Saturday, March 31, 2012

Finding our way...

By the way, that sign is pointing in the direction of a "Bureau of Employment."  Glad we don't need one of those. n

Friday, March 30, 2012


We had time change today.  Pretty awesome to know you are on Jerusalem time, don't you think?  But, actually, we are always in the same time zone as Israel when we are in Ukraine.  The only difference is that our time changes happens on different calendar days.  {Ukraine's time change was a week ago.}

The Sabbath starts on Friday evenings at sundown and lasts until sundown on Saturday evenings.  The whole country pretty much shuts down on this day and it is truly a day of rest.  On Sundays, everyone goes back to work and school.

And, kids in America and Ukraine (and anywhere else you might be reading from)... be grateful.  Jewish kids have school six days a week (Sunday - Friday).  My kids are in a hurry to finish up this school year, so they do not mind adapting to this little cultural point for awhile.  Could be that they only have one week of school left, though.  Somehow I don't think they will be so obliging to the idea of a six-day work week once they get into the grind of a new school year.

{And, yes, my studious students have worked very hard to finish up early.}

Enjoy your weekend of rest, my fabulous friends.  Your comments leave me overwhelmed, and I am humbled that you would take the time to read these posts and go a step further to share some love.  Please know how truly grateful I am for each of you.  You have made this transition time in our lives much easier with your prayers, love, and words of encouragement!

Nehemiah 13:19a And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: 

Leviticus 23:32 It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


I was in the grocery store today and saw boxes of "Matzo" lined up in a prominent place on the shelves. (picture below)  That is when I thought that a good place to start on talking about Israel is the big, upcoming holiday, the Passover.  Kids are out of school for two weeks, so it is pretty hard to miss the excitement in the air...
Don't mistake Passover with Easter.  Even though they are celebrated relatively around the same time each year, they are two completely different holidays for two completely different cultures.

Passover commemorates the Exodus, the freedom from slavery of the children of Israel from ancient Egypt that followed the ten plagues.  It is a 7-day celebration that begins on April 6th of this year.

When Pharoah freed the Israelites, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for the bread dough (leaven) to rise.

Matzo is a symbol of the Passover holiday and is made solely from flour and water.  It has been called "bread of poverty,"  serving as a symbol to remind Jews what it is like to be a poor slave and to promote humility and an appreciation for freedom.
Matzoh for Passover
During the week of Passover, observing Jews do not eat any bread that has been leavened with yeast.  Not only are they to refrain from eating it, but they are also to rid their homes of it, as well as their domains (work space, cars, etc...)

Observant Jews spend the weeks before Passover in a flurry of thorough housecleaning, to remove every morsel of leaven from every part of the home.  Even the cracks of kitchen counters are thoroughly scrubbed to remove any traces of flour and yeast, however small.

A couple of years ago, we visited a Jewish family in their home, in Ukraine.  That visit just happened to fall during Passover week, and we couldn't help but notice all of the foil that was covering the kitchen cabinets, appliances, etc.  The foil was used to cover any areas that possibly had remaining traces of bread crumbs.

Here are some pictures that I found online that will give you an idea of the cleaning and preparation for Passover:

If you really want to learn more about the cleaning process and Passover laws and customs, you can start by reading here.  I think you will be surprised at how much work is involved!

In the future when you read the below verses in your Bibles (though there are many more than the ones I have listed), you will have a better picture in your minds of what the Passover means to the Jewish people and why unleavened bread is still a part of their culture.  This is all a part of my attempt at helping make the Bible come alive to you (and me)!..... 

Exodus 12:39  And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual.

Exodus 13:7
Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Tour Israel series" Button

In case my other blogging friends are interested, I have created another button for your sidebars.  This one will direct your readers right to any posts labeled "Israel" on this blog.  Since there are many posts to come on this topic in the near future, I am hoping this will be a great resource for you and your readers.  

The fun is about to begin, so come on over {and invite some friends along with you}!
Tour Israel series
And, just in case you were wondering, I typically only blog 1.4 times a week.  Yes, I know... the exactness of that statistic is pretty humorous, but I just checked out my blog stats and that is the number I was shown.  

However, you are going to be seeing me around in blog-o-world a lot more often while we are in Israel.  Typically, I guess you could say I have a personal conviction about how often a person should spend on the computer... especially when that person, like me, has many, many other things {ahem, people} that need my time.  And those precious people are oh, so much more important than this screen I am looking at.  

Anyway, what is my personal threshold for how often a person should blog?  Well, apparently for me that has come to the grand total of 1.4 times a week, {though my goal is twice a week}.  You other bloggers have to make the decision of how often you should blog for yourselves.  I'm just a "1.4" gal.

Really, my blogging "time goal" is simple: more than anything, I don't want my kids to think of me as a "computer mom."  In fact, I don't want them to think that their mom knows much of anything about a computer so I try to sneak in my posts and e-mailing when they are not looking.  Also, I don't want to use my blog to show the world that I'm a great mom (like seems to be a popular blogging trend).... I'd rather spend time just being a great mom.

But, for these two following reasons, I am going to be blogging more over the next couple of months:
1)  Hubby is encouraging it.  This is definitely #1 for me.  
2)  I have the time.  We only came to Israel with small suitcases and some schoolbooks.  We are living in a small apartment that only takes a few moments here and there to keep clean.  There are no measuring cups, measuring spoons, or baking utensils to encourage me to bake (and I'm already missing it.)  

Hubby and I were sitting at the park together the other day, and he said, "Our children are always going to have an affinity for Israel and Jews because of this time of playing right alongside them in their homeland each day."  A moving statement to this Mom.  I love it.

So, since hubby is encouraging me and since I have the extra time for awhile, I am making an online journal for my children to encourage that lifelong affinity.  If you are blessed and learn more about the Bible and Israel in the process, then I will consider this undertaking a success.    

So, stay tuned....!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

With Love from.... Israel!

See what I've been working on?  Yep... a new blog design!  I didn't think it would make a whole lot of sense to be posting from Israel on a blog that is called "With Love from Ukraine."  Might get kind of confusing.  So, while we are here, this will be my header.  When we go back to Ukraine, I'll just change the wording of the new design back to what it was.  

{My four lovelies are standing in front of the Mediterranean Sea, which is just blocks away from our apartment here.  But more on that later....}

I have really gone around in circles about the direction of this blog.  I seriously considered just closing it down for three months.  Even more seriously, I thought about starting a completely second blog, but then reconsidered for fear I would lose about half of you with the address change.  I looked into turning this into a private blog, but FeedBurner does not support private blogs.  Feedburner is the service that delivers my blog posts to your inbox, if you are among the nearly 500 {really incredible} people who read this blog that way.  But why all the fuss? you ask.  {Whew, I'm so glad you asked!}  Well, in this part of the world we have to be careful when posting about our faith and work on a public forum.  We have already spoken with our close family about this and asked them to be careful in telephone conversations and in e-mails to us in regards to this.  I am trying to be as discreet in my explanation as possible, so please be patient...  Okay, here we go...

Do you remember my {fairly} regular Monday posts I have been writing about hubby's line of work?  Well, I will not be writing such posts until we return to Ukraine.  So, the next 2 1/2 months of this blog will be dedicated only to blogging about Israel and the things we are learning, seeing, and experiencing here.  If you are still clueless as to what I am talking about, I ask you to please just keep wondering about it silently.  I will not be able to e-mail you an explanation.

We are living in a modern-day version of the Old Testament.  The Old Testament laws and rituals are still faithfully practiced and our neighbors are still eagerly waiting for the Messiah.  Have you ever stopped to think about what that really means?

Anyway, for those of you who do understand what I am talking about, I really felt like I owed you an explanation.  I know that you have come to expect a certain amount of content about our labors, and I just didn't feel comfortable continuing posting without explaining why some things are going to be left unsaid (hence, the recent silence).  I really think a lot of you are intrigued to see why our Father sent us away from Ukraine temporarily.  I am pretty intrigued myself, to be honest!  However, opportunity abounds all around and it is not hard to understand just what He might have in mind.

Thank you, sweet friends, for your understanding.  We are all settled in, terribly behind on e-mails, missing Ukraine like crazy, but gearing up to post more than ever before over the weeks that follow!  We are soaking things in daily and I am just dying to start sharing with you some of what we are experiencing.  So, gear up, my friends, and invite your pals on over.  We are about to start touring the beautiful holy land of Israel, and I don't think you are going to want to miss out!

Sunday, March 11, 2012


My blog has been quiet and there is a reason.  We have been packing this week.  Our airplane takes off tomorrow at 7:00am from our lovely, comfortable little city of Simferopol.... our home.

And where are we headed, you ask?  We are leaving for Israel for three months.  Our visas were denied, and it is a long explanation as to why, but the easiest way to explain it is by saying that it has a lot to do with the region of Ukraine in which we live.

Instead of returning to America to wait until summer, we are going to continue our work... just in a different location.  Our hearts are torn in two different directions.  Of course, we want to stay here where it is comfortable and where we are already accepted, loved, and happy to be.  But, on the other hand, we have come to see how the Lord is asking us to follow His leading over the next three months.

This new direction is a little scary and a step into the unknown.  But, we are trusting our Father and His path for us.  We want what our Father wants, and this decision comes as a result of long hours of prayer and counsel.

As hubby's Uncle Tommy Ashcraft wrote in an e-mail to us today, "The field is the world, but we all have attachments to the places where God has called us."  That pretty much sums up how we feel.

Please keep us in your prayers, my wonderful friends, and I will update you when I can.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Fresh from the oven...

I love the bread here.  It {usually} has no preservatives, and, even though it does not last very long (just a day or two before it hardens), it is soooo good when it is fresh!
{Below} It is a normal sight to see trucks unloading unwrapped loaves of bread like this...
{Below} Loaves are sold in the store, and are left unwrapped until you order it.  You can even order just a half or a quarter of a loaf and watch them grab a knife and cut it for you!

{Below} This is what the bread looks like in our particular grocery store.  It is typically not square, but round or oblong like French bread.  We are supplied with bags (think of bagging your own fruits in America), and we can choose from a variety of shapes and sizes.
{Below} Bread plays a very important role in Ukrainian culture.  It is used to celebrate Easter, weddings, Christmas, etc., and is found in every home, rich or poor.  It is a daily staple to Ukrainian life!
{Below} We buy several loaves a week and freeze them.  Many times when we get home from the grocery store with our bread, it is still warm!  We purposefully leave our loaves in the freezer until we are ready to eat it, and then we thaw it in the microwave and serve it warm.  Nothing better!

One thing we really enjoy laughing about is the way that people handle bread here.  Many times you can see it unwrapped, laying in the back window ledge of a vehicle.  Or sometimes you can see it sticking (unwrapped) out of a lady's purse.  Or better yet, we have seen it under men's arms, being carried like a newspaper!  Not making this stuff up, folks.  Sometimes we like to call it "the football."

So, wanna know how much a loaf of bread costs here?  Ready for it....?

about 40-50 cents for one of those fresh babies!

Who is ready to move to Ukraine now?

Even hubby, who didn't think he could survive in a country without tortillas (remember that he grew up as a second-generation missionary kid) is making it just fine here.  Oh, no... more than just fine!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Being a baby in Ukraine

To be a baby in Ukraine means you live the privileged life.  Oh sure, in this country water gets turned off, power outages happen and many people still use public transportation.  But, um..... those are adult problems.  

{Below}  Micah James Sloan, 13 months, wearing his Ukrainian clothes and shoes
Since most Ukrainians only have one baby (or two, at most), babies get oodles of attention here.  When one of these little fellas live in a home, they are the focus of all who live under that roof.  So, eat your hearts out, American babies.  You may have Babies 'R Us, but look at what we have...

(A fun little fact list about culture of babies in Ukraine):

1.  When a parent gets on public transportation with a baby, seats all around are instantly vacated.  These little tykes (with their fortunate parents) get first dibs on seats.

2.  Waiting in lines in Ukraine is a normal part of everyday life (post office, stores, government offices, etc.), but if a baby is in the room, the "Red Sea" is parted for the parents to go first.

3. Ukraine still lacks many of the "essentials" (brown sugar, chocolate chips, good peanut butter, Wal-Mart, Target, etc...) but Pampers and Huggies have been around here for a long time.  And, in many places you can buy just one if you need to.  (People can also buy just one cigarette too.... not that we do, of course, but that topic is for another day...)

4.  Though the largest percentage of parents in Ukraine cannot afford vehicles, "baby transportation" is a whole other story.  These little guys have what we like to call the "Mercedes" or "BMWs" of strollers.  No hand-me-downs here!  And many times, these strollers come complete with the whole kitten caboodle... with diaper bags, bottle holders, umbrellas, etc... to match.

5.  Pediatricians here not only recommend, but strongly encourage parents to take their babies out for a "walk" twice a day.... one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening, from the time they are born.  And parents adhere to this rule very seriously.  It is not uncommon to see mosquito nets or plastic coverings over strollers so that they can squeeze as many of these one-hour walks in as possible, despite the weather challenges.

6.  From the time a little one can sit, they are not allowed to sit on concrete anywhere at anytime.  Concrete is naturally cool, and it is considered unhealthy to sit on it.  And if it is hot during the summer?  Doesn't matter.  No concrete!

7.  Children are not allowed to drink cold drinks under any condition (even on hot days).  Everything has to be warmed.  We even had a babysitter once who warmed our children's milk before allowing them to eat their breakfast cereal!

8.  Babies do everything early here... from crawling, to sitting, to walking, to potty training.  Parents and grandparents faithfully bend over and help them "walk" when they are just a few months old, and it is rather common for a nine-month-old to walk unassisted.  Parents also give their babies daily exercises and massages, which they are taught to do by their pediatricians.

9.  Have a two-year old in diapers?  That is nearly unheard of in this culture!  Parents and grandparents are faithfully teaching their little ones from the time they are just months old to potty train.

10.  In this country, hats are for all seasons.  Whether they are protecting from the cold or sun, babies wear hats.  Feel a little breeze?  Then be assured that baby will have a hat on, even if it is a warm, summer breeze.

11.  Boys and girls alike wear winter tights and lots and lots of other layers during the winter and even late into spring when the rest of us are shedding our layers.  Layers = Love here!

12.  Have a baby in tote?  Then be prepared for a constant bombardment of opinions from strangers.  It is not considered rude or impolite for strangers here to give their opinion, especially concerning a baby.  Hat not on?  Be sure you will be told to get it on baby quickly before a cold sets in!

13.  If someone is sick or is even slightly sick with a cold, be assured they will not come near your baby.

So, have we adapted to these cultures?  I can pretty much say that we have, though it was certainly not easy at first.  After all, we came to Ukraine with a 3-month-old.  We were new parents and already timid about being in a new environment.  The constant unasked-for opinions were the most difficult hurdle for us to overcome, but we have since learned to smile, do what we are being asked (just put the hat on.... you can always take it off later!), and not argue.  It doesn't matter that WE are the parents and that person is a stranger.  It is easier to just try to live in peace and be neighborly with everyone around than to argue.

Do we follow all of these rules personally?  No, we don't.  But, I do have to say that we have changed somewhat in our thinking about babies.  We take the best of both cultures, add in our own common sense and parent the way we feel is best!

So, don't feel sorry for my little ones growing up on the mission field.  They are quite the pampered bunch, if I say so myself!