Monday, June 30, 2008

We are in Moscow!

We arrived here in Moscow late last night after a 27 hour ride on the train! It was an interesting cultural experience... most people just changed their clothes right out in the open. And there was a pregnant woman who sat in her underwear and t shirt for most of the first day. It was very hot so it was understandable! The train was very clean and they came through and mopped the floors, offered tea and took away the trash. Aside from the air-conditioning not working it was a a nice train!

Today we were able to make our way to the American Embassy and Spencer applied for his adult passport. The man who waited on him congratulated him on turning 18 and kept calling him Mr. Sharp!

Tom and I decided to have extra pages put into our passports. It was a free service and it took about a half hour to get it done. Our passports are good until 2014... but we were concerned about running out of space for the stamps they need to put in when you cross a border. If there is no room in your passport you can be denied entry!

Friday, June 27, 2008

weighing in!

It has been hot this week and I think all the ice cream I have been eating has caught up with me... I am only down a 1/2 pound!

We will be on a train to Moscow Saturday and Sunday so I will check in again here on Monday as soon as we find an internet cafe in Moscow. Sasha called to remind me that there will not be food or toilet paper on the train... oh joy! Now I have to make another trip to the market to get food for the trip and I need to pack some toilet paper!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

to do list

Today we are trying to get as much as possible checked off of our to do lists! We have to get new passport photos taken and get all of our forms filled out for new visas, get all the laundry done, pack our bags, clean the apartment and get our place ready for our friends to live in while we are gone... all before we leave on Saturday!

We will go to Moscow first to apply for Spencer's adult passport and then we fly out of Moscow to LA on the 2nd of July!

Pray that all goes smoothly for us. Actually, writing that made me remember that I have a more serious issue that needs prayer. A friend of ours from high school wrote to tell me that she has uterine cancer. She will be having surgery soon. Please pray for her!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Thought for Today

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

Nelson Mandela

When I read this quote this morning it brought tears to my eyes. I know that God is speaking very clearly to me about the importance of further study. Tom and I talked about me being his translator many years ago... I will continue working towards that goal. I will keep on trusting that God will honor my efforts so that Tom and I can work together to bring Healing and Recovery to the hearts of those caught up in addictions and life dominating hurts.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

for reals...

I know that I said I was done last week after we gave our talks in class. But, I had one last thing to do today and that was my assessment. It was a long and grueling test, followed by an interview with the director of the school. I survived... and I am so glad that is over!

Arina told me that the two year course that my class just completed is like a Christmas tree and the Advanced Course would be the ornaments to decorate it! So in August I will start putting the trimmings my language tree!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Russia beat Netherlands 3-1!

It was a fantastic game!!

Russia beat the favored team to win a spot in the semi finals... our neighbors were up cheering, honking car horns, shooting off fireworks and even the police were in on the celebration using their sirens to cheer the victory as well!

It was not a restful night but we were excited to have watched the game and looking forward to see if Russia can go all the way!!! Russia's coach is also Dutch and he is known for taking teams further than they have gone in the past. He helped South Korea in 2oo2 and he helped Australia in 2006... so Russia knew what they were doing when they hired him!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Movie Quotes

Tom, Dima and I were out walking together the other day. Dima asked Tom if he was sure of the direction we were going. Tom looks my direction and says "yes, I'm positive"! And just that line is enough to make Nathan, Tom, Spencer or I laugh!

I realise that it might not mean anything to you but it comes from the movie Ferngully that Nathan enjoyed watching when he was little. The dialogue goes like this:

Are you sure?
I'm positive.
Only fools are positive.
Are you sure?
I'm positive!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

weighing in!

Down 2 more pounds!!

My personal trainer, Spencer, has helped me with walking longer distances so I am getting more exercise which is a good thing. I used to believe that the words exercise and sweat were four letter words... and my mama taught me better than to use four letter words!

We made it!!!

Spencer and I did our sermons today and it went very well!

For Spencer it was his first time speaking in public, his first time doing a sermon and he had to do it in front of our classmates who have all graduated from seminary and he just finished high school last month! Tom and I are so proud of him!

I am grateful to be at the end of this phase of language learning. Two weeks ago I was ready to quit school... I was the oldest person in my class and I was feeling it. I felt like my memory was not as good as my classmates and that I was never going to remember which cases went with which verbs and what ending to use for nouns or adjectives even after studying for two years!

I am grateful to Tom, for not letting me give up, to Joyce, Stephanie and Sveta who prayed me through this year of school, and above all to God for bringing me to a place of acceptance about my capabilities. Our teacher told us today that since she has been at the school we are the second class to make it all the way to lesson 125!! I am so glad to have stuck it out to the very end!

I am grateful for the lessons I have learned along the way... not just about the language and the culture but also about myself. One lesson that I can share is that I had been shying away from talking to certain women here out of fear. Last fall I invited this person over and we talked about the fact that she had not been in my house the entire time we have lived here. I realised that my fear was affecting our ability to bond with the very people we came here to help. After that I made it a point to speak to her every week at church, and then we attended a 5 week Bible study together and even a concert! I found out later that she thought I didn't talk to her because I couldn't speak Russian. Not true! I was just afraid to make a mistake or look stupid!

Our church family is so patient and loving with us... I don't even understand why I was afraid in the first place!

Anyway, Spencer and I are done with the first level of our Russian language learning. I am chilling here in the apartment with my wonderful, supportive, incredible husband, and Spencer is out painting the town with his friend Vlad!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thought for Today

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

This is the verse I meditated on when I had my gallbladder surgery years ago... today it has been on my mind for my mother as she is experiencing some medical problems. I am waiting to hear the outcome of her procedure. Knowing that she is in God's righteous right hand is comforting.


I just received an email from my sister in law letting me know that my mother is doing well and does not need to have surgery... we are praising God for this wonderful news!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pork Shashlik

Nathan called on Father's Day and we all got to spend time talking to him on the phone... it was wonderful and hard all at the same time!

Shashlik is one of Nathan's favorite Russian meals so when I saw this recipe I immediately thought of him!

This is one of the most classic Russian versions of shashlik (shish kabobs) and it is one of simplest and easiest recipes I have seen.

The meat is marinated in kefir... (kefir is like buttermilk)

Kefir is a fermented milk drink that originated in the Caucasus region of Russia and we are located not far from the Caucasus mountains.

Pork Shashlik in Kefir
1 kg lean pork (2.2 lbs)
6 onions
2 liters kefir (2 pints Buttermilk)
Green parsley

Cut pork into cubes (5-6 cm). Slice onions. Place a layer of pork in a saucepan, follow with a layer of onion slices. Repeat layer by layer. Season each layer with salt, pepper and other spices. Pour in kefir and refrigerate overnight. Thread pork cubes onto skewers alternating with onions slices. Grill until light brown but still juicy.

You can find more Russian Recipes at:

Monday, June 16, 2008

give her five!

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Congratulations to Sasha!!!

Sasha defended her thesis today and received the highest score possible! Grades here are given on a 1-5 scale with 5 being the best. We are so proud of this young woman... she is an amazing person, a great language helper, and an incredible friend! She fits in very well with our family and if we could adopt her as our own own daughter we would!!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

and on day four she finished writing!

Spencer and I are working on our final talks for the last lesson at our language school!

Tom has been cheering us on, advising us on scriptures, and helping us anyway he can. He has been good about making me go outside for a bit each day and take a break from all the writing. Today he made dinner! Which was quite a treat!

On Monday Sasha will look over our talks and help us with correctly pronouncing everything... it still helps me to place accent marks over the correct stress in a word! Sasha has been such a blessing to us... she makes sure that we are the ones figuring out for ourselves how to say things correctly and gently corrects us to keep us on the right track. For only being 24 her patience and wisdom amazes me!

Please keep Spencer, myself and our classmates, Blythe, Donnie and Sarah in your prayers as we each speak on our chosen topics Thursday in class.

This past month has been rough at school and I have tried not to complain. Each lesson was progressively more difficult than the one before and at times it felt as if we went from middle school to university in one lesson!

We have been told that not every class makes it to the end as we have. And I don't know if I should be happy about that or not!!!

Friday, June 13, 2008

weighing in!

My fear for this week was that I would gain weight... that didn't happen. Instead, the needle on the scale is not moving at all. I must have offended it again and it is giving me "the silent treatment"!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

at the bus stop

Spencer, Sasha and I went out to buy tickets to Moscow today... but we couldn't get seats on the train that we wanted. We were told to come back next week to see if any tickets would be released.

Spencer suggested that we go out to Ikea. Sasha had not been there yet so she agreed to come with us. On the way out there as I was looking out the window I saw an old bus stop for people who live out in the village. Instead of people standing there waiting for the bus there was a herd of about 15 cows laying there waiting.

I wonder where they were going?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Thought for Today

Today I have a quote from a book by our friend Karla.

"Obsession is a jealous master, and it prevents us from managing our lives".

Karla Downing, author of 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages.

Is there something that you are obsessing over that is consuming your thoughts more than God? We cannot serve two masters. Work on taking captive every thought and making it obedient to The Master!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

photo op!

There is a large botanical garden just up the street from our apartment building... Tom and I enjoy walking through this park whenever we get a chance.

This particular day we saw a few cars decorated for a wedding... I liked this one the best!!

Monday, June 09, 2008

finding crosses

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My friend Sasha was looking out our living room window and noticed what she thought was a cross in the window of an apartment building across the field from our building.

Upon closer inspection it is not an actual cross but a reflection from the frame of the window onto the balcony door.

We love finding crosses like this... they are signs from God located in unexpected places!

Friday, June 06, 2008

weighing in!

This has been one of the most challenging weeks to be watching what I eat! I successfully managed to fight off the urge to "stress eat", which I have been known to do when we have a lot going on. And that lead to the loss of 1 pound this week!

Yesterday, we had an end of the school year barbecue and there was so much good food it was hard to restrain myself!! Don made a Key Lime pie, which is my favorite... I did acquiesce to one small sliver and really took the time to savor that treat!

Many years ago I realised that I am a binge eater... or at least I used to be. I would binge and then fast as a way to lose weight.

I very clearly remember the first diet I ever went on. I was 17 years old and needed to lose 20 pounds because I was a contestant in the Miss Wichita Pageant and the coach we had told me that I would do better in the swimsuit and evening gown events if I lost twenty pounds. I weighed 125lbs. and thought I was VERY overweight! So after talking with a few friends of mine I chose to eat every other day and I lost 20 pounds in two weeks.

Twelve years after that, in 1992 I read an article in the LA Times about bulimia. I always thought that bulimics were bingers and purgers. Wrong. Bulimics are also bingers and fasters... and that was me.

I can say honestly that for the past 16 years I have not fasted as a way to lose weight. I only fast if I feel that it is for a spiritual purpose. I am committed to eating when I am hungry and only normal sized portions. This is not always easy to do but I don't have to feel deprived of eating things like Key Lime Pie if I control the portion size. Healthy eating along with moderate exercise is something I can do as a way of life and not feel as if I am on a diet!

If you or anyone you know has problems with overeating or has a difficult relationship with food there is a 12 step group that can help...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Brain overload...

This week our class has moved into preparations for our final lesson. The men have to preach and the women are to give a Bible lesson. Our most recent assignment was to write a lesson on one of the 10 commandments.

Each of us spent time with our bibles, dictionaries working out our thoughts in Russian and putting them to paper. My classmates and I all agreed that this is very draining.

Personally, I felt physically drained when I was done with this assignment. I could not think, my arms ached and I just wanted to veg! Spencer finished typing his and he is off to bed... he said he felt weak and needed to rest.

It is amazes me that when we are called upon to use "maximum brain power" it affects us not just mentally but physically!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Thought for Today

Today's quote was found in a book that I have been reading during my daily commute to the language school. In Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge these words stood out to me this week:

"Security is not found in the absence of danger, but in the presence of Jesus".

Jeanine, missionary in Columbia

As I read these words I immediately thought of my signature at the bottom of my emails:
Safe in His Hands,

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Live Language!!

One of the new verbs that we learned this week is one that means to reap, cut or mow. It is also used for shaking hands or for saying that a piece of clothing is very tight and is squeezing you!

Today I heard this verb used on the bus.

There was a woman behind me who was quite upset with the lady who sat down beside her. She accused her of squeezing! Her seatmate was quite indignant in her response to the accusation.... curtly replying she did no such thing.

Even thought I knew that both the ladies behind me were upset with one another... I was thrilled to have understood the conversation!!

Monday, June 02, 2008

how high would you climb?

"Alida come here and look at this!"

Tom called me to come over to our balcony... there were two boys up in the tree literally right outside our window. No big deal you might say. Except that we live on the fourth floor!!!

The tree is a cherry tree. One of the boys was stuffing cherries into his pockets as he climbed from limb to limb. The other one, Vladik, was eating them! We know who Vadik is because he introduced himself to Spencer shortly after we moved here. Vladik is an amazing boy. He has one arm and never lets that stop him from doing anything... even climbing 4 stories up a cherry tree!

Vladik is also the polite one... he yelled "hi" to Tom as he took a break from eating his cherries!