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Showing posts from June, 2010

Suitcase mood

When someone's getting antsy to depart, Russians say that he is in a "suitcase mood."

As usual, my approaching trip has manifested itself in sleepless nights, cold symptoms, and mountains of laundry. Plus a giddy fit or two of gladness over seeing my family soon and having a new apartment to move into when I get back.

I had one final class today, which ended rather anticlimactically. I got home and moved approximately two items in the direction of my suitcase before gravitating towards the computer and breaking down in tears over this blog. You should check it out; just keep some tissues handy as it is a quite raw and poignant account of a missionary experience.

But blogging and the IKEA site must wait; it's time to get organized...

A fear

Have you ever been afraid to be happy? I mean, afraid to let your guard down?

Sometimes I fear that if I have too much, I will forget God. And when I receive something I want, I murmur to Him, "Are you sure you want to give me that? Don't you want to test me a little more first?"

Or I'm struck by thoughts of guilt: somebody out there is saying the same prayer, and getting a different answer.

Why me?

read more/-

What if all my dreams come true someday? What will I strive towards then? Of course the pursuit of His heaven will always keep us busy...but in this life?  Where does this feeling come from that it's wrong to be happy? And I don't mean rich. I mean, content, satisfied.

I think sometimes the Enemy tries to take our thankfulness and turn it into uncertainty and guilt. But if we strive towards "piety" and somberness, to try to prove that we have denied all earthly pleasures...then we miss a chance to acknowledge the One who holds our lives in th…

The housing search

Renting an apartment in Russia is a little different than in the States, but I don't have much experience with either one...so at any rate I was bound to learn something...


I had always found housing via friends and acquaintances, and tried to go that route this time as well, but it was harder because I was looking for an apartment to rent, not just a room or corner of a room. read more/-

The initial attempts were fruitless. Apartment #1 looked promising, but the current tenants decided to stay. Apartments #2 and #3 were in bad neighborhoods. Apartment #4 went to a married couple instead. But the other problem was that it felt like living in someone else's home. Apartments often come fully furnished, and you are often not allowed to change configurations. Or, for example, a family has purchased the apartment for themselves or their children, and are renting it out as they pay off the mortgage. So every hole in the wall, every piece of decor, affects them personally.

The other…

Summer sights

It comes from the poplar tree and looks like little tufts of white cotton.

At best, the wind picks it up and swirls it around, creating an effect of dandelion fluff in a beautiful meadow.

At worst, the wind sends it into your mouth and nose and open windows; several pieces settle in your hair.

We noticed this "pukh" as students in St. Petersburg one summer and were amused by this summer "snow." Unfortunately, it does not always seem so charming...

One

During the Christmas/New Year's season, our church has everyone write down 3 prayer requests on paper flower petals, and the next year, we look at them again to see how God helped us in those areas throughout the year.

I’ll admit it, I haven’t participated. It seemed a little too formulaic and I was afraid if I wrote something too personal, it would somehow be discovered by someone else…I brought the “flower” home, but never ended up writing down my main prayer requests, even though I had a few in mind.

This morning I was leaving early and grabbed an envelope to use for cash, because I was going to pay the deposit for a new rental apartment.

I thought the envelope was empty, but when I opened it to put the money inside, a flower fell out… Continue/-

Still blank, but my need for housing definitely would have occupied one of the petals. It was a reminder of who my Supplier is.




Journey to the land of Elama ("life")

If you've been following Mike's blog or the Bull Herd, you might have heard of Elama. If not, by way of explanation, it is a piece of land containing an old campground that we've been allowed to use free of charge for ministry purposes.

Taking care of a piece of land 2 hours away is a big commitment, but most local churches around here wouldn't even be able to come close to purchasing something like this, so it is a blessing not taken for granted.

The time investment has been very rewarding, as summer camps have been run here for the past few years and families have been able to come out for a weekend or short vacation. Continue reading/-


I hadn't been there for two years, when we had a work day out there shortly before I left for Africa. I mentioned it briefly here. 

I don't have too many pictures from the early years, but I went out there last weekend, and, wow...what a difference! It had previously been all overgrown and run-down. Now there are lots of detail…

One-room Sunday school

I've probably mentioned this before, but wanted to pose it more formally as a discussion topic. What do you do about having different ages in one Sunday school classroom?

We used to gear the lesson toward school-aged children and have older kids be helpers and toddlers color quietly or play with blocks if they were unable to sit through the lesson. When we've tried to have an additional, more "active" lesson for the toddlers, it has been too disruptive for the older kids.

I was recently doing some brainstorming, and took a look at the current ages of the kids. The age break-down has changed a little bit. We now have (approximately): 5 teenagers, 8 school-aged kids (grades 2-6), 6 preschoolers (aged 3-6), 3 toddlers (1-2 years), and an infant. read more/-

We don't gear lessons towards teenagers as they have their own meetings, but in general all the groups are growing in number and it's not like we have just one toddler to entertain. We could do a full-fledged …

New Russian citizens (do's and don'ts)

Moscow officials are working on preparing a little "welcome" packet for people newly settling in the area, explaining how they can assimilate more effectively.

The pamphlet will include "recommendations" on how to behave oneself appropriately in the nation's capital.

Apparently, such a codex had already been drafted in St. Petersburg, but didn't quite make it to print. However, various efforts to improve on behavior sometimes pop up in the form of public service announcements, reminding people to help the elderly and be polite.

The Moscow variant (as suggested by Mikhail Solomentsev) will include such advice as "Don't carve meat on the street outside your building, don't grill shishkabobs on the porch, don't wear your native costume, speak Russian..." (loosely translated by yours truly).

The question is, do all these people WANT to be integrated?

-source: Metro St. Petersburg, 17 June 2010

P.S. Apparently I'm not the first to pick …

The new me

I have been challenged in some new ways this (school) year. There are certain things that no one else can do for you; times that no one can shield you from potential harm (or embarrassment) except the Lord. It's like going to the dentist. Someone can hold your hand, numb the pain, try to distract you, but it's you there in the chair.

Well, the new things that I tried this year did not turn out to be nearly as hard as expected.

As I stood in line to apply for residency, I questioned many times what I was doing there...not because of the decision itself, but because I was uncertain about my capabilities. God gave me SO many helpers along the way. But in general, my Russian friends couldn't answer my questions; nor could Americans who had been in my place, since the process had changed slightly. It was just a step I had to take, to see if I could go a little further in life. read more/-

While living in another country, you can have a false sense of confidence. Just because yo…

Applying for a TRP in Russia-the summary post

Although I've yet to receive my actual residency permit, the majority of the ordeal is over. So here it is, the summary post on how to get through the application process.

This applies to the quota system, so if you are exempt, you will have to produce whichever documents prove you are exempt, and go from there.

6-12 months before beginning
-talk to people who have done it, plan out your steps (for example, what visa you will use to be in the country while applying)

a few months before applying
-look into what it will take to get your criminal background check, as well as appropriate authentication. This is by far the most time consuming as it requires waiting on several different parties and working with the policies of two different countries
Continue/-
-check the list of required documents (may vary); plan your moves; try to estimate about how much time you will need to have everything ready, keeping in mind that it will all have to be ready and NOT expired at the same time

getting…

The Introvert and the World Wide Web

Perhaps this topic has been analyzed to death, but when I was getting acquainted with the Internet about 10 years ago, people didn’t talk much about the social effects. I am not going to go into pornography or anything like that; this is more about social skills and emotional intimacy.

I’ve come full-circle with some of the features of online socializing, and wanted to share some of my impressions.

For a shy person, the Internet was a life-changer. It felt like it leveled the playing field where before we would have had no chance mixing and mingling with a variety of people; getting past that first “hello;” jumping into a conversation amid the extroverts and loud talkers. read more/-

There were many opportunities that it added to my social life:

1)    Ease in initiating conversations

-who wants to make the first move? Not me! I don't even know where to start! What if the other person is busy, uninterested, etc? Don't even get me started about making phone calls. But online...s…

Slow

It's a slow spring.

As proof, I can testify that about 10 minutes passed after I typed the first sentence and before I typed this one.

Whenever I am confused about a season in life or time of year, I take a little peek back to the previous year to see how I was coping.

Amid the usually spring frolicking, it seems that I was keeping quite busy.

This year, with the kids leaving for camp and my being in-between bureaucratic processes, everything feels more laid back. Even my teachers have been canceling class on occasion...caught by the spring bug? Someone reading this might be envious. Judging from your Facebook comments about your exams, wedding plans, and house purchases, perhaps you would like to be in my place.

I like being in my place. I just don't know what it is for. But, I have a few more weeks to enjoy whatever it is, and then it's home for a new visa...my last one?

A measure of control

The "Tolerance" movement has come to Russia. At least, that's what they're calling it these days.

I suppose Man has always looked for ways to avoid absolutes and found excuses to live one's own way. Or, ways to appease others in order to live more comfortably.

It started a long time ago. Perhaps, one could say, it started in the Garden. Eve was just going to have a little taste...it's not like she was going to commit murder or anything. And Adam, well, he took what his wife offered him. Wouldn't want to compromise the marital bliss.

But the interesting thing about certain movements coming to Russia is that they have the Orthodox Church to contend with. I suppose the religious right has some power in the U.S., but let's face it, there is not much unity among American churches, as a whole. There is no central organ that says "here is how we will address this issue." Read more/-

Unless, of course, people pay attention to the authority of the Bi…

Paradox #2: Dueling natures

The next paradox deals with my identity in Christ. Am I a wretched sinner, or a blessed saint? Can I be both at the same time? Can I be one without the other?

How can I acknowledge my tendency to sin before God without dishonoring my status as a "new creation"?

The Apostle Paul refers to his sin and his weaknesses in many places. However, I doubt that he constantly wallowed in grief over his wrongdoing. In my opinion, that would not fully represent the Gospel message. He certainly wrote about love, faith, spiritual fruit, church life, and many other topics.

We are not called to be in a perpetual state of repentance. To me, that borders on asceticism. Faith is believing that Christ died for our sins and reconciled us to God so that we might live new lives. Yet, if we forget for one instance the depth of our need for Christ's sacrifice, where does that leave us?

What are we to do? Continue/-

If we say that we are washed clean and beyond sin, then we boast in our own righte…

Literary findings

Russians have interesting ways of getting rid of old books.

Sometimes you see someone by the side of the road selling some books that have been laid out on a piece of newspaper. Just doing a little decluttering and trying to make some money...

Sometimes, they are in the stairwell of a house. And they might even be free!

If I had a bigger living space, I would be more tempted to collect these treasures. Indeed, many are even out of print! But I suppose they would collect some dust in my possession.

The other day, we paid a visit to a museum, which happened to be located in an apartment building. In the stairwell was a selection of books. We inquired of the museum and they said that the books were free for the taking. Read more/-


I almost didn't take anything since I didn't recognize any of the authors. But at the last minute, my eyes locked on the title of "Полезные советы." (Helpful Tips)

I knew that it would be not only an interesting cultural gem, but a fun houseke…

Teacher/Student relationships

"I think the teacher sleeps in school," said Mollie. "I think she stays there all night long."


"What a dumb idea," said Gary. "Teachers don't sleep in school."


"Mrs. Marsh does," said Mollie. "She's always there when we come. And she's always there when we leave. I think the classroom is her house."


-from "My Teacher Sleeps in School" by Leatie Weiss.What should the student-teacher relationship be? What kind of boundaries should be observed? This was a question that we discussed during my TESOL training. Although we were referring mainly to adults teaching adults, teaching children should also be considered, of course. Continue reading/-

I remember in elementary school how odd it was to think of teachers having a real life. That is why the quote above seems so appropriate. Of course I was shy, but it seemed so unnerving to run into a teacher in the grocery store, or even in the hallway when I had moved up a…

Paradox #1: Security

I'm starting a series on paradoxes of faith! You know, those aspects that are a little hard to express logically, yet fill us with wonder about God.

Today's topic relates to our life on earth. What kind of life does God promise us, and what type of behavior does He expect from us? Certain factors can be confusing.

The Lord tells us not to worry about earthly comforts, yet offers consolation when we DO worry.
Read more/-


A Little Thing Called Housing

Raise your hand if you haven't ever worried about where you were going to live. I will include here any traveling, and even choosing a bunk at camp-hey, that can be a long week!

The Bible says that the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head (Lk. 9:58). This can be applied in different ways, and is tragic considering that He was a king. Personally, I read this as illustrating the fact that he was born in humble conditions, and that His ministry required Him to give up many comforts.

When you don't know where you are going to s…

New project

Food! 

There are a lot of times when I find/create new recipes and want to share them, but I'd  been afraid that it would change the focus of this blog too much to post them...

...so I finally decided to create an online space for my favorite recipes.

These are the ones that I've tried, enjoyed, and found generally easy to make.

They're also made with simple ingredients that can be found right here in St. Petersburg. But please note that these are mostly reviews and not original recipes!

Go to cooking blog.