Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Thought for Today

After spending this week at home and in pain I decided to to dig out a quote from The Call to Joy and Pain. It seemed most appropriate this week.

"...the happiest people in the world are not those who have no suffering- they are those who are not afraid of suffering."
Ajith Fernando

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

oh the pressure!

I have heard from many of our Russian friends that they can feel the barometric pressure change. This week I am experiencing it for myself.

In the states that my fibromyalgia was connected to weather changes. We have gone from sunny to rainy back to sunny again in the course of a day...writing that about Krasnodar just reminded me of spring in Kansas!

This past week I began to feel even minor changes in the barometric pressure and that is not fun! I have felt tired and more achy in my muscles than normal. In times like this I remember the counsel from my doctor in the states "to remove as much stress from your life as possible".

I have chosen to stay home from school. This allows me to sleep later and deeper because I am not concerned about missing my alarm and being late for school. Sleeping deeper and longer allows for my muscles to relax and for me to feel restored. I have greatly improved since Sunday but I know I still have a way to go to reach par!

Over the years my doctor and I have tried various "cocktails" of different medcations. But, she has wisely kept me off of pain killers. For one, they don't provide full pain relief for me and two, they can be addictive. I use a muscle relaxer or simply Motrin, restorative sleep, warm baths, mild exercise and healthy food choices. These have proven to be the most impactful for me.

Spencer brings home my assignments from school. Tom made sure that I got out today for a short walk. I am keeping up with my language helper time. I am grateful that Sasha has a great grasp on grammar and is able to explain things that I am missing in school this week.

Tom doesn't have a seminar this week so I get to relax this weekend as well... I am grateful for God's timing. If I had to choose a week to not feel well, this is a good one!

Monday, April 28, 2008

христос воскрес!!!

во истину воскрес!!!

He is risen... He is risen indeed!

We stayed up late on Saturday to watch the services from the Orthodox church in Moscow. The pageantry was awesome. Putin and his wife along with Medvedev and his wife were in attendance. I am amazed that people stood for hours as the service went on.

We started watching at 11pm. We were able to see the procession around the church by all of the priests and selected guests. There was a commentator who told stories about the service, the clothing and the symbolism. One of the things he mentioned that was fascinating to me was that the three top priests represented the Trinity. There were several candle abras with three candles... and the head priest wore three necklaces. The colors, sights and sounds from the service are imprinted in my head. We finally headed off to bed at 1am. They had just finished one part of the service and then all the priests went and changed robes and seemed to start all over again!

We got up and went to church on Sunday and it was truly a blessed day. Some of our non-christian friends that Tom invited to church actually showed up! We spent time with them after the service. He mentioned that at the Orthodox church he would have stood for hours holding a hot candle... while he could see that our God was kind by allowing us to sit down! He was also amazed at the number of young people especially the children. He brought his niece and his granddaughter with him. Please pray for him. He is still seeking, reading the Bible and asking Tom questions every week.

Our church did a huge luncheon out on the lawn. One of the men from Uzbekistan made Lamb pilaf. The lamb was slaughtered earlier in the week and then prepared on Saturday. There was so much food it was overwhelming. Easter eggs and Easter breads... there is so much here that is just beautiful!

Watching my friend's little boy with his Easter egg was a hoot! He dropped it in the dirt, wiped it off, licked it and then poked a hole in it with a stick! He is 18 months old!

I didn't feel well at all yesterday or today... I am in a fibromyalgia flare and barely got out of bed. I am grateful to have made it to church and disappointed that we were not able to attend a dinner that we had been invited to. I spent today in bed and right now tomorrow looks "iffy" as well. Please pray for me. I am scheduled to give my testimony to someone that I am mentoring on Wednesday. I worked on it a bit today with Sasha and we will finish writing it out tomorrow.

I wish I had photos to show from the Easter service. But all of them got deleted when we tried to load them. I cried for a few hours over that... I had such incredible photos!

Easter is by far my favorite holiday!

Friday, April 25, 2008

weighing in!

I have been working at losing weight for quite sometime now... I was 20 pounds down and then gained weight over the holidays. Tom and I are choosing healthier foods and walking whenever we can. I say that all the while knowing that my classmates from school read my blog and they all witness me eating a bag of chips and a snickers bar during our breaktime so I know I am still in need of reform.

Last week I wrote this in my journal:

Something is wrong with my bathroom scale. I think it lies to me. I can't prove it though. I cannot imagine what I may have done to the scale to deserve this treatment. Tom says that people lie when they don't feel it is safe to tell the truth.... maybe it is afraid I will get rid of it.
I wonder if I am getting on and getting off too much. I wonder if I have violated the scales boundaries in any way. Each time I get on it flashes me a number I know has to be wrong... I wonder if it is mocking me. Or maybe it is trying to keep me from being too proud or conceited... when I see that I have lost a bit I do tend to feel a bit self satisfied. I should thank the scale for this lesson in humility.

I realised after writing this that I personally needed more accountability so I decided to go public with my efforts. I asked Joyce and Stephanie to keep tabs on me. It worked. I am down a pound after the scale not budging for two weeks. Maybe this surge of bravery will come back to haunt me but here goes.

I am installing a weight loss ticker to help me keep track of my efforts.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

all in a day's work

Earlier today Tom stopped by the school to drop off Easter Baskets for the teachers. I don't have any photos of the item that he made for them. It was a small rectangular shaped mirror with a mosaic of stones attached to it in a way that when you look at the mirror you can see the shape of a cross. Special thanks to all of you who sent us gift bags and tissue paper he was able to package them up with chocolate candies and present each teacher with his or her own mirrored cross!

As Tom was walking home from his trip to the language school he ran into our neighbor Olya on the playground with her youngest daughter. As they were talking she got a call from her sister in law, Lena P! Olya told Lena who she was speaking with and Lena had Olya relay the message that she wanted to come over to our home tonight. A few hours later Lena P. stopped by to purchase a necklace for one of her professors at university... she took the time to look at each one of the necklaces that Tom showed her and finally chose something she felt this woman would appreciate. She told us that this professor has been very honorable and has not asked for bribes or special favors to do extra work with the students. Lena paid Tom the equivalent of 4 dollars for the necklace. She was happy to have a unique gift to give to her professor and Tom's enjoyment comes from making the jewelry!

Just before Lena arrived Sasha came over to work on my language lesson. Our current lesson is on funerals... not a very joyful topic. She and I ended up doing more talking than anything else. She showed me a book she was reading so we ended up discussing the theme of her book. Before she left she apologised for not helping much with my lesson. I reminded her that for me to have a conversation in Russian is also lesson. There were two times tonight when I wanted to say something and I didn't know the Russian word. We looked them up in the dictionary and then talked about synonyms for those words. That type of real life lesson is priceless to me.

As Sasha and I were winding down her brother Pavlik called to ask if we had any new movies that he might be interested in. I asked him if he wanted to talk about the choices with Spencer. Spencer invited him to come over and have a look. Pavlik is learning English at school. But he wouldn't speak English with us. I told him that we make mistakes when we speak Russian but we speak anyway. He said that "speaking Russian is scary but speaking English is even scarier!"

Sasha (23)and Pavlik (13) left with a bag full of dvd's in full negotiations over who was going to use the computer first when they got home!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Thought for Today

“Christ comes to the world as the example, constantly enjoining: Imitate me. We humans prefer to adore him instead.”

Soren Kierkegaard

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

food, friends and fun!

My friend and language helper, Sasha, Spencer’s best friend and language helper, Vlad, and Tom’s friend and translator, Dima, were here at the same time and they all agreed to have dinner with us!

Dima is one of the teachers at our langauge school and he is Vlad's uncle. He introduced Spencer and Vlad to each other last year. We have known Sasha for the past three years and she just started helping me with language last fall. Vlad, Sasha and Dima all speak English so it was easy for them to understand what we were saying no matter which language we chose to speak in!

The table conversation was a mixture of Russian and English with a bit of Spanish thrown in here and there. The meal was a Mexican casserole with Russian ice cream for dessert. When Tom offered seconds to Dima he reminded him that we are Americans and we will only ask once if you want more. Typically, Russians will ask three times. After that warning all the guys had seconds when Tom asked them!

I enjoyed having Sasha in the kitchen with me. After our language session she helped me with preparing dinner. We were able to get in some girl time and catch up on what she has been up to these past few weeks. Spencer and Vlad were sent to the store to get drinks and dessert and then set the table after getting their homework done. After dinner Dima worked on getting Tom’s PowerPoint presentation translated for Saturday and then we fed him dessert!

We had such a great evening…. I have to admit that earlier in the day I was experiencing a flare up of my fibromyalgia and I was not feeling up to having people over. I almost cancelled the whole evening. I took some time this afternoon before Sasha arrived to lay down and rest…. My muscles are still sore but having guests can truly energize the spirit!

Monday, April 21, 2008


Tom went off to do his last teaching for the series on Male Sexuality at the BLTC. He took his crocks with him to wear while he is teaching since his feet were still sore when he left for the school this morning. He told me that all last week he had been alternating between a pair of shoes that were comfortable for walking and a pair that were comfortable for standing but not for walking in. But even that pair that was good for standing in are not as comfortable to him as the crocks are. It is part of the culture here to remove shoes in a home and some of the guys do put on houseshoes at the BLTC as well. So it shouldn't be too strange for Tom to change his shoes once he gets there!

He and Spencer left early to go and get the Audio/Visual equipment set up before the seminar. I laid in bed as they were moving about this morning... I am still not feeling well. My muscles are very sore and I feel a bit nauseous. I slept on the couch last night since I know that Tom needs to stay healthy to finish out his commitment at the BLTC!

Thanks for keeping us and all our work in our prayers... I am headed back to bed!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Boundaries Week 2

We had several new people today and it is exciting and encouraging having people attend who want to change and grow.

One of this morning’s highlights was when Tom, Spencer and Dima put on a little skit for us demonstrating what it is like to ride on public transportation. (an example of a place in our daily lives where our physical boundaries are not respected. Spencer stood really really really close to Dima playing music on his cell phone extremely LOUD. Tom stood on the other side of Dima talking loudly on his cell phone! Poor Dima was not warned ahead of time what was going to happen so all of his facial expressions as he reacted to Tom and Spencer were genuine! It was a slice of reality for those of us who ride public transport everyday… which included 20 out of the 24 people who were there this morning!

I lead the women’s discussion group for the first time and I am relieved that it went well. I began by saying that I was positive that it was “clear” to everyone in the room that I am a foreigner and that I am not capable of speaking Russian without making a mistake! After making that little announcement they all laughed and I relaxed… and just spoke without being afraid of making grammar mistakes. There was a person in attendance this morning who works full time as a professional translator. She came up to me afterwards to tell me how well I did. She complimented me on the diversity of my vocabulary. She was impressed that I was able to use the complex constructions that I have learned in school mixed in with the colloquial expressions I have learned from conversations with Russians. She helped me to realize that the challenging week we had in school learning how to express our opinions correctly was worth every minute!

Tom, Spencer and I went out to dinner at Heavenly Dragon to celebrate making it though this long hard week. Tom has been teaching all week at the BLTC. He is doing a seminar on Male Sexuality. He spent 5 days this week standing on his feet teaching! Then after doing the seminar today he came home took a nap and then he had a counseling appointment. The person he was working with today didn’t want an outside translator so I sat in to help him with it.

We are grateful to be active in ministry after two years of building relationships. We don’t want to sound as if we are whining about our schedule, we are truly glad to be serving!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

say what?

I saw this on a friends blog and decided to give it a try! I am shocked at the results... I don't even have a post graduate degree. Maybe Tom's education rubbed off onto me!
blog readability test


After school today I felt so relieved that I survived another week of class that I celebrated by purchasing a new blouse... perhaps I was motivated by the theme of our new lesson that we received just before class ended; clothing! Or maybe I just wanted to reward myself and I am trying NOT to use food as a reward!

We spent the bulk of this week learning to express our opinions through agreement, disagreement, doubt, and so on. It was a challenging week but a great one. It felt good to learn how to express myself on a deeper level.

Some days in class I get frustrated with making grammar mistakes. Learning Russian grammar has not come easily for me. I blame my age. I daydream about being ten years younger and tell myself that I would be doing so much better if I had started sooner!

I remember talking with someone a few years ago about my frustrations with the difficulty I face memorizing all the grammar rules and getting used to the 6 cases that Russian has. She told me that she did great with grammar but it took her a long time to build her vocabulary. I truly love words... most nights before going to sleep I read from my Russian dictionary. Learning new words is not a struggle for me.

I work everyday on memorizing the grammar rules, declining words properly, and reviewing which cases go with which verbs. I keep praying that someday my over 40 brain will pull it all together. At least I can look back on this journey with thanksgiving for how far I have come!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Thought for Today

Each week I choose a quote to personally meditate on... today in my devotional reading I came across this:

"To understand others is to break through to them in a way that frees us from the burden of judging them, patronizing them or trying to control them."

James E. Adams from his book Let Me Sow Love

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

This news has been anticipated for a while now and in time we will come to fully understand what this means for Russia, but here is a bit of breaking news:

Putin accepts leadership of party
Vladimir Putin has accepted the leadership of the dominant United Russia party. The position should secure his grip on power after he leaves the Kremlin and becomes prime minister next month.

The nearly 600 party delegates at Tuesday's congress immediately approved his candidacy in an unanimous vote. Becoming head of United Russia will enhance Putin's power base in the lower house of Russia's parliament, where the party holds a two-thirds majority.

The move could also serve to undercut the authority of Putin's hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev.

Monday, April 14, 2008

such a deal!

Usually I confine my knitting and crocheting escapades to my crocheting blog so those of you who are not yarn fans will have to bear with me for a bit!

I got out of school early today because there were just two of us in class. I thought I could either go and do my grocery shopping early or I could go and see if there was any new yarn at one of the craft stores here in town. Obviously, I chose the craft store!!

I found a 70% bamboo and 30% cotton blend today! It only cost $1.66 per skein, so I bought all that they had...10 skeins. I looked on line at bamboo yarn and there was one site that had it on sale for $2.80 most places charge close to $9 a skein.

I am a happy camper right now, I got a great deal on yarn, got out of school early, got a letter from my mom and a phone call from Erin... life is good!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Boundaries Week 1

Today was the first day of a three week series Tom is doing on Boundaries!

We had a great turnout…there were 23 of us not counting the kids in childcare!

The big highlight for today was a list of our “Assertive Rights”. This list made for a lively discussion during small group time as some of these go against the culture here. It was interesting to hear how many people thought that they were doing very well setting boundaries until Tom gave them this list!!

My Assertive Rights

1. I have the right to be responsible for my own actions.

2. I am not responsible for the actions of any other adult.

3. I have the right to make mistakes.

4. I have the right to be myself.

5. I have the right to be treated with respect.

6. I have the right to have and express my feelings, thoughts, and opinions.

7. I have the right to say “NO” and not feel guilty.

8. I have the right to change my mind.

9. I have the right to say “I don’t know”.

10. I have the right to feel and express anger appropriately.

11. I have the right to have my needs be as important as the needs of others.

12. I have the right to do things that other people may not approve of.

13. I have the right to ask “Why?” or “Why not?”

14. I have the right to ask for assistance.

15. I have the right to say, “I don’t understand”.

Friday, April 11, 2008

pray for us...

Tom starts a new series at the church tomorrow on Boundaries... we are spending today getting ready!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

just doing my homework...

Our new lesson is about salary and the monthly cost of living. Our teacher Arina asked us to do some research on the minimum living wage here in Russia. When speaking about pay here in Russia all the numbers are per month and not per year like we are used to in America.

This is what I found online:

According to the Federal law " Regarding the living wage in the Russian Federation " the Government of the Russian Federation decided:

1. To establish a living wage across the Russian Federation for the third quarter of 2007 per capita 3879 rubles($164.81),for able-bodied population - 4197 rubles($178.32), pensioners - 3085 rubles ($131.07), children - 3704 rubles ($157.37).

All the amounts in dollars are based on today's exchange rate which is 23.53 if you want to look I used the website to do the calculations.

And for those of you who would like to read the original article in Russian you can click here!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Thought for Today

The most important thing that we surrender is our own self-- our desire to control our lives. Of course, we don't surrender and go into a vacuum. We surrender something in order to cling to God only. Surrender is the means to enjoying more fully the most beautiful thing in our lives--our joyous love relationship with God.

Ajith Fernando from his book The Call to Joy & Pain

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

America in the news..

It is not everyday that America gets mentioned in the news... unless it is about politics or the fluctuating value of the dollar!

Hearing about one event in America was pretty disturbing for me. I was shocked by the story from Texas about the 52 girls ages 6 months to 17 years that were removed from a polygamist compound. I actually had to look up the story online because I thought that maybe I had heard the number wrong in Russian. In case you are not familiar with the story you can click here .

Things like this break my heart... and I am sure that they break the heart of God as well.

Monday, April 07, 2008

spring cleaning!

As I was trying to study on Saturday afternoon...

I heard the rhythmic whacking noise of my neighbor cleaning a rug!
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Saturday, April 05, 2008

a day of rest!

Tom took a week off from teaching at the church and will start up again next Saturday. This month's topic is Boundaries!

We are all grateful for the short break... Tom is also preparing for a 7 day seminar for the BLTC, and Spencer and I have position papers to write for language school in Russian.

We all slept in this morning and then went to our respective corners and hit the books!!

Friday, April 04, 2008


Shopping here in Krasnodar is an adventure... sometimes things that are sold consistently for months disappear for several months and then show up again. I was grateful to find ground ginger.

I have a great recipe from a friend for soft ginger cookies and I was able to make a batch after this find at the supermarket!
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Soft Ginger Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup soft butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp water
1/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift together flour, baking soda and spices. Set aside.
Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.
Beat in egg. Stir in water and honey.
Gradually stir in dry ingredients.
Shape dough into walnut size balls. Roll in sugar. Place on cookie sheet covered in parchment paper and flatten with a fork. Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet 5 minutes before removing.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

hanging with Spencer

Tonight while Tom was doing a counseling appointment here at the house, Spencer and I went walking down on Krasnaya, our main street here in Krasnodar.

I was glad that he invited me to go with him. I know that not every 17 year old young man is interested in hanging out with his mom!

I found the Miss Potter movie... about the life of Beatrix Potter and he found some industrial metal music.

Aren't we a pair!?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Thought for Today

Never allow yourself to settle for anything less than the attitude God wants you to have in your heart.

T.D. Jakes, from his book "Woman, thou art Loosed!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

calling Dr Seuss fans!

if you like Dr. Seuss then go see this movie... we did and we loved it!!

Tom and I felt that it was very close to the book and the computer animation was very close to the Dr. Seuss drawings. We would really like to see it in English but it was nice to be in a foreign country and watch something that provided good memories from childhood and be comforted... even though it was not in our native language.