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Showing posts from December, 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!