"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." ~ Matthew 5:8

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dear President Putin

Dear President Putin and the Russian Duma,

I happen to be pretty grateful for Russia and its people. You see, nine of my siblings are from your country through adoption. Yes that's right, nine. A lot of people are surprised by our big family, but all we know is that we love each other deeply and couldn't be happier. I'm so thankful for each of my siblings; they each bring a unique personality and talents to our family. They complete us.

I know a lot of the time you don't get to hear those "happily ever after" stories. You don't get to see families like mine laughing around the dinner table, reading books together, or walking hand in hand around a lake. You don't get to watch my siblings and myself grow to be best friends and learn to support each other through good and bad. You don't get to watch my parents' unconditional and sacrificial love that they lavish on all their children. There are many more families besides ours who adopt Russian children from love, not for financial benefit of any kind. The adopted children I know are happy, healthy, successful people with a love for their family and Mother Russia.

Because of all these things I know and see each day, I am dismayed and saddened by the recent Anti-Magnitsky legislation. It does not deal with the tiny handful of unsuccessful adoptions, but rather sweeps the whole issue under the rug and creates hundreds of newer and greater problems.

I have personal reasons for being devastated by these laws as well. You see, not all my family is home yet. Four of my siblings still wait in an orphanage in the Russian countryside. Our paperwork requirements are fulfilled, and we are only waiting eagerly for a courtdate to bring them home. They are beautiful children who want and have a right to a family as well. When I last saw them in August, they asked me, "When can we come home? When can we be family?" I hope, I pray, that they will not be left with broken dreams.

I would humbly ask that you consider the greater picture in the decisions you are making. Please consider the thousands of happy Russian children who have been adopted by American families. Please note the thousands of loving families who lovingly give everything they have to care for those children. Please remember the children waiting in orphanages who long for a family and a home.

Please help my three brothers and little sister's dream come true.

~An older sister

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In Which I am Brave Enough to Take Pictures in the City

This past weekend I got to spend time with the ex-pat girls from a Bible study I attend each week. Bible study, you may say? I did too when I first came here! It surprised me that there was such an option. Nevertheless, I've gained some great friends and spent some wonderful time in the Word with these high-school age girls.
Saturday morning was drippy and damp; still, we spent some great time together walking in pairs around this park and praying with each other. The statue is of an ancient and famous poet from this area, and the arch behind him is a beautiful mosaic.
The park; in the foreground are fountains that operate in warmer weather. In the background is a government building.
Mariah and me! I still haven't quite got the hang of those awkward "stretch your arm out and take a picture of you and a friend" photos. :)
Later in the morning, we split up into two teams for a scavenger hunt of sorts. One of our assignments was to have a picture taken of our whole group in front of this cheery fellow (aka the national hero).
Trinity and Hannah, my teammates. We were supposed to find some flowers and take a picture with them; tricky but not impossible here.
Here's our interesting way out of forming a human pyramid at the end of a long morning. We weren't keen on kneeling on the wet ground and acting in a way ladies simply don't do here! Thankfully the judge of the teams accepted it!
I'm thankful for the friendships God has given me with these girls!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A New Favorite

I enjoy Christmas songs, but especially ones that remind me of the reason why God became Man-for redemption and reconciliation. I really like the perspective in this song!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving in Central Asia

Although I missed my family very much, I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with my dear friends who kindly included me in their day!
We started the holiday with a wonderful brunch.
The highlight of the brunch was homeade cinnamon rolls with a rare treat-cream cheese frosting!
15 month old Will saying "please" for the cinnamon rolls. He loved them.
Later in the day, we traveled over to some friends' house to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with them. We were so thankful for the time we got to spend with them and two local families! Anna and Katie were posing here in front of the treats we took with us: applesauce, corn, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, and brownie with peanut butter.
This was my first time to try pumpkin pie!
You can see my students keep my days exciting and fun!
The street outside their house.
Me and my students!
The "writing" below was made by Potato Chip, Michael's friendly kitty, walking across my keyboard.
The ladies at the party!
Anita, my new little friend. She's so sweet!
This picture is actually from today-Scott's bouquet to Wendy on their anniversary. And yes, it really is bigger than Will! Happy anniversary, Scott and Wendy!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Teacher R&R

It's hard to believe week 11 of school is starting! The kids have done great, and I have loved working with them. Frankly, I'm learning at least as much as I'm teaching!

Still, I thoroughly enjoyed the break from routine this weekend. I had the opportunity to meet with 5 other homeschool helpers/teachers (3 from the city, 2 from out of town). Some friends kindly hosted us at their "guest apartment," and we had a blast together!

We ate out at a little cafe which offered "pizza"-and it was quite good, though it had a sour cream sauce and the tomato came in slices on top! We dined early, because it's not considered proper for women to be out past about 6 o'clock!Then we traipsed back to the apartment, and (this probably won't surprise anyone) talked for a long time! It was really good to get to know each other better, and to share about our teaching struggles and triumphs. We laughed so much!!

Then it was time for some games. The picture below was a game that caused a lot of laughs! Yes, that is paper taped to my friends' foreheads (I had some too). On each piece of paper was the name of a Bible character; but the wearer had no idea which character. We each tried to guess our name using yes or no questions. We also played 4 on a couch and "The Dictionary Game."

The next morning we woke, ate a leisurely breakfast together, and traveled to the international church. It was so wonderful to spend time with my fellow teachers!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Holiday Visits

Friday, October 26 was a holiday here. The day started not long after daylight with the sounds of children's voices in the street. They were going from gate to gate, dressed in their best and chanting a poem that wished their neighbor a blessed holiday. In return, they would get candy or gum! It was great fun to hear their happy chattering and to see them dressed in holiday garb.

About 10 am, my students Anna (10) and Katie (7) came over to my host family; Anna to go visiting with me and one of my host sisters, Katie to play with my 7 year old host sister Fatima. The girls were also beautifully dressed and had even curled their hair!

All the pictures in this post were taken with my little video camera, and the quality may be questionable. ;)

However, there was still much to be done before we could leave. It would be considered a shameful thing not to be prepared for guests on any day, and especially on a holiday, so a beautiful table of fruit, cookies, salads, breads, etc. was prepared and laid out.

At last, at about half past eleven, we were ready to go. My host mother and sisters, as well as myself, had dressed carefully, as befitted the holiday. Going a little way day down the street, we visited a neighbor's house with a new bride, or "kellin." Here, in a long narrow room set apart for the women, we sat with about 15 other women around an elaborate dusterhahn (tablecloth). Shahlo, my host sister, leaned over and whispered to me that the family probably had not slept the night before due to the preparations. Dozens of fried pastries, sweets, and cookies crowded fruit, tea, sodas, and other treats. It was hard to see the cloth for the food!

A few minutes after we sat down, the bride came in. She was richly dressed in velvet and heavily adorned with her wedding jewelry. The young woman (she was probably younger than myself) wore a traditional hat, and over it, a delicate lace veil. Holding this veil over her face with both hands, she carefully bowed five or six times to the group of women to show her respect, before slowly backing out of the room again. Apparently, brides do this all day for dozens of guests.

Then it was time to go on to other visits. It is only polite to stay 10-15 minutes at each house. Here things got a little uncomfortable for me, because my host sisters weren't in agreement over who I should go visiting with. It was nice to be so wanted, but a bit uncomfortable as well! Thankfully, it was soon resolved and I set off with Anna and Maryam (14) to visit some of her classmates.

It would take far too long to sum up all the adventures we got to experience that day! To sum up, I got a fun view of a Central Asian schoolgirl's life. The girls let me take pictures of them, although one girl cast her eyes down modestly as I did so. They then raced over (giggling) and saying "Show me! show me!" They asked if I had any eyeliner I could use; thankfully I did have some in my purse (see Daddy, that's why I carry so much in there! :) ). Then, almost like little girls at a slumber party, they carefully applied it to each other's eyes, laughing and joking the while.

Although our hostess (left) wouldn't look at the camera, she loved having pictures taken of her.

We drank tea together with exaggeratedly polite manners, chatting politely about nothing. That reserve quickly disappeared when it was time for desert!

These girls loved my makeup!

It was a very full but wonderful day. I was so thankful for the adventure, for the friends God is giving me here, and for the hospitality people have shown.


Monday, October 22, 2012


Photo Credit: Jason Manion
“We'll be Friends Forever, won't we, Pooh?' asked Piglet.
Even longer,' Pooh answered.”
~A.A. Milne, Winne the Pooh

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Tasty Chore

Today my host family's neighbor brought over a large bucket of strawberries. What a treat! In a funny way, it was a secret gift from my indulgent Father. I had been craving strawberries the last few days, and had prayed for contentment, since there are so many other wonderful foods here to enjoy and I figured strawberry season was long gone. And then the neighbor showed up with all those beautiful homegrown berries. I couldn't help but be awed by His gracious indulgence!

After enjoying a good number of strawberries, the rest were set aside to make jam (which they mostly stir into hot water to make "tea"). I got to help my 14 year old host sister Maryam to clean and stem them; tomorrow, her mother will make the jam.

In true Central Asian fashion, we sat on the floor. Between us sat 5 bowls; two very large ones for the berries before and after, two smaller bowls filled with water for each of us to wash the strawberries, and one for the stems. We would quickly take a berry, pull the stem off with our fingers, dunk the strawberry in water, and place it in the "finished" bowl. And yes, a few did make it into our mouths! We also had to watch for creepy crawlies, since they came straight from the garden.

I grabbed a (blurry) picture partway through the process. I stemmed over 500 berries, and I was the slow one! Looking forward to the jam...


So Many Reasons

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." ~James 1:17

This week I feel like the Father of lights has showered me with good gifts. I have so much to thank Him for!

  • I'm thankful first of all for someone...my not-so-little sister Tatiana, who is turning 15 today! It makes me gasp to think how quickly she has grown up. And has she ever grown up this past year! She is such a beautiful young lady, but don't just look at her; get to know her creative, funny personality, and you won't soon forget her. She shares my love for books, and we can enjoy each other's company in quiet companionship just as easily as we can when we're chatting and laughing. Miss you, T!

~Precious time with Jesus as I prepared to lead the girl's high school Bible study this week. Funny how when you're the one teaching or leading, you always end up learning the most!
~Beautiful crisp fall mornings in which to walk to work; I find my best prayer times come when I am walking like that.
~Students who still enjoy school after the first six weeks. I'm thankful for their diligence!
~An adorable baby who grins and reaches his arms for me when he sees me. Love you, Will!
~Great books to read (The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink, Sense and Sensiblity by Jane Austen)
~Host sisters who say "I missed you today!" and "We just love you so much." I love them, too!
~A chance to have an hour long skype call with my family; I got to hear some of their voices for the first time in 56 days! Maybe it sounds corny or impossible in this day and age, but my siblings are really my best friends. I love their varied personalities, and am so thankful for each one of them.
~Getting to have video calls with my sister and her baby and my parents-in one week! Those who have lived with iffy internet understand just how big this is. It was so incredible to see those dear faces.
~I'm thankful for people who smile at me or talk to me on the marshutkas (public transportation). Their friendliness warms my day, and I've gotten to meet some wonderful ladies in those vans!
~I'm thankful for Wendy, who always has a smile for me. She sets a great example for me of joy in all circumstances.
~A hot chocolate package. Yes, really! Something so simple and mundane in the States, but unknown here. I introduced my host sisters to hot chocolate, and though it perhaps wasn't terribly strong (I split a package 5 ways due limited quantities), they loved it. We had a fun time "sipping chocolate" together.
~Patient friends who let me and my beloved violin be their accompaniment for worship time. I love praising Him with strings!
~Getting to act out II Chronicles 20 with those same friends. We had a blast, and learned a lot too, I think.  
~Voddie Baucham sermons.
~Last of all, I'm thankful for friends who read long blog posts. Yes, that's you!  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

He Never Will Change

Though we are like this flower, which will soon fade away, God will never change!
One aspect of modern technology that I am very thankful for overseas is my Kindle! It is such a blessing to be able to carry so many wonderful books in one small space. I’ve actually done a lot of reading since arriving here, and, as they say at McDonalds, “I’m loving it!”

Speaking of which, here is a quote I’ve really appreciated lately: it’s by A.W. Pink and referring to the immutability (or unchangableness) of God.

“Herein is solid comfort. Human nature cannot be relied upon; but God can! However unstable I may be, however fickle my friends may prove, God changes not…all praise to His glorious name, He is ever the same. His purpose is fixed; His will is stable; His word is sure.

Here then is a Rock on which we may fix our feet, while the mighty torrent is sweeping away everything around us. The permanence of God’s character guarantees the fulfillment of His promises: “For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed but My lovingkindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed,’ saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee.” (Is 54:10)

~ A.W. Pink, The Attributes of God

Saturday, October 13, 2012

You Will Reign

I was introduced to this great song by Kristian Stanfill today. I love the words:

Oh, great God, there's nothing you can't do
Oh, great God, you speak and mountains move
we believe, we believe

Oh, great God, there's none outside Your reach
Oh, great God, give us faith to see and belive
we believe

With You all things are possible
It's true that You are unstoppable
Your light will never fade
Your promises remain unchanged
You will reign

Oh, great God, there's power in Your name
Oh, great God, we're rising up to say,
We believe, we believe

There is none so able
To mend broken hearts, heal every sickness
There is none so able
To waken the dead, light up the darkness

With You all things are possible
It's true that You are unstoppable
Your light will never fade
Your promises remain unchanged
You will reign

The idea of "with You, all things are possible" is true in every aspect of life, but it especially rang true since my family has been told that it is impossible for us to get a court date for our adoption before the end of the year (See this post for context). Yes, impossible with man; but not impossible with God! I am so praying that we can get a court date before 2013 so that my siblings' homecoming will not be delayed by paperwork that will have to be re-done.

I'm not sure that this link will work, since Youtube videos don't work for me here, but if not, just look up Kristian Stanfill's "You will Reign":



Thursday, October 11, 2012

Katie's Party

Today, my youngest student Katie turned 7! To celebrate, she had some friends over. It was a lively and happy group that played and ate here this afternoon.
They were all very eager to have their pictures taken.
"Show me, show me!"They would exclaim after each shot.
There were also quite a few dramatic poses.
Katie and my host sister Fatima talking together.
The littlest girl at the party was a bit overhwelmed.
This was a chaotic group shot organized by the girls themselves and maintained for about three seconds before they ran over to see the picture I had taken.
Fatima, who is only 4 days older than Katie. Incidentally, my name here is also "Fatima," since the girl in girl-boy twins is always named "Fatima" here.

Whenever I would turn the camera vertically, the would twist their heads as well!

Another host sister, Maryam.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Flowers in Fall

I got the chance again to spend the weekend out of town, in a place with lovely grounds and chilly Soviet buildings. I wish I had been smart enough to take my camera on the hike I went on! The buildings were tucked down into a little wooded valley, but a short steep hike revealed an incredible panorama of the beautiful mountains surrounding the town I live in. If the mountains are so great and massive, how great must be the God who created the mountains!
The little bungalow building where I slept with some other homeschool helpers.
The road leading into the complex. I was quite busy both days I was there, but early one morning just after the sun came up I was able to step out into the crisp chill morning and snap some photos.
The grape season is almost over.
This is my favorite color of rose!
This lady was a bit far away, but she's in the middle of a daily activity for most Central Asian women; sweeping.

The stream that ran past all the buildings.
This was the main building; an old concrete Soviet building rather optimistically named "The President's Summer Home."
This is the flower that is most commonly seen here.
This carries rocks to a factory in the city. You don't want to stand directly underneath it!
When I got back, I arrived just in time for the seventh birthday celebration for my littlest host sister. It included friends, family, and lots of food! I was glad I had the materials to whip up this little present for her.