Thursday, December 31, 2009

The birds of the air



As a preschool teacher, it isn’t difficult to see that some children handle change better than others. You quickly learn that in order to avoid meltdowns, certain steps should be taken. For example, it is best to give these children a warning that change is coming. “Okay, friends, in five minutes we are going to start putting our toys away so we can line up.” It is also wise to give these children a rundown of the schedule so they know what to expect. Change can seem less bothersome or scary when they know what the outcome of the change will be. “After we line up, we will go upstairs for Judiacs…won’t that be fun?!” (…yeah…I taught at a Jewish preschool…) If you’re lucky, these steps reduce the freakout sessions to tears and fists to the ground instead of tears, fists to the ground, hair pulling, and biting. If you’re lucky.


As I sit here, hours away from the New Year, I feel a mixture of excitement and dread as I think of what 2010 might hold. I have been in Russia for about four months now and the reality that soon I will be starting my last semester is beginning to set in. I can see the end now. Home isn’t a distant dream. But things have changed. I have changed. Home has changed. New friendships have sprouted that I have no control over or part in. I feel (unrightfully) hurt and confused by such things. It was my choice to come here. What did I expect… everyone to put their lives on hold so I could come home to what I remembered and wanted? I’m acting like a child. I don’t want to adjust to the way things have become. I don’t want to figure out where I fit now. I don’t know how to embrace the change that has occurred. Bottom line- I’m failing to trust God with it all.

When we told our preschoolers it was time to cleanup so we could move on to something different, it wasn’t to hurt them. It wasn’t to make them angry or sad or to ruin all their fun. We did it because it was necessary. If they played with blocks all day they wouldn’t get to experience the joy of the slide or the monkey bars or be able to feel the sunshine on their faces. If they played outside all day they wouldn’t learn necessary lessons like how to share or paint or count. But if they spent all their time working, they wouldn’t have time to nourish or rest their bodies which is so important for their health and growth. So while keeping things as they are might seem like the safer or easier option for the child, as the teacher I know change is necessary for their growth, development, and well being.

You’d think after being in the position of the teacher and understanding the necessity change I’d be able to accept it a little easier. Tonight we are celebrating New Years with American and Russian friends, the boys from Vologda are coming on Saturday, and on Sunday night my grand adventure to see (parts of) the world begins. Life is so good! Yet the past several days I’ve been battling fear and loneliness and feelings of deep inadequacy with it all culminating this morning with a tantrum of tears that could rival one of my three year olds (I decided to leave out the pounding and biting and hair pulling this time though). The truth is, as necessary and positive as change can be, sometimes it also really hurts. Sometimes it is scary and inconvenient and confusing. God, where was my five minute warning? You forgot to tell me what is coming next! This is harder than I expected…this isn’t what I was hoping for and I just don’t know where to go from here.

God, 2010 is a year of unknowns but may it be your year. It is so evident to me that there is much in my life I have failed to surrender to you. I still want it my way and I carry on like a child when your plans differ from my own. I question you when life is difficult and my heart is filled with heaviness. But if change is necessary for my growth or the growth of others, may I accept it with gratitude. You have brought me this far, I know you will not leave me now. 2010…here we go. Lord, show me how to trust. Father, show me how to love. Teacher, show me where you want me and who you want me to be. This isn’t what I expected, but I will choose to trust that this is what you planned. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

The best is yet to come



Three consecutive days in a row of blogging? People, this has got to be a record. Today as I was being introverted and antisocial, my journal and I made a startling realization. It is almost 2010. I find that incredibly difficult to believe (but I will save the sappy, sentimental post for another day). Today I made a list of all of the goals/things I want to accomplish/do. It's going to be a busy year.

READY? GO:
-Run a half marathon (no stress fracture will stop me this time!)
-Continue taking Russian lessons whether I'm in Russia or not
-Be the best teacher I can be
-Learn to how to salsa
-Climb Mt. St. Helens
-Try not to be such a socially awkward/inept freak
-Read Crime and Punishment (I know, I have no right being in Russia...)
-Get Katie Nestor back in my arms and never let her go
-Write a children's book
-Finish this year in Russia knowing I gave my all
-Trust God
-Figure out how to be asexual
-Make a fondant cake
-Find a job that makes a difference
-Eat healthier (I have to add this one...it's tradition)
-"Get" Jamie a magazine subscription for the third time, but this time actually send in the form. (Sorry, Heil)
-Appreciate life
-Better understand, appreciate, and utilize the power and privilege we have in prayer
-Get my second Hepatitus A shot that is long overdue and I was supposed to get before I came to Russia but I hate needles so I didn't. "oops"
-Forgive and forget for good. (Please notice the use of alliteration here)
-Have long hair

Sunday, December 27, 2009

FOOD



I miss food. Good food.

When I return to Seattle I plan on eating all of the following and as a result, gaining about ten pounds: (listed in no particular order)

-Thai Kitchen-Chicken Pad Thai and Pad See Ew
-Starbucks- Anything
-Costco-Hot dog
-Wasabi Bistro- Las Vegas roll
-The Rusty Pelican- an omelet and biscuit
-Forza- Peach Te Freeze and Pesto Chicken Tortellini
-Specialty's Bakery-Chocolate chip cream cheese croissant
-Red Robin- French fries!
-Molly Moons- Strawberry ice cream in a waffle cone
-Tawon Thai-Thai iced tea
-Tully's-Antioxidant smoothie
-Noah's Bagels-Pumpkin bagel and cream cheese
-The Powerhouse-Black bean burger
-Taco Time- Crisp taco kids meal

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Satan's Mistress



You'd think after four months of living in Russia, life here would stop surprising me. You'd think.

Today I made the trek to the post office to pick up a package. When I say trek...I mean trek. You see, we've found ourselves in a bit of a snow storm these past couple days and it takes a considerable amount of effort to get to one's destination. But nevertheless, a package is indeed worth the effort so I set out happily to the post office. As I was walking I passed a children's carnival thing in the park. I found it a little strange to have a carnival in December, but it's Russia, so whatever. Then a police car pulled up next to me. A man got out and waited for his partner. Imagine my surprise when a woman got out of the driver's seat and joined him. Now, it is not the fact that the police partner was a woman that surprised me. I'm all for equal opportunities and women gettin' out there and doin' their thang. What did surprise me was that fact that this female police officer was wearing HEELS. Call me crazy but I am of the belief that if you carry handcuffs and there is greater than a 5% chance you might have to chase someone, heels might not be the most appropriate footwear choice. However, I realize trying to convince a Russian woman of this would be next to impossible.

So I continued on my journey, laughing in my head about the carnival, the woman in heels, and the fact that about every fourth step I did a little dance on the ice...blissfully unaware of the tragic events that were about to take place.

I climbed the steps of the post office and opened the door. There, behind the counter, stood Satan's mistress. Really, it was her. I could tell she had just been waiting there all day for me to walk through that door so she could crush my spirit and devour my soul.

"Devushka" she barked. (Which literally means girl)

"Me?" I thought. "Is she talking to me?"

She said it again...only this time much louder and she looked right at me. Then she pointed to the door. Uh...I didn't know what to do. I looked at the door thinking maybe I had accidently left it open. No...it was closed. I told her in Russian that I did not understand. She took this to mean, "if you yell louder at the stupid American girl, she'll magically know Russian." So that's just what she did. She yelled. And pointed. And yelled some more. Her friends must have thought it looked like fun because they decided to join her...yelling and pointing and...did I mention yelling? I could not figure out what event could have possibly transpired to make them this upset (other than my birth, apparently) so I just stood there- stunned, panicking, and wishing I had paid better attention in the "what-to-do-when-mean- scary-russian-ladies-yell-at-you" session at training. Oh wait. We never had one of those.

Finally, a woman from the back came out, told them I was American, said something to her co-workers about me not understanding, and then put her hand out to see my package slip. I felt relief, thinking that perhaps this woman was saving me, when all of the sudden she crumpled up the slip I had given her and started talking to me angrily in Russian. She motioned that I needed to fill out a slip (which I had already done but she had decided crumple). By this time, I was holding back tears but determined not to give them the sastifaction of seeing me cry, I quickly filled out the form to the best of my ability. I handed it back, listened while Satan's mistress shouted a few last words to me, collected my package and walked out the door.

Customer service really is excellent here.



So this long, dramatic story is basically to tell you that I learned several important things today. They are as follows:
1. If I rob a bank, I should pray beforehand that the high heeled unit gets called to the scene.
2. I should avoid the post office from now on. At all costs.
3. Evil does exist. It has a slender build, a mullet and dark rimmed glasses.
4. It really is a good thing that Jesus loves everyone...because I don't.
5. I still have a lot of growing to do.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"I am dreaming tonight of a place I love..."



I awoke this morning with an excitment and heaviness in my heart. It is hard to believe, but today is Christmas Eve. I remember when I was little, the anticipation of Christmas was almost overwhelming. I would dream of what was waiting for me under the tree and delight in the gifts I had chosen and wrapped for others. As I have grown older, the excitement has faded slightly and the focus has shifted. While I still enjoy giving and receiving gifts, I have realized the enormous beauty and blessing in time spent celebrating with the ones you love. Family, friends, traditions, and experiences have made my Christmases memorable. And still, this year I'm finding my focus has shifted yet again. While the reason behind the celebrations has always been Christ, this year the meaning holds a greater and more genuine significance. Family, friends, and traditions will not make this Christmas this year...distance won't allow it. But even when take away the parties, the traditions, the decorations, and even the warm fuzzies, you are still left with a child. He is the beginning, the end, and the unchangable reason we celebrate.

So Merry Christmas, friends and family! Know that my heart aches for and rejoices with you.

"Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to ALL people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

CREAM CHEESE



Today was a monumental day. I found cream cheese in the store. Yes, folks, you read that correctly...cream cheese has found its way to St. Petersburg. This means we can still celebrate Christmas because now I can make stuffed mushrooms. Whew, I know you were worried. Of course, I did spend half my pay check securing this little wonder into my posession, but sometimes you need to make sacrifices. And I, because of the kind, giving, generous person that I am, decided to make that sacrifice and buy that cream cheese so I can make stuffed mushrooms and we can celebrate Christmas the way Jesus probably intended. And if those roommates of mine are lucky...I might even share.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Still not who I want to be...



I know I'm on a journey but man...I have a long way to go to be the person I want to be.

Last night I was watching vidoes on youtube of Ukrainian and Russian orphans. Though this was pretty much a weekly occurance in the months following Ukraine and leading to Russia, it is something I haven't done in a while. As I watched them, I felt the stirrings of familiar feelings-grief, love, compassion, anger, and passion. Up until viewing those videos, the thoughts of my week included: shopping, sleeping in, finishing grades, boys (don't worry...not Russian boys), not feeling homesick, and food.

All trivial.

I love it when God reminds me of the bigness of his world, his love, and his work. Such moments remind me of how small and insignificant my selfish thoughts and desires can be. They remind me that there is so much more to life than shopping, boys, food, or even those I long for. It seems that such a realization should bring about disappointment. What? It's not all about me? But the truth is, I can't tell you the relief such reminders bring. Thank God, it's not all about me. What a boring, purposeless life that would be. I'm tired of the smallness of my thoughts and dreams. I'm tired of worrying about stupid things. Life is SO much bigger than foolish and fleeting desires.

Lord, forgive me for losing my focus and reducing life to existence. Remind me who you are, who I am, and who you have called me to be. Bring me to those your heart aches for, teach me how to love like you, and remind me that I am just as broken. God you are good. Your love is inclusive, your motives are pure, and your existence is hope. Make me like you.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Here's the deal


I want to adopt.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Adventures in Underwear



For a while, Seattle was actually colder than St. Petersburg but I think we are doing our part over here to catch up with you Seattleites. This morning I woke up to more snow on the ground and a temperature of -14 degrees Celsius....which is somewhere around 7 degrees Fahrenheit. Brrr. That's chilly. My students love to tell me that it's only going to get colder. I tell them to shut up. (Okay...I only think about telling them to shut up...)

My friend Arina and I have gotten into the routine of running on Tuesday evenings together. It is nice to run with someone because on days you normally would wimp out if you were going by yourself; you have someone there to tell you to suck it up. Today was my day for wanting to wimp out. I tried twice to convince her that today probably wasn't the best day to go running. The first time I texted her and told her my face would be cold (wussy excuse, I know.) She told me she had cream for that. Dangit. Then I reminded her it was really, pretty chilly out there. She said she was aware of this and that she would see me in fifteen minutes. Man, those Russians are tough.

So I sucked it up the best I could and we went for our weekly run. Once I had warmed up enough to feel my fingers and my vision was no longer blurry, I really was glad for her persistence. I got to experience snot freezing in my nose for the first time. It was an odd and disgusting sensation. But that is beside the point.

As we were running, Arina asked if I was cold and I told her the only parts of my body that were cold were my nose and my thighs. She said I needed to wear warmer clothes and to this I replied that I was wearing long underwear under my workout pants. She looked at me kind of funny and then went on to tell me that she was wearing underwear too, but she also had tights on underneath her pants. I lost it.

Sometimes language/cultural barriers can be frustrating. Sometimes they can be downright funny. "Long underwear" meant nothing to my Russian friend. To Arina, it simply seemed like I had decided to wear underwear for our run and was randomly telling her about it. I explained the meaning of this mysterious long underwear and we had a pretty good laugh about it. I still smile when I think about it. But in addition to giving me a good laugh, I also had a moment where life...this crazy Russian life I am currently living... felt incredibly comfortable and normal. I've missed that feeling of comfort and normalcy but I've done a better job this week of embracing and appreciating all that life overseas entails. Sometimes life here is hilarious. Sometimes it is difficult. Sometimes it is downright ridiculous. And sometimes, on long runs with snot freezing in your nose, laughing with a not-so-brandnew-friend...it just feels like home.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Samuel



"...I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing."

2 Samuel 24: 24

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ice Skating





My roommates and I went ice skating with some of my students and we had a blast. I cannot skate to save my life but I made it around the rink mulitiple times with the help of my new friends and I even skated a bit on my own (always keeping the wall at an arms length though.) Next time I'll be a little more daring...the center of the rink awaits me! It really was a great night :-)

Friday, December 11, 2009

What a difference...four days can make...


This week began with tears. You see, every Monday evening I have my Russian lesson which I absolutely dread. I don’t know exactly why I dread it. My teacher is kind, patient, and very sweet. But Russian is hard and I hate feeling stupid, which is exactly how I feel during 95% of my lesson. Currently I’m working on word endings using present tense verbs. For one of my practice sentences I wrote, “I don’t want to study.” It was a joke, okay? I wasn’t serious…well…not completely serious. At first when my teacher read this, she laughed. Then she said, “Elizabet, pacheemoo(why)? Pacheemoo, Elizabet!?” I told her that Russian is hard and she responded by saying that I’m only on the third lesson. What she meant was “ of course it is hard…you’ve only just begun.” What I heard in my already emotional, overly sensitive head was, “you idiot. You’re only on the third lesson and this is hard for you?!” So I cried. I just burst right into tears in my living room in front of my Russian teacher.

Low point.

She tried to change the subject and get my mind off Russian so I would stop crying so she started talking about how it must be hard being so far away from my family and friends. It was a noble effort but if she wanted me to stop crying, that was definitely not the thing to say. More tears.

So suffice it to say, the week did not start off in the best of ways. Ever since returning from our Thanksgiving adventure in Estonia, I’ve struggled with feeling homesick and inadequate. I hate to admit it, but in the past couple of weeks I’ve thought on multiple occasions, “what on earth am I doing in Russia?”
Then last night I was emailing with my best friend, Katie and we were sharing the latest happenings in our lives. She is preparing for her own big adventure… studying abroad in Australia for a semester. I remember what I was feeling as I was preparing to come to Russia…excitement, uncertainty, anxiety and more excitement.

This morning I was thinking about this some more and I realized I have forgotten why I am here. My excitement has been replaced with discontentment; I’ve traded joy for apathy, and gratitude for longing.
I am in Russia! Let me say it again, I am in Russia!! In difficulty and loneliness, I have forgotten the answered prayers and gift God has given me in the opportunity to be here. I have forgotten the love he has given me for these wonderful and sometimes difficult people. I have neglected to see the beauty in each day. God, forgive me for treating your gift like a burden.

So as the holidays present many opportunities for me to long for home and miss my family and friends, I will choose instead to focus not on what I am missing, but what I’ve been given. I will love my new home and be thankful for my own little Russian family and friends. This year not only have I been given the gift of a savior, but also the opportunity to share the hope He brings with group of people that live in hopelessness. I’d say Christmas of 2009 has the potential to be the best one yet….

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Thanks to Russia...



Thanks to Russia I now have a new and/or greater appreciation for the following:

1. English speakers
2. Cottage cheese
3. Red fingernail polish
4. Boots
5. Personal space
6. Lines...and the ability of people to wait in them
7. Tea
8. Skype
9. No smoking laws
10. Daylight
11. Toilet paper
12. Free water at restaurants
13. High heels
14. Laxatives
15. Fur lined hoods

Friday, December 4, 2009

and they will call him Immanuel...



“…and they will call him Immanuel- which means, ‘God with us’” Matthew 1:23

It sneaks up on me in the quiet moments. It finds me on sleepless nights. It waits for me in holiday celebrations. These are the moments when loneliness abounds.

Sometimes I wonder why God first brought me to Ukraine. I wonder why it was my heart he decided to shatter and my plans he chose to change. My experience transformed me and broke me and made me feel slightly separated from those I know and love. Out of fear and insecurity, I’ve asked God to change his mind, let me forget, and choose someone else. And yet, two and a half years later the memories are still vivid, the ache remains, and my plans have clearly been altered.

In the process I’ve realized obedience does not ensure a mended heart. For as I’ve moved to the part of the world my heart was aching for, I’ve left behind the part of the world that has made me who I am. And so, no matter where I am, my heart aches for that place where I am not and I realize I am only understood to a point.

I’ve come to Russia and truly I do love it. I believe whole heartedly that this is where I’m supposed to be and I find joy in that. But some days I just want to feel normal again. I want to ride in a car or read a menu in English. I want to be with my friends or have someone smile at me on the street. I want to be understood. I wonder, if I'll ever feel known again. Will the longing and loneliness ever be completely filled? Why is it that I feel most alone when I am surrounded by the people I’ve come here to love? When will the aching stop?

Tonight as we read the story of Christ’s birth in our Bible study, I heard but one verse: ““…and they will call him Immanuel- which means, ‘God with us’” Why I suddenly feel weak and stricken with thoughts of home, I do not know. But for some reason, tonight just feels harder than most. So as my heart is aching and longing for those I love and miss, I will cling to Immanuel, for God has come to us. In our trials, He is with us. Through our fears, He is with us. In the midst of our questions and confusion, He is with us. When we feel alone and struggle to fit in, He is with us. When we long for just one person to understand and we come up empty, He is with us. Thank God, He is with us.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thoughts?


From the first moment I heard this song it has made me think. I find myself thinking specifically of the last line. "We're all laughing with God"
Thoughts?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My Diet


I've been fairly surprised and impressed in the assortment of foods I can find in St. Petersburg. We've found things I certainly wasn't expecting to...like maple syrup and KFC! ;-) The following is a list of foods I eat fairly regularly. I pretty much only eat meat if we are eating out but that isn't actually much different from when I'm at home!! So here it is...try not to be jealous.

Cornflakes
Bananas
Potatoes in every form- baked, fried, mashed, and boiled
Rice
Milk
Cornflakes
Nesquick
Tea and a wide assortment of cookies and sweets
Frozen vegetables
Yogurt
Cottage cheese(sometimes with fruit or sweetened condensed milk)
Cornflakes
Satsumas
Hot chocolate
Eggs
Pepsi Light
Oatmeal
Occasionally cheese
Blini
Cornflakes
Pasta
Raisins
Almonds
Nescafe coffee
Instant Soup
Cornflakes
Plums
Bread
Peanut butter on bananas
Tuna
Ice cream
Far too many baked goods
AND Cornflakes.

Sometimes when I'm over at other peoples' homes I will be a little more adventerous in my eating habits (not always by choice) and eat things such as porridge with pumpkin and sunflower oil or Kefir which is like thick, sour milk. Yum, Yum, Yum! ;-)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

And The List Goes On...



I AM THANKFUL FOR...

1) My parents. A.K.A. my teachers, my cheerleaders, my role models, my confidants and my friends.
2) My brother and sister (in-law)
3) Besties
4) My aunts, uncles, and cousins.
5) Unbroken promises
6) Little joys…like red cups at Starbucks
7) Changing leaves
8) Skype
9) Russian lessons…no matter how difficult or frustrating they are
10) My SPRINT girls
11) Oleg-for ruining my plans and changing the course of my life
12) Christmas music played long before December arrives
13) Blankets, books, and hot chocolate
14) My journal
15) The snow that is falling outside my window
16) The Bible
17) Friends…new and old
18) My little Russian life
19) Hope
20) Scarves, hats, and mittens
21) Nutella
22) The power of music
23) All of my basic needs are met…and they always have been
24) Women no longer wearing corsets
25) The first sunny day after a cold, dark, wet winter
26) Target, Costco, Ikea, REI, H&M, Fred Meyer, Ross, and Banana Republic :)
27) Carbohydrates and sugar
28) New experiences
29) Seattle Pacific University
30) Ukraine
31) Russia
32) Ibuprofen and Excedrin migraine
33) My laptop
34) Coffee shops
35) Memories
36) Tomorrow is a brand new day
37) Satsumas
38) Weekends
39) My students
40) Hot drinks on cold days and cold drinks on hot days
41) Freedom
42) Hugs and kisses
43) Hot showers
44) The training I received from TeachOverseas
45) Criminal Minds on DVD
46) Unexpected and unwarranted kindess
47) The people that pray for me
48) Afternoon naps
49) My five senses
50) My roommates/co-teachers/friends
51) Humor
52) The ability to run
53) The sunrise/sunset
54) Travel
55) “The Irresistible Revolution”
56) My health and the health of my family and friends
57) Kind strangers
58) The Gails
59) Parents’ insurance
60) Coziness
61) Baking things
62) Family friends
63) Chocolate milk
64) People who try to make a difference in the world
65) Those moments when you laugh so hard it hurts
66) Sunrise hikes
67) Creativity
68) New experiences
69) Las Vegas rolls and chocolate milk from a champagne glass
70) Passion
71) Lessons learned from the past
72) Family get togethers
73) My supporters
74) Emails, letters, and packages
75) Answered prayers
76) Unanswered prayers
77) Joy
78) Bethany Community Church
79) My teachers and professors
80) Electricity and running water
81) Photographs
82) My future husband (where, when, and if he exists)
83) Heat in our flat
84) Instant connections
85) The opportunity to travel to Prague and Dublin!!
86) My childhood
87) Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring
88) Chapstick
89) Romantic comedies and the unrealistic expectations they set for future relationships :-)
90) Text messaging
91) The mystery and potential of the future
92) Holidays
93) My job
94) My car
95) Coloring books
96) Cereal straight from the box
97) Forgiveness
98) My hair straightener
99) Pandora
100) My previous work experience
101) Life

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ordinary


Lately I’ve really done a horrible job at updating my blog. For those four people that read it…I apologize ;-)

Life in Russia continues to be an adventure, full of ups and downs and little victories. The other day I bought a Pepsi light from the café across the street all by myself. It sounds slightly pathetic but I found enormous satisfaction in being able to answer every question and complete the entire transaction without having to pull out my favorite phrase, “yaneepannemayou” a.k.a. “I don’t understand.” While I thank God for the ability to get around my new home now without wanting someone to hold my hand every step of the way, I’ve also come to see the danger in it. Comfort breeds complacency. When I no longer have to pray my way through each moment of the day, it is easy for prayer to become that which I do when I have time. When I’m not constantly aware of my weakness, it isn’t hard to think I can get along just fine by my own strength. Lies can look a lot like truth when we want them to.

I’ve never really thought of myself as anything but ordinary. I'd say I’m average. Average in intelligence. Average in appearance. Average in abilities. I have no talents to impress you with, no knowledge to fascinate you with, and no charm to woo you with. I am me, and for quite some time, I've felt it never quite enough. Possibly if I lost a few pounds I’d be more attractive. Maybe if I took up a new hobby I could find something I’m exceptionally good at. Perhaps if I was more outgoing people would take notice. And each time I've tried to be a little different, that which I am not, becomes exponentially more obvious to me.

I’m not writing this so you’ll argue the validity of my self-image. Please don’t. I’m writing this because in the midst of my own complacency and laziness, I’ve realized something. Loving and obeying God is hard. Being a “Christian” isn’t so bad. I can go to church, say nice things to people (even if I don’t mean them), hang out with people who are just like me, and read my Bible with the best of them. But truly loving God is another story. It takes work. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes intentionality. It takes sacrifice. Sometimes even when we feel like we’ve given up enough for Him…our families, our friends, our homes, our comfort…He asks us to give more. He asks us to give up our greed and our lust. He wants our laziness, our selfishness, and our pride. (He is kind of greedy when it comes to sin). He asks us to give a little more than we think we have left to give and it’s hard. When I am honest with myself, I can say I’ve felt inadequate and average because I’ve wasted too much time focusing on that which could never change who I am. Maybe I am ordinary. And maybe that is okay. But if at the end of the day I can look back and say I did everything I could to love God with more intentionality, humility, authenticity, and purity than ever before…now that…that could be pretty extraordinary.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dear Mom,



Dear Mom,

I'm sorry for the times I complained about what you made for dinner. I just didn't realize how nice it was to have someone cook for you and to not eat potatoes everyday. Forgive me. This is true remorse...I mean it. I'd even eat Pecos Pasta now.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Disturb Us, Lord



"Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, when we arrive safely because we have sailed too close to the shore. Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the waters of life, having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity; and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim. Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes, and to push in the future in strength, courage, hope and love."
- Sr. Francis Drake

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Two Things I'm Constantly Aware Of...



1. I speak English
2. I am American

Two things I never really thought much about before coming to Russia...

1. I speak English
2. I am American

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"If You Say Go"



Friday, October 16, 2009

Address



Some people have been asking about my address. Only now, am I smart enough to figure out how to write in Russian. So here it is:

Россия 197136
Г. Сант Петербург
Большой Пр., П.С. д. 86, кв. 19
Кому: Elizabeth Miles
RUSSIA

I'm in no way posting this in expectation of you leaping up from your computer and running to the post office to mail me something. In fact, let me warn you, shipping to Russia is quite expensive as I learned the hard way...

On the other hand...
If you suddenly strike it rich and feel a burning desire to make a little girl in a far away land very happy, the following items would be gladly accepted:
-maple syrup
-macaroni and cheese
-pop tarts (I don't know...random craving)
-apple cider mix
-guilty pleasure reading (instyle, RealSimple, Rachael Ray magazines)
-anything related to the holidays
-canned pumpkin
-baking mixes
-uh...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Week in Review




I have at least 15 minutes to kill before the muffins I just made are cool enough to eat so I thought I'd write a blog filling you in on the uneventful events of the past week. I mean, why not, right?

Saturday
Saturday morning I woke up and immediately I knew I was in trouble. Sore throat, achey body...these are not feelings we generally associate with healthy people. So I did my best to combat the inevitable. I took Zicam, emergenC, and coldease...all those products that promise to stop or shorten your cold but who knows if they actually work. Saturday was a fairly uneventful day and I liked it that way. Except I met a man to talk about possibly volunteering at an orphange. We were supposed to meet at 2:00 and as I was standing out there in the cold at approximately 1:56pm I realized I had no idea how I would distinguish who this man was apart from the crowd. At 2:11 I began to sms (text) him and just then a man came out of the building which I was standing in front of and started looking around. I got up the nerve to ask him his name and in English he responded, "Oh! You look Russian! You look very Russian!"
So that's that I guess. I look russian. I'm not sure if that is a good thing but I'll tell you one thing- I wouldn't mind having the figure of a russian woman. Well...let me clarify. I wouldn't mind having the figure of a young russian woman.

And that was Saturday.

Sunday
Sunday I woke up and wished I hadn't. I had a stuffy/runny nose, sore throat, achey body, and an awful, awful headache. I pretty much spent the day in bed. I only got up when my back wouldn't allow me to lie (lay?...shoot, and I'm supposed to be an Enlgish teacher) on it anymore. The previous week we had been talking in class about home remedies when you get sick. Ironic, right? Anyway, one student told me when you get a cold you're supposed to soak your feet in warm water with mustard powder and I considered doing it...but only for a second. I'm not that russian.

And that was Sunday

Monday
Mondays are long days for us but I felt I had to at least try and tough it out as I couldn't cancel four classes and there was no one to cover the morning. Plus, I was giving a test in two of my classes and I didn't want to disappoint them by postponing it ;-)So, onto the metro we went, headed to school. It was about one and a half stops in when I realized there was a fairly real possibility that I was going to pass out. I could feel myself starting to sweat. I felt nauseous. My vision was a little off. I could just picture myself collapsing in the middle of the metro. Boy, would that be a story. So, I squatted down. Let me tell you, this was a last resort as people don't generally squat on the metro. No, they don't ever squat. The girl above me looked half concerned, half appalled at my behavior. The moment the metro stopped I made my way out and immediately sat down. My poor roommates just sort of hovered above me not really knowing what to do. And I had three thoughts.
1. I'm going to throw up/pass out in the middle of the metro station
2. God, help me not to throw up/pass out in the middle of the metro station
3. When I sit like this wearing these heels, it looks like I'm wearing high waters
Long story short, I pulled myself together, stuck it out for two classes and then Jeffrey came in and saved the day. Thank you Jeffrey!! (Also, sorry mom for not telling you about the nearly passing out part. I knew it would only worry you...I'm feeling much better today!)

And that was Monday.

Tuesday
God helped me out yesterday. He knew I still wasn't feeling great and my Tuesday went off with abnormal ease (does that make sense? Can I say "abnormal ease?") I had a seat on the metro both to and from work and several students were absent from both of my classes, which while I dearly missed them, (okay, no I didn't) the smaller class sizes certainly made teaching easier. I came home feeling worn out, I rested on my bed for about an hour, and then my roommates and I decided to walk to the fancy grocery store because we wanted to make nachos. However, we got sidetracked on the way and ended up eating at a chinese restaurant. Nachos...chinese...they're basically the same.

And that was Tuesday

Wednesday
Today was a good day. I am feeling much better except for the fact that every time I blow my nose my ears whistle. I'm hoping that fluid will find it's way out of there without any problems...
Anyway, I only teach one class on Wednesdays and it does not begin until the late afternoon so I have the morning all to myself. I slept in, graded some papers, and decided that it's been four days...it's probably time to shower. I know what you're thinking...four days? Gross! And yes, you are right. Four days is probably too long to go without showering but I've been sick, so give me a break. And to top it off, showers aren't exactly enjoyable here. If on any given day you can put you're entire body under the stream of water and not start shivering, you should say a little prayer, for God has surely blessed you. Anyway, I'm clean now and I can leave that four day business behind me. My class went well and I came home to half a pint of ice cream waiting for me in the freezer. I baked some muffins for the morning, watched the move "Bella" with my roommates (watch it!) and now I'm about to read Pride and Prejudice in bed. Aside from being sick, it has been a good week so far. And tomorrow is my Friday! Now it doesn't get much better than that! Spakonya Noche!

Where You Lead Me...



It is difficult for me to imagine permanately living anywhere when my heart is scattered across the world regardless of my location.

Sometimes I find comfort in that. Today that reality hurts a little.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sick.



Gone are the days of having someone else care for you when you are sick. They were nice while they lasted...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

ALSO



I found this quote and I think it's lovely.

"To live without risk is to risk not living"

Nesquik and Blood



I'm considering starting to chew Nesquik powder. It's that good.

In other news, I walked by some puddles near the metro the other day that looked like they were filled with blood. Since being here, I've heard people (specifically Americans) use the phrase T.I.R. which affectionately means...This Is Russia. I've heard it used when things don't make sense, seem ridiculous, or you can't believe what you've just witnessed. Anyway, I asked my roommates if they had noticed the puddles and they both had. One agreed with me and thought it was blood, the other thought it was Koolaid. I found that an interesting observation as I've never seen Koolaid anywhere in Russia. But maybe I'll go with the Koolaid theory...it might help me sleep a little better. However, whether I'm walking over puddles of blood or Koolaid, I can't help but think T.I.R.

Welcome to my life. :-)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The View From the Top



Since coming to Russia, I have found myself hooked to the television show, “Criminal Minds.” We have all four seasons on DVD and it has become a nightly routine to make dinner and watch a couple episodes. I highly recommend this show, but let me warn you…it goes to your head. I have had several dreams where I am tracking down bad guys or caught in a crossfire. One night we were walking to the guys’ flat and we saw a laser pointer shining on the wall in front of us and I was sure it was a sniper. My heart literally started beating faster and I prayed that God would protect us. Just on Monday there was a man working on the roof of the building across from us, and I thought I should get a good look at his face so I could describe him to the police in case he was actually planting bombs up there. Ridiculous.

But the other night I made a startling realization. As I was sitting in my green chair, enjoying the show, a bit of dread started to creep up on me as I thought of the long day of teaching that awaited me in the morning. So I told myself, “Don’t worry. You just need to make it through the day and by this time tomorrow you will be back in this chair.” Whoa. That is a scary way of thinking. Snap out of it, girlfriend.

Here is the problem. I didn’t move to Russia to sit in a green chair and watch American television.
I’ve been here a month and only now am I really starting to experience moments of homesickness. And this homesickness... it’s not even a feeling of wanting to return home, it's just a feeling of wanting things to feel comfortable and normal. I so admire people who thrive in the face of change, adventure, and the unknown. I am not one of these people. I can continue on, but I am aware of the effort it takes to advance each step of the journey. Unfortunately, transitions and change are not easy roads for me.

Currently, I am missing fall in the northwest. I miss changing leaves, scarves, friends, family, and coffee shop chats. I find I am craving all things cozy. More than that, I am craving things that seem familiar, comfortable, and safe. I want to be in a place where I can understand and be understood…the first time. I long to not worry about getting lost, or doing the wrong thing, or making a fool of myself. Truth is, I don’t consciously worry about these things but I feel my mind and soul relax the moment I walk through the door of my flat and I can stop trying so hard. Perhaps that is why my green chair and "Criminal Minds" have become my place of refuge. It’s on days like these when things seem too difficult, I find myself longing for home; for time spent with family and friends, perhaps over a cup of coffee in familiar surroundings. I long for such things not because they seem better, but sometimes when you’re tired, and cold, and a little bit lonely, they just seem easier.

I guess such obstacles are to be expected and hear me out-I’m not complaining. What good is an easy adventure? Where are the lessons, sense of accomplishment, and growth in walking a paved, flat, clearly marked trail? I’m not asking for easy. Give me a mountain and let me climb. Let me work, and try, and sweat, and cry, just so long as I know there is purpose in the pain and effort. And I know there is. I suspect the view from the top will be the most beautiful I’ve witnessed so far. So thank you, God for this mountain. Give me strength to continue to climb when all I want is a break from the trying. And when I fall, help me to fall back on you.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Metro MADNESS

Thursday is the new Friday. At least for me it is. I’m sitting in my quiet flat with a week’s worth of work behind me and the adventures of the weekend to look forward to. It is a glorious feeling. Yesterday our heat came on and I’ve never loved the Russian government quite so much as that moment when I felt the warm heater.

When I return home, there will be many things I think I will miss about Russia. The metro during rush hour, however, will not be one of them. Yesterday as I was going to work I thought about the chaos that was occurring around me and I had to laugh. Out loud. It’s possible that people thought I was crazy for laughing out loud to myself in the metro, but I honestly don’t care. If you saw the madness and actually thought about it you would either laugh or cry. I chose laughing as that seemed a little more appropriate for such a public place.

The metro during rush hour goes against everything I have been brought up to be. From my days in preschool I have been told, “wait your turn…stand in line…don’t push.” Which makes me wonder...do they have preschool in Russia? Literally throngs of people PUSH their way to get onto the escalator that brings them down to the platform. Sometimes I want to say to the person in front of me, “Good work, Grandma. You pushed yourself onto the step right in front of me and you will now make it to the platform a half second before I do. Congratulations!” It really is unfortunate I don’t speak Russian. ;-) Therefore, it is safe to say I don’t enjoy being a part of the madness. And thus far, I have held to my American standards and refused to push. Though I have a feeling one day in the near future…perhaps a day when my students have been particularly unruly…I will deliver a firm shove to the person in front of me. And I suspect it will feel quite good. ;-)

In addition to not enjoying the process it takes to get onto the metro, I also have not developed my metro legs, which makes the journey interesting when I am unable to lean against something or hold on. I am in awe of the people who stand there, free of any support, as the metro jerks and shakes. It really is a skill.

However, there is always a silver lining. I have a created a game for the metro. After all, you do what you have to in order to amuse yourself and not make it home in a bad mood. You see, everyday my future husband passes me on the down escalator as I ride the up escalator. By the time I make it to the top I must pick the man I will marry. I give myself one opportunity to change my selection on the way up (as experience has taught me I don’t always choose wisely the first time…or the second…or the third…) but I must make my decision before I reach the top. This is a game even my Dad could play, as there is strategy involved. Pick a decent candidate early on. You can always change your mind if a tall man with dark hair and mysterious eyes passes you towards the top.

I’ve won almost every day. Except on Tuesday. I thought I would be daring and walk on the wild side and wait until the very end to make my selection. However, it turned out there were slim pickings at the top. No matter. I’m sure he had a great personality…

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's getting colder...


...and I'm getting ready!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hello There, Weekend






Cookies are in the oven, our flat is clean, and in a few hours we will host our first Bible study. It will be interesting to see how many students choose to actually come. Our invitation was met with varied responses. Some rolled their eyes and laughed. Some asked for more information. Others promised to see us Friday evening. So truth is, we could either have two students show up or a hundred. Regardless of how many students decide to come, it is sure to be an adventure, as most things seem to be in Russia.
Our most recent adventure involved our toilet deciding to stop flushing. We spent a good week and a half to two weeks walking to McDonald’s to use the restroom. It is certainly doable because McDonalds is only about a five minute walk from our flat but let me tell you, it is a problem when you wake up in the middle of the night and…um…need to use the facilities. Thankfully two (fairly attractive) plumbers came on Wednesday and saved the day. We now have a working toilet and we no longer need to walk to McDonalds to use the bathroom or pee in the shower…

Wait. Did I just say that? ;-)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Much Farther To Go

It is approaching midnight but for some reason I’m finding it difficult to sleep. I just spent the last ten minutes staring out my kitchen window, eating cornflakes from the bag and drinking milk from it’s carton. It is reasons such as these that cause me to abandon all hope of coming home a few pounds lighter than when I arrived. Oh well.

It is raining outside. Pouring, actually. Across from my building is another apartment building and I feel like I know the inhabitants because I often see them living their lives from the view from my window. The man on the end smokes out of his window often. One apartment never seems to turn their light out. I like to look at it when I get up for work in the morning and my roommates are still sleeping and I’m tired and cold and I know that my family and friends are ending their days, possibly unaware that a new day is beginning for me.

I feel like life is moving along so quickly. Perhaps sometimes I need sleepless nights to gaze out the window and watch the rain fall. I need time to allow myself to swallow reality…or at the very least, taste it. There are moments when I feel as if I hold the world in the palm of my hand. But tonight I feel like a little girl staring out her window, into a great big world. Strangely, I suspect both feelings hold their own level of truth and beauty.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Reflections of the Week


Well life has gotten busier as I have started teaching. My first class was on Thursday and I taught a full day today. This past weekend we had the opportunity to sightsee a bit. We walked around Nevskey Prospekt and got some business things taken care of such as purchasing cell phones and sim cards. On Sunday we attended a Russian Calvary Chapel church. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I recognized one song and sang along in English. Lucky for me, the sermon was translated into English. After church my roommates, a couple other Americans, an Australian and I all went out for Georgian food. It really was a wonderful weekend.

Though I've only lived in Russia a little over a week, I have made some observations. Keep in mind these are initial observations...they may change over time. But here is what I have so far.

-Russian women are warriors. They wear the skinniest, highest heels on a daily basis. I wore heels all day to teach in today and I would like to chop my feet off. I honestly don't know how they do it.
-Just because you found something you liked in the grocery store yesterday, doesn't mean it will be there today...or tomorrow...or next week. You just never know.
-A lot of russian men really like women and alcohol. I'm not stereotyping. They'll tell you this openly and honestly...even as part of a class assignment.
-It's best to maintain a straight face on the metro. Better yet, look a little pissed off.
-If you need/want something like an ink cartridge or...I don't know... a hair straightener, you need to know where to look. Things like Walmart and Fred Meyer just don't exist. It is more than likely you'll need to go all over town to check off your shopping list.
-Yes, I am and American and yes, I like McDonalds. But so do you, okay? Give me a break.
-Want to mix patterns? No problem! The busier the better. (This applies to clothing, house decor, etc.)
-Walk with purpose. No, actually it's more than that. Jog a little.
-Carry small bills or prepare yourself to be yelled or at least glared at by the cashiers.
-Drink the juice. It's delcious. Any kind.
-Just because it looks like something you recognize, doesn't mean it tastes like something you recognize.
-People rave about St. Petersburg. They have good reason. It is wonderful here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A day of firsts...

First day of teaching...check.
First day of riding the metro solo...check.

I consider today a success.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Lesson in Contentment

As I write this, I am sitting in the living room of my flat in St. Petersburg, Russia. Let me say it again. St. Petersburg, Russia. Months of planning, prayers, and preparations have finally paid off and at last I am here. I'm not sure the reality of it all has fully sunk in yet.

It is strange knowing that while I am here, life continues on in the states. There have been multiple times already when I have had deep longings to be back with the people I love, in the places I know, doing familiar things. I wish I could sit in starbucks, enjoy a seasonal drink, and soak up fall. I wish I could talk to people and know they understand me. I wish I could eat a home-cooked meal. I wish I could go to the grocery store and buy whatever I like and know exactly what I'm buying. And yet...when I was home I did such things and really thought nothing of them. They held little meaning to me and rarely did I stop to thank God for them. I fear unless I am careful, I will live my entire life in such a way.

When I first returned from my time in Ukraine I felt completely alive. I appreciated the little things, as I had realized how big the little things can seem when you have to do without them. A glass of ice water. A hot shower. Time spent alone. Time with people I love. Food that you're not scared to eat... I appreciated them all. Yet, it wasn't long before my thankfulness turned into forgetfulness and discontentment. It is dangerous because it is so easy to do. I could tell you all of the things I'm thankful for now that I don't have them, but I suppose that would be missing the point. My life is different now but there are no fewer reasons to be thankful. Perhaps there are even more. So I when I struggle with feeling homesick, or wanting conviences I may lack- when I long to understand or be understood I will remind myself to be thankful. I am thankful for answered prayers and new adventures. I am thankful for roommates and relationships that are still to come. I am thankful for the beautiful new city that awaits me right outside my door. I am thankful for this brand spankin' new day.

Life feels a little newer, a little scarier, and a little closer to what, perhaps, it is supposed to be like. Thank you, God.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

UGH.

Goodbyes are hard.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Week 2

Things I've learned at training so far:

-Black widows live in Pasadena
-Eating doughnuts before dinner is a bad choice. Almost always.
-Wear sunscreen...or have a roommate who is willing to peel your skin off for you.
-Trust that God has you where he needs you...no matter how difficult or uncomfortable the circumstances.
-There are indeed some people even more awkward than I am. Praise the Lord.
-Appreciate the little things.
-Sleep is my friend. So are ant traps.
-Russian is a very difficult language to learn.
-Be willing to be vulnerable.
-Chocolate milk still makes life better.
-God's plan extends beyond relationships, occupations, and comfort. He may bless us with these things but that doesn't necessarily mean they are ours to keep forever.
-Air conditioning is a beautiful thing.
-It is in fact possible to live without my hair straightener. Life is a little frizzier though.
-Risk being known.
-Jillann is my hero.
-Some people play games involving planting beans. It's weird. And kind of fun.
-God provides for my needs (strength, finances, friendships, etc.)
-Even if it all seems overwhelming at times...his mercies truly are new each morning.
-It's okay to fail.
-It's only been a little over a week and I miss my family and friends like crazy. I realize how easily I take them for granted.
-Life will never be the same.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

But even if he does not

Well, I suppose this is my first official Russia adventure update. I'm currently in Pasadena and about halfway through my first week of training. It is so odd to think I haven't even been gone a week. It feels like I've been away forever! Already, I'm feeling used to being here and I'm excited about my team and my roommate (who is actually going to Kazakhstan). I've certainly had my moments of uncertainty, fear, and doubt already but thankfully my friends, family, and most importantly God, have reassured me that this is exactly where I need to be. The reality of what lies ahead is finally setting in. I am about to move to Russia for a year. Sounds cool right? Yes. It also sounds a little different after our sessions on language, culture shock, living conditions, crime, corruption, and poverty. It doesn't change the fact that I want to go, it just drives home the fact that this will indeed be an incredibly challenging experience.

Yesterday we had a session entitled "grappling with reality" The purpose of this session was to lower our expectations and paint a more realistic picture of what life overseas will actually be like. We talked about the dangers of living overseas...about police corruption, domestic violence, theft, sexual harassment/assault,alcoholism, etc. Such things happen across the world but when we are taken out of our own familiar surroundings and put into a place where our knowledge of such things is limited I guess things might be a little riskier (sorry, mom). I think we all walked away from the session feeling encouraged that there are steps we can take to remain safe, but also a little uneasy about what we may face.

Later in the afternoon I was talking to my roommate and we were discussing how scary it is to think that such things could happen to us. She told me she had been reading in Daniel and a particular passage stuck out to her. As she read it to me, it gave me chills. In this passage Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are about to be thrown into the fiery furnace and they respond to the king in this way:

"If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

We will go overseas, with the confidence that we are under the Lord's protection and he will keep us safe. But even if he does not, God is still God, and we will love and serve him regardless.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I like it

"If you always do what you've always done
you'll always be what you've always been."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Russia Blog

So I've made the decision that A Mosiac of Thoughts IS my Russia blog. Originally I had intended on creating another blog to share my experiences, lessons, and adventures in Russia but the more I thought about it the more I realized the experience doesn't begin when I step off a plane. It began a long time ago and my current blog has played a role in documenting it. So-stay tuned if you're interested in my journey! We've only just begun...

(P.S. I'm we're in Pasadena...slightly tired but very ready for Disneyland tomorrow! Training starts on Sunday!)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

One More Day

"The only thing more unthinkable than leaving is staying;
the only thing more impossible than staying is leaving."

~Eat, Pray, Love

Monday, July 13, 2009

"Perfect Preparation"

Truth is, I'm a bit nervous now. There. I said it. I'm nervous. I leave for California in two days and then it won't be long before I'm off to Russia. As I often do, I was reading through some of my journals tonight and read an entry written four years ago. I find comfort in the fact that my time in Russia is not an isolated event. God has used the things in my past to prepare me for it, and I believe he will use Russia to prepare me for whatever is next.


December 17, 2005

"There is something about safety that traps you. It draws you in and doesn't want to let you go. Perhaps it is the comfort or stability that we feel that keeps us from moving on. Or maybe it is the fear of what we will face if we step out-out of our houses, out of our bank accounts, out of our schools, out of our country...out of our control. Ironically, there is much danger in safety. I went to a womens event at church tonight. Around me were several dozen women, all cute and cheerful. Sometimes I think about how easy it is to appear like you have everything together. As I watched these women eat their homemade cookies and talk to their friends, I couldn't help but feel a little bit of dread. I could easily see myself in their shoes in ten or fifteen years and I wonder, what type of life is a safe life? Go to work, take care of the kids, cook dinner, kiss your husband, go to bed and start over. This isn't to say that great good can't come from this lifestyle. I don't doubt that some people are called to such a life. But what if I'm not?

My own self-doubt and insecurities bind me to a certain level of safety without my even knowing it. Look at my life now. My family, my church, my friends, my school, the people around me, the decisions I make-for the most part they are safe. People would think my life a success if I graduated college, became a kindergarten teacher, got married, had kids, and lived a "good" life. But I can't help wonder what God has to say about that. I wonder if that would be how he would define success for my life. The way I see it is there are plenty of people who would love to live a life like that and will search for nothing more. What could God do with me if I was willing? If I laid my dreams before him. If I gave him my dreams of a husband, a teaching job, children, and ultimately my safety and security- and laid them before his feet? How would things be different? In what ways would the direction of my life change? Maybe nothing would change...or maybe nothing could stay the same. We sang a song tonight that declared whatever we go through in this life, that it will all be worth it. I want to go beyond my own plans. How do I expect to follow an unsafe God when I am wallowing in safety? How do I expect to feel his touch when I am wrapped in my own security?"

Friday, July 10, 2009

Blog Theft

I had a whole blog written out and then when I went to publish it, an error message came up and it was lost. What the heck!? No matter, in my reading of other's blogs I came across this one and it's way better than anything I would write. Can you post someone else's blog on your blog? I don't know but I'm about to. This is by Richard Dahlstrom, pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle. (raincitypastor.blogspot.com)
Read it. It's good.


The Shore or the River...

"This morning's reading from the "Divine Hours" (my guide for morning prayer) speaks of God's advocacy of behalf of the poor needy. My initial reaction is to say, "Really? Advocacy? Has God been to Sudan lately? Or Palestine? Has he seen the tents under the viaduct in Seattle, or on the outskirts of Fresno?"

I continue down this path of skepticism and challenge to God's declared truth until I think to myself, "I'd better stop thinking this way, or else I'm going to start doubting everything" as if I'm in a raft, headed towards a waterfall. I desperately paddle for the shore by looking for some way of harmonizing declarations like these with my experience. "Ah, the poor" I say to myself; "they're poor because..." and then I complete the sentence with any number of assessments I've heard down through the years about poverty: things about laziness, and corruption, unbelief, and deficient political systems. I'll throw in a praise chorus or two about how God blesses those who love Him and suddenly realize that I'm no longer being swept towards the edge, but am paddling safe in a theological eddy.

Comfortably resting at the ideological shore, no longer doubting God's word, I catch my breath. As I recover from the scare, I realize that, while there's safety on the shore, this is a place that's bothering me. It's bothering me because, when I'm honest, I realize that the answers that got me here are lies and generalizations. I look back to the river and see that there are hundreds of rafts heading towards the waterfall and plunging over. They're filled with people living in tent cities, or refugee camps, or dumps outside Manila and Delhi.

Slowly, it dawns on me that I'm not alone on the shore. I'm there with millions of others who, like me, have answered the hard questions with insufficient answers, answers that are ultimately justifications for the unconscionable gap between the rich and poor of this world. Those on the shore can find a treatment for every ailment and even for things that aren't, from erectile dysfunction to undersized breasts. Those stuck on the river can't afford aspirin or shoes, and have no access to clean water.

My answers plague me as insufficient, and so I cry out to God: "Why aren't you doing something?"
"Because you're my body" replies the Voice, "and you're sitting on the shore."

Appalled at the rightness of His answer, I protest: "Look at the risk! If I jump in..."

"Yes, I know, but jumping in is what I do. Unless, that is, my body is in rebellion, refusing the respond to its own head. That kind of paralysis is personally disabling. What's worse though, is that, stuck on the shore, my body's refusal to be where I want it to be is killing millions."

We who are on the shore are singing. We're reading our Bibles. We're arguing about Calvinism and debating whether the future of the church is "house", "emergent", or "mega." But the arguments are happening on the shore while 30 thousand children a day drop over the edge of the falls.

Make no mistake; the river IS risky. Sometimes people in the river get killed. Standing for justice gets people tossed in jail sometimes or worse, branded as a heretic. That's why the shore is so heavily populated these days. There's campfires and kum-by-yah.

I don't know where I'm going with this metaphor (this is, after all a blog of "musings"). I suppose I'm trying to paint a picture that says, "Sure, we all need to moments on the shore to catch our breath and restore our strength. But I began by wondering why Jesus isn't helping the poor, and the answer, of course, is that He will, but only to the extent that His body, the church is listening to Him, and responding. This is Wes and Heather serving in Bolivia. This Walter. He's in Ghana. This is Spilling Hope, a water project for Africa.

Don't get too comfortable on the shore. Jesus wants his body in the river."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Restless

I feel crazy and I don't know why. I hate having emotions I can't identify or attribute to any one particular thing. Life is weird.


And I'm tired of the waiting game. Let's get this show on the road...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

:-)

Droogs.

I have the best friends in the world. Honestly. I love spending time with them whether we're off on an adventure or just watching a movie at someone's house. I've had the opportunity to hang out a lot with some of my friends in Puyallup now that I'm home and I've enjoyed every second of it. I'm also really excited to see some of my friends from Seattle before I leave. I just woke up today feeling extremely grateful for the blessing of friendships.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Who I Am

"I don't know who I am-who I am without you
All I know is that I should"

Life has changed. Life is changing. Life is about to change. And in the midst of it all, I find myself wondering who I'll be on the other side of this change. Russia is no longer a distant plan...it is soon to be a reality. I've found the lyrics of Missy Higgin's "Where I Stood" song floating through my thoughts over the past few days. I first heard this as a "break-up" song but the above lyrics ring especially true to me right now.

My biggest fear/concern/sadness about moving to Russia is the fact that while I am gaining a beautiful new experience, I am leaving behind the people whom I love the most.

What will I do without my mom to tell me everything will be okay? Who understands me like Katie? Who will tell me I'm ridiculous like Jamie? Who will have the answers to random questions like my Dad? What will I do when I feel lost, hopeless, discouraged, or afraid?

I've been so blessed to have family and friends that can lift my spirits, comfort me in sadness, encourage me in disappointment, and ease my fears. And yet I know I'm being asked to loosen my grip, let them go, and say goodbye (at least for a little while). And while there are times when the thought of this terrifies me, the truth is I think I'm ready.

I've always had a safety net-a group of people who would catch me when I fell, help me avoid making mistakes, and aid in picking up the pieces when I made them anyway. But now it's time for me to trust myself, or rather, to trust God's leading in my life. He has called me into this new chapter alone and I don't doubt there is a purpose behind that. It is time I learn to fully care for my own decisions, emotions, and opportunities. It is time to trust that I really am strong enough, wise enough, and brave enough. And it is time to experience firsthand that God is all of these things...even when I am not. I do not fully know who I am. But I believe these changes will bring me one step closer to finding out.

"I don't know who I am-who I am without you All I know is that I should"

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Reality Sinking

Life is about to change.

Drastically.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tears and Tea

I was blessed today by a co-worker that hardly knows me. She didn't have to...but she did.

People are good. And God is good.

Today serves as a reminder and testament to this.

That's all for now.

Friday, May 15, 2009

just another exciting friday night

Thank goodness for Fridays. I mean really, what would we do without them??!?

I can't say my Friday night is all that exciting though. I'm sitting on my bed with wet hair (because I finally decided it was about time I showered..ew!) waiting to be summoned upstairs to babysit. No matter, I'm not really in the going out sort of mood anyway. The past two nights I've gone to bed at about 8:30 as I'm doing my best to fight off a sore throat which I think is now turning into a cold. Let me tell you though, this is a doosey of a sore throat. I wake up in the middle of the night forgetting that it hurts and I'm in for a painful shock when I swallow. I can also feel it when I turn my head from side to side. No good.

Tomorrow, against my better judgement, I'm probably going to go hiking. I've been wanting to go for a while now and it's supposed to be beautiful outside. Maybe I'll wake up and miraculously be healed of my sore throat (or maybe I'll wake up and just pretend I'm miraculously healed). Either way, I'm excited to spend some time in the fresh air, exhausting my body through means other than chasing children around all day.

On Sunday I'm going to the wedding of a friend from high school. Then in two weeks, one of my best friends from high school is also getting married and I'm in that wedding! My friends are starting to get married. They are going to have husbands...and that is weird. I'm excited for them and yet, glad it's not me. I feel like the possibilities of life are just starting to seem bigger than a job, a house, and a marriage, and I suppose I fear a relationship at this point in my life would ground me. Maybe that's a rational fear...maybe it's not...all I can say is I'm content with life at the moment. I have decided that anyone I date in the future better love Ukraine. And orphans. And coffee. (Though I guess the coffee part isn't really a deal breaker)

So that's it. I'll end this pointless blog with high hopes of a good weekend and the wonderful knowledge that next week is THE LAST WEEK OF SCHOOL!!

woo. hoo.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In The Meantime

Current Coutdowns:
Last day of school: 10 Days..8 of those being work days
Last day of work: 36 days...23 work days (not counting days off)
Leave for California: 65 days
Training in Cali begins: 68 days
Leave for Russia: ~3.5 months

Time is passing quickly. It doesn't feel like too long ago that all of those numbers were in the triple digits and now the arrival of each of them will soon be a reality. I've been counting down for a while now and honestly,I've often wanted to just get through the day so I could cross it off. Yet lately I've been realizing the need to live in the moment, to search for the lessons in the here and now, and practice a lifestyle of gratitude. Two Sundays ago I heard something at church that rang particulary true to me. So often we have dreams and passions and prayers that we are just waiting for God to fulfill. Whether we realize it or not, it is almost as if we believe life will only truly begin upon the fulfillment of such dreams. And yet- life, joy, love, lessons, beauty, and God can all be found waiting for us in the meantime. While I'm busy counting down and trying to get through the day, the opportunity to truly live is slipping through the cracks. God is faithful enough to reside in the mundane, everyday occurances, and big enough to use them to bring about beauty, growth, and change. So tomorrow, as I wake up to a new day, I will continue to look towards the future with great anticipation and excitement, but I will also find contentment and joy in what God has blessed me with in the meantime. Life is truly a beautiful gift. It's time I start living like I actually believe that.