grieved over their persecution.

Each school day, for the last five years (since Hepatitis shook our lives), twenty-two-year-old Olena, our faithful helper, has worked alongside me from 9 to 3 to run the house and assist in schooling.  She is a treasure to our family and sometimes knows what I'm thinking before the words form.  She is Ukranian.  I often hear of the tumult in her land and hardships through which the Easterners suffer.  This morning I asked for the latest news and if perhaps I could gather coats to send before the icy winter consumes the lives of some who are only barely surviving.  

Olena spoke in her gentle, stoic manner, 'Yes, coats would be a blessing, but we can get them to our people.  We have a Christian organization that will send whatever you have.  Many in the Western Ukraine are also helping and yesterday I heard of a woman who has almost nothing, giving what she had, out of compassion.  Also, an old building was quickly transformed to house many homeless families.'

'We could have given in long ago and our cities and people would have fared far better, but we are not willing to give our country away.  We believe in the community we have, though our cities are poor, they are beautiful.  Things have changed so much, but we love our country.  Though churches in the East are destroyed, we believe and trust God, and have His help.  Though we struggle, He is mighty.  Here in my Ukrainian church we have grown from 600 to 800 members. The Evil that would try to destroy us cannot destroy our hearts, it is building up our faith in Christ.  Just this morning, the cold sweep in my country relented and at least for now, since it has not hit freezing, many are still alive who have very little and are underground.  We are thankful.'

The school day is long over, and my frigid feelings and stark, sad emotions of the early morning have given way to Hope.  Sometimes it is another's hope and faith that draw us back to realignment with the truth we know.  The pots outside, on the back deck, standing sturdy yet exposed, in this late afternoon light, give a different view of the fading fall.  There is new growth amidst the change and even a few flowers that seem more beautiful because of the environment in which they choose to bloom.  I needed Olena's perspective to open my eyes to the good.

Feeling bleak and overwhelmed will never fuel action or inspire courage.  When we give our hearts over to hopelessness our very souls are easily captivated by the dimming under which we succumb.  Then we are of no use.  But God is alive and He has missed nothing!  It is in Him our weakness is made strong.  When Paul proclaimed the gospel under persecution he asked his people to pray for the lost, the weak, to care well for each other and to pray for him.  "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.  Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains.  Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."  Ephesians 6:18-20

Paul ends the chapter with the blessings of peace, faith, grace and Christ's undying love.  As David Crowder sings, "There is no hurt that heaven can't heal!"  Bleakness is not God's way, He gives hope for tomorrow and encouragement for today.