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Showing posts from 2009

The implications of inheritance

He brought out his people with rejoicing, his chosen ones with shouts of joy; he gave them the lands of the nations, and they fell heir to what others had toiled for -that they might keep his precepts and observe his laws. Praise the LORD.(Ps. 105:43-45)

This is one of those "happy ending" Psalms. Their journey is complete; they have reached the Promised Land. Praise the Lord.


There is one tiny little assignment left....remain faithful to the Lord's precepts.

Have you ever received a great honor, only to realize that with it comes great responsibility?

What a privilege to be called the sons of God! Our sins are washed away, and we are justified by FAITH. But how convicting at the same time!

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. -Eph. 4:1

Advice for educators

It is interesting alternating between teaching English and attending Russian classes, because I can make observations from both points of view. For example, I have more motivation to do homework because I know what it's like to be a teacher. ;)

There was certain advice we were given in training about teaching adults, but I haven't been able to apply it all yet. However, I was able to test it out while being a student, and found that there are a few areas where teachers really do need to plan carefully and pay attention to students' needs.

1) Making lessons "fun"

I always have a dilemma when planning for Sunday school because I know the kids like to get up and move around, but I hate the kinds of games that have just one winner. So I look for activities that have an "everyone wins" objective, which aren't always so popular. more/-
But that's with children. Adults, of course, can handle a little competition. But as far as making the lesson "fun,&…

Christmas myths and legends

Christmas legends...some of them are harmless; others, not so much.

I finally watched "The Nativity Story" recently. I had bought it after the holidays last year and waited the whole year. :)

The film provided some interesting material for meditation, although there were a few pieces of story that felt like they were placed there out of tradition rather than through careful research.

For example:
-The wise men arrive at the same time as the shepherds (this doesn't count as a spoiler:)). I had liked the portrayal of their journey, but why ruin the chronology?
-Mary rides on a donkey. For some reason this is in all the Christmas stories, but is not actually mentioned in Scripture!

Then, on Christmas Day, I opened up a news site to find the following headline: Was Jesus Wealthy?

Obviously not, you say. But apparently certain churches follow a different teaching, and this made the news.

The article mentions, "[Pastor] Anderson says Jesus couldn't have been poor b…

Merry Christmas!

(Just modeling some Christmas gifts!)

On spending the holidays "away from home"

Spending your first holiday in a new home? Or overseas?

This is my first Christmas in Russia. But I remember my first Thanksgiving here very well. Some missionaries invited me over for dinner. My hosts had cooked a turkey and mashed potatoes, but many of the Russian guests brought Russian salads that they had purchased on the way to the party. It was good food...but not what I was used to.

Even if you haven't moved, everything changes as seasons of life change. One year everyone is fighting over the decorations; the next year no one wants to help at all. One year everyone is up until 2am drinking eggnog; the next year they are all tired from the work week and want to go to bed early.

Therefore, it's important to adjust your expectations, and, even better, to come up with your own traditions that you can add to and change as you like, because they're yours! more/-
Recently, I watched "The Nativity Story" for the first time. As I watched the camels making their way ac…

The calendar...

Oh well, I'll have to post this without the other photos...

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been working on a new kind of Advent calendar this year, and I finally got caught up recently. This happens every year: I get behind and then end up finishing it after Christmas so that it will at least be done.

Now, a few days before Christmas, I am finally on track.

I have liked the pattern I'm using this year. The pictures are Medieval in style and I'm using paper collage with bright origami paper that might never be used for its intended purpose. It is fun to just make a few simple cuts and end up with a colorful picture.

Also, the tape I'm using is really weak, so it creates an interesting pop-out effect as it loses its stick.

Some of the figures aren't easy to recognize, but we do the Scripture readings, so we understand what they mean; that's the important thing.

Unfortunately, I will probably have to look for a new idea for next year. :( I just ca…

The weather report

Grrrrrrrrr. Blogger is loading my pictures for my other post sideways.

I will have to resort to Plan B and write about the weather. :)

I scoffed a bit when people were talking about a "blizzard" in St. Petersburg. But we did, in fact, get several inches of snow, which actually stuck. It is looking pretty wintry around here!

Of greater significance is the fact that today is December 22, which means that YESTERDAY was the shortest day of the year.

Spring is coming! :)

In Defense of Russian Medicine

I read an interesting blog post recently challenging someone's advice to those traveling in Russia.

She advised foreigners to avoid Russian hospitals; he suggested that she was being a little too judgmental, and went on to defend Russian medicine.

I reviewed a book last year that offered great insight into the Russian approach toward medicine.

I would agree that we are too quick to judge, and too quick to fear what for many people here is considered normal. In many ways the conditions are less comfortable than desired. But is the care any less effective? Mistakes are made, but do they exceed the mistakes made by U.S. doctors?

I agree that travelers should avoid landing in the hospital, but not because the care is inadequate. The main reason is that it is different from what you would expect at home. It's hard to be sick and experiencing culture shock at the same time. If it does happen to you, the best thing is to cooperate with the doctors and try to "relax" as much as …

The presentation

I might as well share about my presentation since I had asked everyone for advice. I needed to find an interesting cultural topic.

Well, I prepared a few ideas, and the one that my teacher approved was a description of the U.S. school system. She encouraged me to find interesting contrasts and bring in school photos.

I know, it sounds boring... but the school system in Russia, like queuing, is one of those key factors that serves as an instrument for studying culture.

On the day of the presentation, I was last to go...other topics included vodka, Russian rock music, an Irish film review, and a discussion about teaching English abroad. Yes, I had definitely chosen a "boring" topic. But it generated a bit of discussion. more/-
My conversation teacher and classmates, at our end-of-semester tea party:

We got our grades immediately after the presentations, and I could write a whole dissertation on the grading system alone.

1) She announced our grades ALOUD! A major no-no in American cu…

Whose nickname?

I was a bit taken aback a few years ago as I walked down the street and spotted a billboard saying "Russia-the land of opportunity."

Well, how would YOU react?

I think it's fair to say that this nickname more often refers to the U.S....

However, in class recently my Lexicon teacher noted that is it actually RUSSIA who was called the "Land of Opportunity" in the 18th century, more than a hundred years before the concept of the American Dream came into being. This referred not only to opportunities for foreigners to make a nice living for themselves, but to Russians who were close to the tsar and could receive many desired benefits. +/-
In a way, we are all looking for the "Land of Opportunity" when we move to a different city, neighborhood, or even a new position in our work or ministry. We try to make the best choice based on a number of factors. In general, we are looking for something better than what we have at the moment.

Stephen Curtis Chapman has a s…

How to "build" a Christmas tree

I know where Christmas trees come from.

First, some big machines make a structure...

Step 2/-
Then it is covered with green material....all ready to be decorated!

Trying new things

I have always been intimidated by the open-air market, for three reasons: 1) Having to speak Russian. 2) Unfamiliar hygienic conditions and business ethics (based on rumors I've heard). 3) The smell and sight of the raw meat.

Okay, that was my little confession. I get bored with the selection in modern supermarkets, and the conditions are probably not any better. A few days ago I was craving grape leaves, and decided to stop at a nearby market after class.

I didn't go near anything that would upset my stomach, and I actually liked seeing the bright arrays of fresh (?) fruits and vegetables. After inquiring about grape leaves, I was directed to the "pickled" section, where I found them without any problem.

I might have to return at some point for some herbs and spices.

One morning

It was another dark morning, but as I examined the sky, it was a shade of deep blue, tinged with turquoise-more colorful than it had been on other mornings.

I remembered looking at photos of the northern sky in a book, and it looked about the same.

When I emerged from the metro, the sky was a light pinkish-lavender.

I thought to myself, "I am going to see the sun today." And I did. Two days in a row...

Picture post

It's Sunday. Time to take a break from thinking and post some photos! Actually, that's not quite true...I have to study for a test. :( But nevertheless, it's good not to be glued to the computer.

Teaching English at the orphanage...

more photos/-

A typical downtown scene.

A night scene with New Year's decor.

With church friends at McDonald's. Where else? :)

Ward 9 roommates

My mom and I went to visit Nastia's mother. As usual, the trip was a bit complicated, though not necessarily stressful. It was about 2 hours in each direction.

Since it was winter, it seemed to take longer than usual to get down the winding road to the hospital. When we got there, it took us some time going up and down the stairs (with bags of groceries) to find the right ward. We remembered approximately where it was, but flu quarantines and construction created some obstacles.

Lena and her roommates were glad to see us. Even the nurse commented that Lena has been more at peace than a few years ago, partly due to knowing that Nastia is safe and well-adjusted in the U.S. Because of the construction, they had lost our contact information, so that had created a little stress as they could no longer connect with us. But now that we had shown up, that fear was gone. continue/-
After saying hello to everyone and looking at photographs, we took the time to have tea with the nurse, whom my…

Jesus and bureaucracy

Paperwork... wouldn't life be different without it? Sometimes I want to just throw it all in the garbage and get on with my LIFE.

But around this time of year, we can remember Mary's condition. Although she may not have given birth in December, if we observe the church calendar, we see Mary and Joseph getting ready to make a journey, all for the sake of paperwork!

Of course this isn't the earliest case in the Bible of people needing to travel for the sake of citizenship, land ownership, etc. But we know that at least this example of life's worries was not unknown to Christ. In human form, he wasn't exempt from it.

Scripture tells me, "The Son of Man has no place to lay his head."* Do I really have anything to complain about? Or, to look at it differently, is there any situation that the Lord does not understand? Does He lack compassion?

*Matthew 8:20

Baby shower

On Saturday we had our first church baby shower. It was fun because a lot of the guests and the mother-to-be had never been to one, so it was truly a surprise.

continue/-Everyone decided that I should be in charge since it was an American tradition. But I have to admit that I felt pretty overwhelmed and ended up delegating most of the responsibilities to other people. We had found a lot of elaborate ideas online, but it was hard to actually make it come about.

First of all, you can’t just go to one supermarket here and find a party section with everything you need. I think I went to about 5 different stores looking for the right kind of balloons. Also, another girl and I were working on a scrapbook to give the mother-to-be, but we could only find a few hours on Saturday afternoons when we were both free. After two sessions, we only had a few pages done and were running out of time. So that remained unfinished…oops!

But it was a fun time, overall. :) (Don't try looking for me in this …


The quest for temporary residency continues...

My dad prepared a surprise for me. Some of my documents were ready and he was able to send them with my mom.

So now I have in my possession:

-my FBI background check
-my birth certificate

I wasn't even really thinking about it since it was out of my hands, so it was a nice surprise.

What next? I'm not sure. I feel a bit scattered. I need to get some advice since I am hoping to apply after New Year's!

A visitor

My mom has arrived! Here's the proof...

By the way

I need your input! Scroll down* to read how you can help me with a homework assignment.

A lot of things happen in Russia "by the way." As in, "I forgot to mention that..."

BY THE WAY, my phone number doesn't work anymore.

BY THE WAY, the tram isn't running.

BY THE WAY, I'm getting married.

BY THE WAY, the bank is closed for lunch.

And this is how I learned about my latest assignment for conversation class. more/-
On Wednesday, the instructor suddenly said,

"BY THE WAY, you're having your final exam next Wednesday. You need to prepare a 20-minute presentation." Wha...? I don't mind presentations, but isn't this a little sudden?

*So I need to pick a topic by Monday. I need ideas!

These are some of the topics we covered during the semester: Russian hospitality, the meaning of hand gestures, Russian flags and symbols, gender theory, advertising, time, housekeeping, healthy lifestyles, and fear.

I need a topic that is fairly universal. Naturally,…


The conversation topic was "fear," and I was the only one in class, with a substitute teacher. She wanted to talk about the train crash.

The teacher knew I was a Christian since we had talked about Christmas the day before. She asked me what I thought about the role God played in such tragedies. Somehow we got to talking about predestination, and I realized that I am not very good at explaining it in Russian.

The next time we had class, our regular teacher was back. She asked us about our childhood fears and then each of us had to tell about a scary situation that had happened to us.

My incident took place a few years ago, but before I started blogging... read/-
I was going home from one of our first worship team practices that had lasted about 4 hours. It was late. The subway train stopped one station before mine, and there was an announcement that it would go no further. Since it was around midnight, I thought maybe it was the last train, and decided to exit the metro and get …

Nota bene

Without speculating too much, I do want to comment on the train crash that occurred last week between Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Although this is no longer "front-page" news in certain places (such as the U.S.), keep in mind that this was a fairly serious event.

The BBC News reported today that an Islamist group has taken responsibility for the attack. Investigations continue. The injured are recovering; funerals are being performed this week.

It's uncertain what role the incident will play in future politics and relations between religious groups. But keep in mind that if you have friends in Russia, this might be something they've been thinking and possibly worrying about in the past few days.


Anybody out there? I haven't been able to write many long posts lately. Maybe that's true for you too if you've begun your holiday preparations.

There are lots of fun things going around here....along with the usual work and play. :)



Decorating for Advent...

...and lots more to come this week. But I'll post when I can!

It's raining meat

Nope, it isn't The Weather Girls. I actually have Psalm 78 on my mind. He rained meat down on them like dust, flying birds like sand on the seashore. (verse 27)

I discovered this psalm a few years ago. I suppose I had read it plenty of times, but never paid much attention. But one day while reading it, the truth of God's faithfulness and the tragedy of the human condition struck me at the same time.

There are so many years of history packed into this one psalm that if you stop to remember each event, you go through a roller coaster of emotions.

First, there is the promise of the people to never forget God's deeds. read more/-
We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,
his power, and the wonders he has done. (v.4)

But that didn't last very long...

They forgot what he had done,
the wonders he had shown them. (v.11)

They continued to sin (v. 17) and tested God, displaying their unbe…

In the news

I am often pretty skeptical about various sources, but it's interesting to read about what is considered news here in St. Petersburg. You probably heard about the recent train "crash." :( I typed up this post before that happened.

Here are a few recent headlines, not quite as heavy:

Swine flu may have been invented for the sake of money
-Wow, really? Only about a year late (though I am not claiming that anyone suffering from the flu is making it up... you have my sympathy)...

Fur coats for little dogs
-To each his own, I guess.

In correctional facility #5, an internet shop has opened
-This was kind of an interesting idea. Relatives can order things for inmates via the Internet, and the packages are prepared right there and delivered. It saves them from standing in huge lines or waiting for mail to come from home with stale food.


Priests are joining the army
-(photo: big burly-looking dude with a priestly beard and headgear, in camouflage) Apparently there are new military sch…

One month old!

The fourth Thursday

What? Today is a holiday?

It was a regular working day in Russia. I actually found it a bit amusing when people asked how I was celebrating Thanksgiving, since I didn't get home until 8 pm. But at the same time, it was really nice how everyone was so thoughtful.

-I had lunch with an American friend who's in town for the week
-a Canadian friend (they celebrated in October) offered to take me out for tea so I wouldn't be depressed about missing the holiday
-the orphanage staff wished me a Happy Thanksgiving and presented me with a chocolate bar
-in the evening, my parents called on the home phone for the first time in two years (we usually use other means of communication:) )

So despite being absorbed with myself and my daily life, I still had plenty of reminders.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Early in the morning

Who likes to get up on a cold, dark morning? Not me...although in the summer I would probably find another excuse.

But as I was going about my morning routine, an excerpt popped into my head:

"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance..." (The Gospel of John, 20:1)

What does morning mean to you? Perhaps it includes a lot of moaning and groaning before you begin your day. But how many wonderful discoveries have been made in the morning! The main one, of course, the discovery of our Risen Lord.

That is my encouragement for the day. :)

Reading in the digital age

Ahhh, books. We were inseparable once. I still occasionally fall asleep with a few books near my pillow.

But let's face it. As we move further in life, it gets harder to stop and sit down with a book. After all, once we get home, there is the computer...

I try to keep technology to a minimum. I have a cell phone (with no internet), and a digital camera that goes with me occasionally. But sometimes I wonder if I am missing out by not having a little screen where I could read books while on the go. I'm physically unable to carry a lot with me, and the light in the public transportation is often too dim for proper reading. more/-
A few electronic books came my way recently, and I thought...hmmm. Is it likely that I'm going to sit at my computer and read them? Maybe a few pages a day?

One of the books is a free download of Gary Thomas' Pure Pleasure. I liked his Sacred Marriage. I don't recommend Googling the term "pure pleasure;" there's some appropriate inf…

"Stained glass" Christmas decorations

This is going to be a picture-less post, but here's a link with some examples if you're visually-inclined:

I had never thought of fake stained glass as something that could be nice to look at. However, once I tried it, I learned that any picture you can draw or trace can be made into a window decoration using special paints. They are translucent when dry, which gives it a more natural look. We are using it as a Christmas craft. I'm not suggesting that you leave them up all year round. :)

The process is really simple and low-tech (for those of you who are doubtful about your craft abilities):

+/- 1) Ask for window-cling paints at your local craft or toy store. You will also need some kind of clear plastic surface to work on.2) Make the outline of your drawing with black paint (or the color of your choice) by placing a pattern underneath your plastic sheet, or by drawing free-hand. * Let dry 1-2 hours, depending on how…

Wagging tongues

We had an interesting topic for conversation class recently...gossip and slander. It was interesting timing since I had recently been thinking about that side of personal relationships.

When it comes down to it, living without gossip is very hard. I mean, it is a very hard habit to quit! When was the last time you had a conversation that wasn't about some absent 3rd party? Maybe the discussion started out innocently enough, but led to some kind of judgment...

In class, we agreed that it was hard to find other topics to talk about. The weather? Even if you try to stay with your own life and that of your conversation partner, many of life's problems are related to other people. For example, what affects your family members or roommate affects you as well. And this isn't necessarily a bad thing. We are made to live in community. continue reading/-
I find it hard to even discuss the topic of gossip without bringing up some example that I'm not at liberty to share.

My teacher …

Visa time

As you may recall, my current visa is good for 90 days. But since it's a student visa, I don't have to leave Russia to extend it.

Sometimes everything is just a little too casual for my liking. For example, I was told that my visa would be changed from a single-entry to a multi-entry when I arrived. But I recently found out that the switch was never made. I guess they had forgotten and I hadn't asked. This happened with a few other documents as well. I usually know enough to ask questions, but I wonder what happens to people who are here for the first time and/or don't speak Russian!

So this is what I had to do to extend my current visa...

Day 1

"I'm here to extend my visa," I announced. +/-
"Through December?" she asked, referring to the original dates.

"Ummm, no, my visa should already be good through December...I wanted to extend it for another 6 months beyond that."

This seemed like new information for her even though we had originally ag…

What the new law means

Recently, a few people have mentioned the new law about foreign "laborers" in Russia. Here's an explanation on someone's blog.

The reality is that mass evangelism has been restricted for awhile. I have heard about things getting "tighter," but I think it depends on what you are doing. Every once in a while you hear of a Bible study somewhere getting broken up, but I think that's fairly rare.

I haven't participated lately in anything that would be against the new proposed law. I know that authorities are especially concerned about anyone that could be taken advantage of, such as invalids or children. They fear that children are "impressionable." (I think Orthodox education of children starts pretty early, but apparently that doesn't count.)

read more/-
Anyway, I can't think of a situation in which this law would apply. I attend a Russian church and there's nothing there that would draw attention to missionaries. I don't do any …

And so it begins

There is no Thanksgiving Day in Russia to count from. Christmas and New Year's decorations can appear at any time. My metro station has had a New Year's tree for about 2 weeks.

Meanwhile, Advent begins on November 29th. In order for the decorations to be ready for the first Sunday, we have to make them now...right?

Lest you think I'm organized, I'm not even THINKING about shopping for gifts yet. In fact, I would like to make them, but somehow I can't see myself finding the time. more/-
For home decorations, I would like to try making this circular Advent calendar (see below). It's the same basic idea as a Jesse Tree, but with a slightly different design. I haven't decided yet which medium to use.

Warding off vampires (sickness?)

I tutor one of the orphanage counselors regularly. We were covering a certain topic and I asked her what she does to avoid getting the flu.

Her first response was that public events and social activities should be canceled for a time. Schools, etc. should be closed to prevent sickness from spreading further.

Then I asked her about her personal approach. She went to her room and returned with a little pouch on a string and explained that one of the other counselors had sewn a bunch by hand for them all to wear.

The woman whom I teach describes herself as "Muslim," but doesn't practice, as far as I know. Meanwhile, the counselor who sewed the pouches is Russian Orthodox.

"What do you do with it?" I asked, fearing some kind of witchcraft. Even among Russian Orthodox believers, some remedies border on paganism.

"You put garlic inside," she said. That wasn't as bad as I thought. If you can eat garlic as a remedy, maybe wearing it also does something? Not so…

On your side, Part 2

Read this one first.

I didn't mean to understate the importance of solid, supportive relationships. I just wanted to emphasize the one perfect source of comfort. Not only will He not disappoint, but He will always receive me when I've made stupid mistakes.

Today I read Psalm 62: "My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. " (I immediately remembered the John Michael Talbot song.)

Of course we cannot overlook the friends in our lives who are a testimony of God's provision. But it takes wisdom to know whom to turn to in each situation and which words to say.

I will leave it at that.

On your side

In the midst of conflict, there is often a temptation to run to someone who will take our side. And why not? There's nothing inherently wrong with the desire to be understood. This is the way we have been created.

The problem is that we don't always represent the whole story. Maybe we don't consciously think about escaping blame, but in crafting our story, we leave out certain bits of information and neglect others. We pick up the phone or sit down at the computer to "pour our heart out" to someone who doesn't really know the whole situation.

This is a bad idea on two counts: 1) Sharing about a situation can quickly turn to gossip. 2) We are not confronting the source of the problem. continue/-As a missionary, of course, there is the temptation to run to one's home culture and seek sympathy there. But our lines shouldn't be drawn in such a way. The "us" should refer to the Church, not to culture.

Sometimes I realize that if I open my mouth, I …

In which we take a creative pause

When we visited the far-off orphanage this time, the counselor was waiting for us with a drawing assignment. Their group's entry for a poster contest was due, and they hadn't started yet. It reminded me of a time at camp when our team showed up with all our equipment and asked what we could do to help, and the answer was the a poster for the contest. Why not?

So we helped with the poster. I don't know that we draw any better than the kids, but at least we could boost motivation a little by getting into it.


My grammar teacher said that St. Petersburg hasn't had a real winter for awhile. I suppose she is right. It has been pretty mild for the past few years.

And this year....will winter return?

A Russian teacher's wisdom

Valentina is not your typical substitute teacher.

She fills in for other teachers, but she is actually quite experienced and the author of our textbook.

Today I had planned to do a presentation that was originally due Monday. Somehow our presentations have a habit of being postponed. This time, my classmate had agreed to help, and even brought her elephant prop (long story).

But when we walked into class, there was Valentina, instead of our regular teacher. And she quickly got down to business. She has a great sense of humor, and I enjoy her teaching style.

Here is one Valentina-ism:

She was putting the word “bench” into context. +/-“In St. Petersburg, the mayor ordered that metal benches be put in at the bus stops. They used to be wooden, but now they’re metal. The first reason is that no one sits on metal. This way, they keep moving instead of loitering. The second reason is that no one will be able to break them.”

Meanwhile, we had a 10-minute break and Valentina and I were alone in the…

Stop-start life

Poor bunny, that carrot doesn't seem so appealing to him right now.

As much as I've tried to get on a regular schedule this fall, I seem to get bursts of energy and then crash.

One of my textbooks pointed out that this is part of Russian culture and is a remnant of peasant life: periods of quiet, alternating with intense periods of labor, due to the harvest season.

Last week was school vacation week, so I didn't have to go to the orphanage in the afternoons. Not to mention, November 4th was "Unity Day," so I had a whole day off. I was planning to spend the week catching up with friends whom I haven't seen since getting back to Russia. But I got sick right after the church retreat, and had very little energy to do anything other than attend class in the mornings. more/-
I was a bit nervous about this being a full work week. It sounded so daunting. I realize that for most people, this is normal life, but it felt like I had had a lot of false starts and then got int…

An evening in the "Cultural Capital"

A friend and I went to a concert in the Lutheran Church of Saint Peter and Paul. It's one of those familiar buildings on Nevskii Prospect that you may have walked by several times, but never entered.

read more/-Or you may have peeked inside, but did you continue up the winding staircase into the sanctuary?

During Soviet times, churches were remodeled to serve secular purposes. This one was a swimming pool, as is still evident from the bleachers. It was restored after the fall of the Soviet Union, and gets plenty of use as a church today. Some of my friends were married here.

Oh, and the concert. It featured a combination of brass and organ, with such composers as Bach, Stanley, Telemann, Pachelbel (you can guess which piece), and Vivaldi. Lots of old favorites.

The path of life

If the LORD delights in a man's way,
he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand.
-Ps. 37:23,24

Faux pas

Some of my Russian friends recently brought up the topic of reading your Bible in public transportation. Apparently, in Orthodox culture, it is frowned upon.

Various arguments:
-you are doing your spiritual works “before men” (as the Pharisees)
-you are not giving proper respect to the Word of God, by opening it in such a place
-you have clearly not set aside a separate time for reading and meditating on the Word, since you are reading in while in transit

I was a little surprised by the discussion, but I realized that Americans are very casual in general about such things. I never think twice about where I place my Bible, how I write in it, when/where I read it, etc. Obviously I think about what works the best for me, but it is rare that I consider how it looks to others or to someone from another culture. I was chastised once by a Russian friend for putting my Bible in the bag with my change of shoes on the home way from church. Oops! more/-
It’s possible that Russian Orthodoxy is closer …

Otherwise occupied

I was going to write an interesting post today, but I had a visit from a friend who has been absent much too often lately! So I wouldn't have traded it for anything...

We are making a surprise for someone. Shhhh....

Russian language help

I was doing a search recently for something related to St. Petersburg, and ran across a Russian language podcast.

It features a 20-minute lesson with background, vocabulary explanation, and a short dialogue (transcript included).

The podcast host speaks real-l-ly slowly, but at least she's a native speaker and her intonation and pronunciation sound natural. If you are at an intermediate level in Russian, this is for you. The topics are practical and if you are disciplined enough to practice the vocabulary, you just might see some improvement!

Check out the site.

The wrong exam

I prepared for the wrong exam.

But to rewind a little bit...recently, I was thinking about how happy I am. I feel almost guilty about it. My life isn't perfect, but what do I have to complain about, really?

The funny thing is that nothing has happened the way I expected. I had imagined a different kind of life for myself. I went through life gathering little bits of wisdom for myself, intending them for a certain plan. It was a kind of American Dream...maybe not in the sense of wealth, but it still had the elements that young people often dream of.

And then I found myself in Russia and realized that the things that I had learned weren't necessarily helpful. more/-
In studying for exams, Russian students normally prepare answers for a number of topics, and then on exam day they choose a "ticket" containing the question that they will answer. It just so happens that I drew a ticket that wasn't on my list. In life, I mean. It's not that I want to exchange it, it…

Beautiful fall

We had about 4 days of stupendous weather! I felt like I was in heaven. No, it wasn't warm (it is November, after all), but the sun was shining!

Active and Passive

This isn't a grammar lesson. It is, perhaps, a life lesson!

I was talking with a friend about ways to avoid depression. I know I've mentioned it before, but one of my methods is to write things down. It forces me to identify just what it is that's bothering me, and give it up to God. And of course I write letters to people, too. Or blog posts.

And then I asked my friend...You don't feel sad when you're in the midst of DOING something, do you? Talking to a friend, going to church...

No, she didn't.

Loneliness is certainly a part of the equation. But when I thought about how writing helps, I remembered my teacher-training, and the various skill areas that we talked about. +/-
-Writing and speaking are active skills.
-Reading and listening are passive (and here you could include watching TV, browsing the Internet, etc.), in that we receive input.

The passive skills are an important part of life. But let's be honest...they leave room for idleness. We can lose ourselv…

Annual retreat

This weekend I went on a 24-hour church retreat. It was a great way to spend Halloween weekend. No offense to anyone who went trick-or-treating, but Halloween is one American holiday which I don't miss! :)

It was a double blessing because it DIDN'T RAIN all weekend! It was sooooo nice to see the sun (even though the days are very short).

On Friday evening, everyone made their way to the retreat after work. A few church members cooked supper, which we ate before beginning the worship service.


Throughout Friday evening and Saturday until closing, we shared "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" and had lessons on various topics for the purpose of edification.

As usual, we went home tired, but happy...


Looking back at previous blog posts, I noticed that I often post something from Oswald Chambers in October. I wonder why that is. Perhaps the autumn brings about a kind of desperation that makes me reach for something uplifting.

“The challenge to the missionary does not come on the line that people are difficult to get saved, that backsliders are difficult to reclaim, that there is a wedge of callous indifference; but along the line of his own personal relationship to Jesus Christ. 'Believe ye that I am able to do this?' Our Lord puts that question steadily, it faces us in every individual case we meet. The one great challenge is - Do I know my Risen Lord? Do I know the power of His indwelling Spirit?”*

I don’t have a problem asking myself “What would Jesus do?” I think it is a good idea to follow Christ’s example. However, we can get into a pattern of striving to make ourselves like Christ, by our own means. Maybe it's better to ask ourselves, “Do I trust God in this situat…

Cute baby girl

Hannah is one week old!

We haven't gotten too many photos of her awake and alert yet*, but Angelica was excited to meet her new cousin.

*Edit: More photos!

Russia and the H1N1

I was cold in class.

It’s so hard to figure out how to dress nowadays. The metro is unbearable if you have too many layers on.

So on this particular day I had left my warmer sweater at home and was cold. As soon as we had a break, I jumped up and grabbed my coat, which I had thankfully not left in the cloakroom.

In the middle of class, the grammar teacher stopped and looked at me.

“Are you cold? Why are you cold?”

I shrugged, burrowing deeper into my coat.

“I KNOW why you’re cold! You don’t eat meat! That’s it!” continue/-
Well, I suppose I don’t eat a huge amount of meat daily, but I doubt that I would have a substantial layer of body fat even if I did.

“You have to eat meat! Sausages, cheese, yogurt, sour cream…fatty foods! Then you won’t be cold.”

She went over the window, promising to open it just a crack. Then she began to speak again.


I stared down at my desk in the awkward silence that followed.

“I went to buy myself a mask, and can you im…

Back for another year

I visited the difficult orphanage.

I know I should come up with a new code name that isn't so negative. After all, it is where Nastia and Masha spent a portion of their childhood.

Every school year, I pray about whether or not God would have me go there. Relationships haven't "gelled" as much as in other areas of ministry. At this orphanage I used to see some kids that I had originally met at camp, but many of those kids have already graduated. Each year there is always at least one person that remembers me, and the cycle continues. full post/-
I normally just show up when the school year begins, but I was nervous about doing that this year. Some orphanages have become pretty restricted, especially with the flu going around. So I was kind of procrastinating and wondering if this was the year that I didn't go back.

I tried to call and got no answer on one phone. Finally I called the other counselor in the group, and found that she no longer works there, and that the k…