Monday, 19 January 2015

on how I manage to be the least stylish pregnant woman in Ukraine...

Happy Old New Year, Everyone! 
In Ukraine, Christmas and New Year are each celebrated twice (orthodox dates and international dates), so we are only just coming to the end of the festive season. Orthodox Christmas is on the 7th January here - my birthday! We have just had Orthodox (old) new year and the team has finally conceded that the christmas tree can come down!

Thank You
We are all keeping well. We have a window-sill full of christmas cards from friends, it made for the best christmas ever. We are sorry for being annoying friends who go abroad, we love you all for posting things to us even though it's a pain (you are amazing and we don't deserve you, thank you a million times). My friend from Nepal, Alice, also sent me Rennie so I can bend down without heartburn (yay!). Josh's mum and partner Gary came out to visit last week, it was brilliant to show them around and to try to explain what we are doing here.

Ministry at the Base
In December, the base hosted some more volunteers seeking respite from the war in the East, as well as a ladies Christmas tea and lots of Kings Kids ministry (the children baked, made crafts and cards and paid visits to a children's hospital, women's prison, care home and families whose fathers are away in the war). The base smelled amazing with home-baking for pretty much the whole of Christmas. We also baked and sent gifts and bibles to soldiers in the East. Josh is recording his first worship song with Johnny, our church pastor, who is a classical pianist and writes worship songs for Calvary Chapel churches internationally. We are about to order Alpha course materials in both English and Ukrainian to introduce Alpha here and run the course for staff. We hope to end up running Alpha courses from the base and this is an exciting first step. We have just finished a staff retreat, when we prayed about the future of the team. It feels there's been an injection of energy here in the team, people had amazing ideas for ministry in the year ahead.

Vinnitsa and Christmas Outreach
Ternopil base was very quiet for two weeks over Christmas, so we got lonely and decided to spend time with some other British Youth With a Mission staff, John and Fritha, in the town of Vinnitsa. We did a little bit of outreach on the 7th, handing out chocolate bars wrapped up in paper with comforting scripture on it. Vinnitsa is pretty different to Ternopil; bigger, busier and more affluent (we were weirded out to find shopping malls with high street shops like Accessorize and Mothercare, all extortionately expensive!). Even on Ukrainian Christmas day, hoards of people were out shopping in the designer malls and looked at us a bit strangely when we offered them free chocolate. We gave gifts to people who were having to work at christmas, like cleaners and car park attendants. Driving outside of town, we found people in the cold selling flowers on the roadside and hopefully this small gesture made their christmas day a bit better.

Ridiculous Trains
We have made that 4.5 hour journey to Vinnitsa a few times by train and each time I spend at least 4 hours grumbling about the smell and the heat. They crank up the wagon temperature so hot during winter that your hands would steam dry after washing them - if there was running water in the toilet, that is! This last time, I felt I could hardly breathe but any draughts are seen as deadly here (quite literally), so windows are glued shut. I had to hide my growing baby bump for the guard to let me anywhere near the open carriage door when the train stopped at stations. Otherwise, he would have shouted at me to get out of the cold air, just like the Babushkas around town who think my two coats are still leaving me scantly clad.

Everyday's a CatWalk
I have noticed I am one of very few pregnant ladies, or women with young babies, to be seen outside of the home here. I suspect this is not entirely due to the cold weather, but also because in Ukrainian culture women are expected to be perfectly, well, perfect. Beautiful in a kind of glassy, glossy, impractical way that takes precedence over most other things in life. This is a part of the culture here that I adamantly refuse to adjust to. I would rather fly the flag for real, child-bearing women (yes, we do naturally waddle), who sometimes prefer to spend time with family and with God, than hours putting on makeup, only to stay at home and unseen until all the baby fat has disappeared. It is natural and human (sadly) for girls to feel inadequate when surrounded by other stunningly made up women. I hope I have the exact opposite effect on womens' feelings by not wearing make-up and high heels every day, and having the courage to face the supermarket in my cosiest hoodie and snow boots from time to time.

Pregnancy in Ukraine
Strangely, I am enjoying being pregnant here (probably a massive shock to any of my girl-friends that  saw me miserable and vomiting in every conceivable public place whilst expecting Joni). As you can tell from my rant, there is a lot of pressure on women here and aside from this, we are away from home comforts and the healthcare here is either frightening or comedy (depending whether you can summon enough positive mental attitude to laugh about things rather than cry). But, somehow, I am really enjoying being pregnant this time. I have been wondering why this is, I have had physical discomforts like before and I really haven't grown up much or become stronger, or wiser, to account for the difference. My conclusion is, that my faith has literally changed my personality. Switch off now, anyone who is cringing, I'm going to talk about God for a minute (He has changed my life after all... )

God's loving me through all 9 months of it
I now understand just how much God loves us all, this brings me comfort and peace through all sorts of physical and emotional challenges. Jesus sacrificed himself for everyone who would ever born (even the worst kind of people capable of the vilest things imaginable). That kind of love, to lay yourself down for people with countless imperfections, is incredible. More incredible even, than a mothers' love for her own children. Jesus didn't even try to make things easier for himself, he went peacefully to the cross like a lamb to slaughter, knowing fully what was ahead of him and at what price he would be buying forgiveness and freedom for us all.

Knowing how much you are truly loved, and how free that love is (whatever mistakes you make, however little you earn it), is the best feeling in the world. The next natural thing is to want to pass that love on to others (there's no shortage of it, after all!). I have more love in my heart for this little baby, for Joni (even on the naughtiest of days) and for Josh (even when, just like me, he misses the 'perfect' mark), than I could have ever experienced before I understood the depth's of God's love for me.

When I was pregnant before, I was striving for success and thought a good life was something to be earned. I  begrudged every change in my body because it was my body, and I didn't want it ruined. Suddenly, even hard work could not make me look slim and rosy-cheeked. I fought bitterly with Josh every time he wasn't the perfect support-mechanism, because I thought he was all I had and I pinned every ridiculous, impossible expectation on him. Josh never became more perfect (obviously, he's a human just like me) but I have released him from 'God-Duty' and love him more than ever as my husband, warts and all. I used my maternity time to set up a business,  rather than waste time falling behind on the career ladder. Even when I reached my professional goals though, I did not find happiness.

When I took a pregnancy test this time away, I sat and waited for the result praying that if it was positive, I would dedicate this child's life to my loving God. Each time I am sick or emotional, I feel God urging me on, encouraging me, reminding me what a beautiful thing is happening inside my body and that He is with me through it all.


  1. Lovely words Nina and love how your perspective has changed and allowed you to enjoy this journey and experience better than last time. Children truly are blessings, a gift from God xxx

  2. Enjoy every second of your pregnancy, Nina! We look forward to seeing you all soon. Lots of love xxxx

  3. I'm praying for your growing family. You guys are the best and are so right where God wants you. I can feel a sense of His joy for you as I think about you guys. Much love!

  4. I've loved every bit of this. I wish I were there to receive (should say give out) those chocolates! Not that I don't consume way more than my daily share already. :) I especially felt warm inside reading about your pregnancy. God is so good! You expressed it so well. His unending, excessively deep love for us is hard to comprehend, even to accept, but it is the true-est, most authentic and beautiful gift in the world. I miss you hanging out with you ! Grateful for the eternity we'll have in heaven together... Sending you lots of love from Nepal!! mel

  5. Lovely post, and appreciate the introspection at the end! Glad to hear how God has been working in your heart during this pregnancy and transitional time in Ukraine. Praying for you and miss you guys! And post some pics of your surely cute baby belly! Love from Nepal, Jenny (for Dave, Naomi, Aida & Phoebe)

  6. Made me cry. We worship a God who has made truth human. Much love. Caroline