October 23, 2008

I love it when the seasons change. The leaves are turning beautiful shades of orange, yellow and reds. I grew up in California and one of the things I have always loved about California is that we have four seasons. Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer. We arrived here in the winter. I am definitely not a big fan of winter. I hate being cold. I don't like that you have to put so many layers of clothing on to go outside. I hate that when you get all bundled up and then go inside again for a minute you either have to roast or you end up with an armful of coats, hats, scarfs and gloves. I don't like not seeing the sun for days at a time and I especially dislike being stuck inside. I'm a California girl. I want to be out in the sunshine. I want my skin to feel warm from the sun when I go outside. I like going barefoot. I like the beautiful colors that springtime brings. We arrived in Ukraine the end of November. The second week we were here it snowed. It was a beautiful snow the first day then it turned to slush and the roads and sidewalks were covered in slushy mud with little streams of muddy water running down them. There were no leaves on the trees and the sky was grey for months. I remember one day when we were in the car with the Ray's and the Andersen's Sister Ray and Sister Andersen were excited about seeing the sun. They were so excited that they wanted to stop and take a picture. That made me really nervous. I really worried about why it was so significant that they wanted a picture. I soon learned that the sun goes down by 4pm in the winter in Ukraine and the sun makes very infrequent visits in the winter months. Needless to say, it was a long winter. It took us awhile to see past the dark dreary skies, the barren trees, and the slushy muddy streets to the beauty of Ukraine.
It seemed like one day we woke up and everything had changed. The sky was blue, the grass was green, flowers were blooming everywhere and the streets were filled with happy people. The parks had children playing in the playgrounds. We noticed beautiful sculptures in the parks.

Suddenly Donetsk was transformed. And so were we. It seems like just as quickly as the first flower bloomed our attitudes changed. Suddenly we were happier. We thought less about all the things we missed and focused more on the work we came here to do.

I learned something last winter. I learned that sometimes we can't see what lies ahead of us. Sometimes we just have to trust that life won't always be like it is right now. I know there have been times in my life when I have been in despair and I have wondered, "will this pain ever go away, will I ever feel happy again". Last winter taught me that on the other side of the pain is something more beautiful than we can imagine. I had no idea how beautiful springtime in Ukraine would be. Sometimes we just have to hang on and wait. We can't always see what lies ahead so we just have to be patient.

I learned another really valuable lesson last winter. Some days we woke up to a fresh coat of snow on the ground. It really was beautiful. I learned that if I started the day longing for home, I would miss the beauty of that day. I learned that winter brought wonderful gifts too just as spring and summer did. I learned that if I changed my attitude I would find joy in each day even if I didn't see the sun. I learned to stop longing for what I didn't have and to appreciate what I did have. I learned to count my blessings. I learned to start and end each day in gratitude.

So today I just wanted to say,

HELLO FALL, I am enjoying your beautiful leaves that gently blow in the breeze. I am enjoying your cool crisp air. I know that you will only stay awhile and then winter will come. So when I wake up tomorrow I will be full of gratitude for the gifts you have showered us with.

3 messages from friends and family:

Jane Anne said...

great analogy about waiting for the sun to come! I wondered about the darkness and sun during the winter over there. While it is sometimes gray and dull here during the winter, there are also lots of days when we still have sun, even if it's bitter cold.

I think winter is probably a hard time to arrive in Ukraine, especially for the sun lovers.
I heard somewhere that we should all be in the sun for at least 15 minutes a day to help keep us emotionally healthy...it literally helps us be happy.

I love the sun too!

oohh maybe that's another analogy:)

dixiewhitehead said...

The sun NEVER DOESN'T shine where I live. One can really get used to the blue skies every day. Not unlike where you are from, I think. (Sorry about all the double negatives.) Just another example of how we can do and get through anything when we're on the Lord's errand and have His help.

I appreciate your comments and I am going to copy and paste your observations and wisdom about thriving in the fall and winter in Ukraine in an email to my son. I think it will help this year.

A lady I work with, who is a returned missionary, suggested that the missionaries should visit a tanning bed once a week during the winter so that can get enough sunlight and vitamin K. While the thought of that made me laugh a little, it does hold some wisdom.

Jane Anne said...

It's me again...I also heard that someone sent their son a mood light he would study under every day for the same reason. I wonder what would be practical for a missonary...

Saints in Ukraine (put music on pause)

My music

click on the photo to see the captions

Armenia Trip

Our last Zone Conference

Some of the faces we will miss

Our trip to Mariupol

March Zone Conference in Donetsk(click on photo to view a larger version)

Missionaries helping the International Relief Development unload a container from America

Health Fair click on the photo to see what is coming up

To listen to this talk you will need to put the music on pause first

Sometimes we forget what divine gifts we have been given. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


Look at the fun equipment we got to deliver to this internat for Special Needs children

Europe East Area District Meeting


OUR APARTMENT (this is not an average missionary apartment)




Click on photo to see more photos of the Open House at the Kalininsky blg