Saturday, August 27, 2011

Many Things

This week I am thankful for - a lot of things!
To still have my 93-year-old grandfather with me.
 (He had a serious operation this week but came through wonderfully!)
For joy! 
(I have been so full of peace and joy these past few weeks and I don't take a minute of it for granted.)
For the beautiful weather we've been enjoying lately.
(The blue sky overhead, the sweet-smelling grass underfoot, a quiet breeze, and a wonderful swing to take it all in on.)
For the most amazing friends ever!
(I've been able to see a lot of my friends lately and I am so thankful to have such good ones!)
For a purpose and a hope.
(I believe I am finally completely content where I am. It also helps that some new ministry opportunities are opening up for me. I am so excited to start working in a children's club soon, as well as the start-up of AWANA this year.)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A God Who Understands

I'm sorry! I forgot to post yesterday. Well, I didn't forget altogether...I just forgot to remember at a convenient time. Anyway, I'm very sorry.

This week I am grateful for: A God who understands.

A God I can tell anything and everything to.

A God who knows me better than I know myself.

He heals the broken-hearted,
and binds up their wounds.
He counts the number of the stars;
He gives names to all of them.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in strength;
His understanding is infinite.
Psalm 147:3-5

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Saying Goodbye

Today, my last day in Moscow, is drawing to a close. Tomorrow I will drag my tubs and bags to the airport, answer lots of questions, check my bags, grab my ticket, say my goodbyes and walk through the barrier.

Tonight I'm babysitting for a few hours. I've made American mac-and-cheese, spread peanut butter on bananas and fed my three nieces. We played the quiet game while we ate and talked about the movies we watched today, namely, "Tangled" and "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs".

After dinner I sit down on the couch to work on a blog post about my recent visit to a mosque, but it's not right. I can't find the right words to express the subtle, gentle, but deep way it affected me.

The older two girls bug me to "do something fun", a tradition I created for when I babysit them. It usually consists of a special game or craft or movie. I reluctantly leave my "work" to search for a new craft online.

The baby needs more food.

I check my email.

The girls are loving on me, climbing and tugging. It's sweet but not practical with a computer in my lap. I grumpily brush them aside, find a craft and give them the materials and instructions, relieved to finally have some peace.

After a brief interlude my middle niece climbs up beside me to ask questions again...I only half-listen to her, giving her brisk answers.

Finally I catch myself....this is my last night with them! Is this the parting memory I want to leave, a distracted, grumpy aunt? I look down at the small face cuddled up against my arm.

"Am I grumpy?"
"Yes," she answers decidedly.
"What does grumpy mean?" the oldest one asks.

What is making me so grumpy tonight?

I put the computer aside determinedly and grab Kaela, then Abbie for a spin. Their delighted laughter lifts my spirit. I plop back down and just watch. I watch the girls leap around the room playing with the space ship I made them out of a toilet paper roll, construction paper and a few Werther's wrappers. They speak in their high-pitched play voices, happy as queens...or maybe happier.

I watch the baby maneuver around her sisters' antics, babbling to herself, experimenting with new sounds. She is learning so much, so fast, changing every day. I retrieve a stray marker top from her possession. I chuckle a little at her angry cry and pick her up to cuddle. Her indignation is short-lived; she gleefully pulls away from my embrace to climb on the couch, practicing sitting down and standing up, chattering happily all the time to me. I wonder what she is telling me all about.

All of this sends shards of pain through my heart. I will miss them so much!

And not only them...I realize I've gradually come to love it here.

I love:
~Studying the people on the metro and praying for them
~Practicing my (extremely) limited Russian.
~Understanding the culture/Knowing how things work here.
~ Eating hatshepurri!! (A Central Asian bread with cheese and egg topping. Very oily and cheesy and soft and soooo yummy! btw, I have no idea if I'm spelling it right.)
~All the fresh, soft, yummy bread!!!
~Hanging out with my awesome big sister!
~Watching my nieces grow up.
~Being with the people I've met and grown to love here.
~The different perspective on life I get here from seeing people begging, people working so hard to please a God they barely know and living in fear of Him all their lives, people who haven't bathed in so long you can't stand within ten feet of them, people trapped in a religion they were born into.
~The new level of dependency on God.
~The way I can take a step back from myself and my own problems here.
~Knowing that I am serving God in a practical way in everything I do here. How useful and productive I feel.
~The way I can enjoy the simplest things here like: a yummy meal, Coca-Cola, any and all outings, laughing with my nieces, chatting with people from home, making my little sister laugh at my craziness, reading a book.

I've learned that your home is not confined to a place, even a country.This place has become part of my home.

So tomorrow, as I walk through the gate that will separate me from this new piece of my home I will more than likely be fighting tears for all I am worth, but in the end I can be nothing but grateful. I have made such rich and precious memories. I have met such wonderful people. I have experienced things others only dream of. But most of all, I have been changed.

I only hope and pray that these fresh and still-delicate impressions will not be forgotten or erased with the pressures in America. I pray that I will keep the things I have learned here, treasuring them and pondering them in my heart. That God will keep my heart tender towards Him and towards the people here..and everywhere!

(Note: You made it all the way to the end! Hoorah! Thanks for putting up with the long, rambling post...I wrote it late at night in a very sentimental mood...something I try never to do but it happened and I've decided to keep this one no matter how choppy and unpleasant it may be to read. It expresses some true feelings that I don't want to forget. So...three cheers for you faithful reader!! Thank you for your perseverance!)

Friday, August 12, 2011


Well, it's Friday! I must confess I nearly forgot about this post. (Shame on me!) But now I am really excited. :)

This week I am grateful for beauty.

For eyes to see the beautiful sunsets over Moscow

For ears to hear my nieces' laughter.

For touch to feel a baby's soft skin.

And for a soul to appreciate it all.

Thank you God!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Graters and Gratefulness

Have you ever swallowed a cheese grater? No? Well, if you had you'd know exactly how my throat felt on  Friday.

Friday morning I crawled out of bed with a throat sore enough to rival the the my tonsillitis throat's record. I tried everything I'd ever heard of to find relief that day, warm tea with honey, plain honey, gargling vinegar-water, throat drops...the whole shebang. The only thing that helped  to any degree was two Tylenol, but still, tears came to my eyes and I tensed all over with the pain of swallowing anything.

I was mildly upset with God for throwing such a wrench in my plans. I felt even worse when I heard of the plans the others had made to pass out fliers at a mosque and eat out for dinner - plans I would have to miss out on to nurse my throat. I even wondered (somewhat bitterly) if these germs had slipped past when God wasn't looking (can we say drama queen?). But in the back of my head, or deep in my heart, or wherever, I knew God that must have some reason for letting this happen to me. So, not having much else to do or being too miserable to do it, I started trying to sort out what it might be.

I suddenly realized that it had never occurred to me to thank God for a healthy throat before. Then I began thinking about all the blessings I take for granted (sometimes even while complaining to God for not blessing me in other ways!). And not just the "common" things like life, clothes, food shelter but extra-special things like: 
~a homey house with a large yard,
~amazing friends,
~a beautiful town,
~spending money,
~a quiet neighborhood,
~parents who understand me,
~brothers and sisters who like me,
~a church that cares about me individually
...I began to see my life in a different light and I saw all the things I could and should be overwhelmed by gratefulness for....I was disgusted with myself but I still wasn't all that grateful...

I still haven't gotten to the point of being overwhelmed but, while I think gratefulness is actually a gift from God, I do think it also comes partly from discipline. So, as an exercise I have decided to pledge to post once a week with at least one thing I am truly grateful for. This post will take place on Fridays so check back on me!

Another way you can help me is to be praying for me, that this lesson will not slide off with time but will become etched on my heart and transform me and that God would take this weakness of mine to show off His own strength.

"Praise to the Lord
Who o'er all things so wonderfully reigneth
Shelters the under His wings
Yea, so gently sustaineth.
Hast thou not seen, how thy desires e'er have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?"

Thou who hast given so much to me, give me one more thing... a grateful heart!         
~George Herbert 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Well, it's been a while since I've posted. Sometimes I have a hard time finding something to write about and sometimes when I find a subject I can't find the right words to express it. But then, that's what this blog is for isn't it? Practice, practice practice! :)

I have big news for you in this post! I am writing it from Russia!!!! I don't know if I mentioned before that I have a sister in Russia or that I have made three previous trips to visit her and her family, but I do and I have. :)

I can't remember when exactly, but a week or two ago I was suddenly taken with an overwhelming desire to go back to Russia. It might have had something to do with my fast-growing 9-month-old niece, or it might have been the restless feeling I've been struggling with lately or it could have been both plus a few other things! At any rate, that's what happened. I almost couldn't stand the thought that I had a Russian visa that was still valid (last year my sister and brother-in-law bought me a year-long visa) but no way to get there.

On previous trips I was able to fly to Moscow for free. My dad retired from an airline so, until I turned 19, I could fly anywhere for free. But my free flights expired a few months ago...or so I thought. Last Wednesday we found out I can still fly for free, but only for a few more weeks.

My previous trips were planned well before-hand; I had plenty of time to pack and prepare myself for spending time in a strange country. This time was different....

Long story short, the only flight I could take was on Friday. I found that out on Thursday so I had one day to shop for my sister's list of items she can't get in Russia and pack my suitcase! It was crazy but somehow I made it and found myself in Moscow on Saturday morning.

(more to follow)