Hello friends! Like I said in my little intro tagged onto Richelle's post, one of my very favorite things to do is to sit down to have conversations with dear friends over good coffee. It seems like I'm in good company since a number of the other ladies have said the same thing! Wouldn't we all have a great time if we could meet together in one place over coffee or tea? Heaven is going to be wonderful for things just like that!
My name is Ashley, and I've been living in Russia for the past 7 years. And though for our first 3 years we lived in Krasnodar, which is near the Black Sea and actually quite warm for most of the year, we now live in St. Petersburg where we have snow for about five months of the year. It gets really cold!! The snow has finally melted now, although the view out of my hospital window when our spring baby was born in early April was a complete blanket of white! The spiritual climate here feels much like the weather. Cold. We seek to love people and share the gospel often and pray for the Lord to move in people's hearts, but it is a slow process that can at times be discouraging. We praise the Lord for the fruit that He brings forth as His love melts through hearts, and we continually ask Him to thaw out this country that has turned cold to Him.
Richelle asked about my 10-year old vision of my future that I had mentioned. It was rather "unique," shall we say. When I was ten, I dreamed of being a ballerina living in Manhattan... on a farm. (I had obviously never been to Manhattan!). I also envisioned myself wearing a black wide-brimmed hat like Audrey Hepburn, sunglasses, and a leopard print dress, walking on my way to my ballet classes with my pet miniature pot-bellied pig on a leash! I don't know that I have actually praised the Lord that I didn't end up where I had planned at that time, but perhaps I should!
served or one year in China and had very much expected to return there long-term. But, when I returned to finish school, I met a similarly missions-minded man who felt specifically called to Russia, and we fell in love and got married! His calling to Russia was very much in line with what God had put on my heart. I desired to serve in a place where people would not be able to easily hear the gospel even if they were actively searching for truth. That is very true of the situation in Russia, as the orthodox churches here rarely preach the gospel and have a very works and traditions based idea of salvation.
Richelle also asked: What's your favorite thing about being an expat mama? What the most challenging thing? I answered this past week's Tuesday Topic, which was similar, so here are another two.
One favorite thing is the amazing community of believers that I am blessed to serve alongside of. I love that I get to share life closely with some amazing brothers and sisters in Christ and love how we get to not only share ministry together, but also get to serve one another in times of need, pray for each other, share holidays and celebrations together, and get to enjoy caring for one another on a deeper level than I have experienced many other places in my life.
One of the greatest challenges that I am keenly aware of right now is the pain felt when members of my community leave for one reason or another or when we have to uproot from our beloved community of believers (whether foreigners move back to home countries, Russian friends relocate to other cities, or we ourselves move). I know that all of you can relate so easily to this heartache. Some of our very dearest friends who have been our neighbors and like very close family to us for the past seven years just moved back to the US a little over a week ago. It was such a painful goodbye and the void left will be deeply felt for years to come as we have shared so much of our lives together for so long. "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21
That's a great question, Olive! Sometimes I don't have the answer! Ha ha! No, though this hasn't been the easiest of our adjustments when welcoming a new little one, God has helped me to find some moments of peace and means of sanity. Probably the first is just praying and getting time in the word. It is far from un-interrupted or lengthy, but I have really needed to be immersed in truth and praying for peace and strength in order to stay sane. Another thing that has helped me is to not worry about what my baby "should" be doing. I know he "should" sleep this amount at each nap (which he refuses to do), and he "should" only sleep in his bed, and he "should" be going to bed a such-and-such a time, but with our schedule and 3 other kids, all of the "shoulds" are just too impossible to abide by. I've decided to not worry about what the books say and to just do what works for us. When I do that, our life is much more sane and baby and I are both much happier. I can feel the stress rising though when I start to become concerned about the "shoulds" that I just can't do.
We're going to take a little break from the "Meet the Missionary Moms" series for a bit, so instead of introducing our next mom friend, I wanted to ask how we can be praying for one another. Please share a prayer request or two in the comments, and let's bless one another in prayer!