Friday, November 30, 2007

The boat

I have been having so much fun watching Jaan and Raia play lately! Their favorite toy for the past week or so has been a big "boat."

The Mayflower
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Right around Thanksgiving it was a boat for the Pilgrims and Indians. (Yes, we know there weren't Indians on the Mayflower. This is pretend!) Then we looked through our friend Jenna's photos from her summer in Africa. One photo there really inspired them, and the game changed.

Jenna's photo
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Playing "Jenna in Africa"
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Pilgrims and Indians with Jenna in Africa?
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A week of gifts

973. Jaan noticed the beauty of an untouched patch of snow and said, "Mama, don't walk there! It's so beautiful!" Now that is a gift to the heart of a mother who loves beauty and wants her children to see it, too!
974. Advent! Christ is coming! Yes, He is here in us, and He is coming again.
975. Hope! Romans 15:13
976. A new Elisabeth Elliot book to read, one that speaks to me right where I am
977. The sweet baby snuggled up against me (I could just say that 1000 times, and it would be enough. )
978. Forgiveness
979. Fresh snow covering dirty slush
980. Jesus' blood, covering my sins, just like that snow
981. Sympathy in Kiev
982. My home is not in this world!
983. A change of attitude for me
984. The looks on their faces when I introduced the idea of a home puppet show
985. Asya sleeping by herself and giving my tired arms a rest
986. Medicine that helps a miserable toddler feel better
987. A cup of hot chocolate with coffee when I'm really tired
989. The "rain" Yes, Lord, I am thanking you for the rain. (The red leaf picture there is a special gift to me, too. I smile every time I see it.)
990. Time alone with Raia, while Asya sleeps and Jaan rests
991. Как Рая говорит "хочу держать тебя"
992. A baby who wants to be held all the time (That really is a wonderful gift!)
993. Health after colds
994. Beautiful pressed-leaf place mats and the little hands that made them
995. Big, bright rooms, especially the big kitchen here
996. A safe and very comfortable place to stay
997. The friends who are providing that place
998. That we are in Russia right now
999. Sunshine!
1000. Baby smiles

(Click on the picture.)

That's the beginning of my list of gifts. I love reading Ann V.'s blog. Now I'm following her example in sharing some of God's gifts in my life with you all. These aren't the ones that would be considered the big gifts. They're the everyday expressions of the Father's love for me, that I want to be noticing more and more. I certainly can't write down all of them. I don't have time for that! But I can capture some. I started last Thursday, on Thanksgiving Day. Appropriate, isn't it? So far, most of this has been written during quiet nap times, while I pace around the kitchen with Asya, counting my blessings. As I pass the computer, I can type a few words, then go on another lap around the table, a few more words, more thinking and walking, another pass by the computer. . . .

(By the way, after reading Ann's blog for a while, I wrote to her. Until then, I had only known her as Ann V.. When she answered, I saw a very familiar, uncommon last name. I wrote back right away and found out that, yes, she is married into the family of one of my old friends! Small world, eh?)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Now what?

Will titled one of his updates "Light at the end of the tunnel." We keep thinking we see that light, and it keeps staying just a little beyond our reach. On Sunday I thought that we had two big problems: the mysterious email from Kiev and the fact that I'm sitting here breaking the law of Russia with my expired visa. And I thought that we could make progress on both of those problems in the next few days. Well. . . .

Problem #1: The mysterious email is still just that. A mystery. Will called the consulate in Kiev on Monday. They don't know what's going on either. They said they got a letter telling them not to give Will a visa, but it was too late, so all they could think of was sending that email. They don't know why they got the letter. We were worried, because the email said to bring the visa back to be annulled. That could mean five years out of the country! When Will asked about that, the lady said, "Why? You didn't do anything wrong." All they could suggest was having the National Baptist Union (who invited Will) write a letter asking for explanation. The people in Kiev were very sympathetic and didn't give a deadline or really push for anything. It's almost like they feel like they sent the email, so they've done their duty.

Problem #2: We had gotten to the point where we had decided just to get exit visas and leave for the States until our work visas are ready in February. After sending Will around to all the different offices in Vladimir Migration, they decided that they can't gave us exit visas until my case goes through the regional court. The appeal has already been filed, so it has to go through. And of course, no one know when the court date will be.

So, now what? We're still confused and frustrated and scared. We'll wait until for our court date, and then after that, we'll go to the States until February, whether we're deported or given exit visas.

In our dream world, we'd plan our trip around the dates that are convenient for everyone, have a car (and a driver's license), spend time at Siloam Missionary Homes and/or D & D, enjoy visits with all our relatives and friends, and know that we could come home to Russia afterwards. In the real world? We don't even have money for one-way plane tickets!

Please keep praying for us. Pray that God would once again protect us from being deported, and would bless our plans and desires concerning time in the States. We love you all and really appreciate your love and concern for us. Thank you so much for praying!

(Will wanted to add some nostalgic Russia pictures that he found here.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Our Happy Thanksgiving

Ready for a bunch of photos?

Making crust. . .
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

. . . for our pumpkin pie was the first order of business. (Look at the lighting! We had wonderful holiday weather: bright sunshine.)

Ready to bake
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Then we went on to making a craft, provided by our wonderful friends.

Jaan's placemat
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Thanksgiving movie
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

When we were done with our craft, Will, Jaan and Raia watched a movie about the first Thanksgiving, while I finished meal preparations.

Thanksgiving dinner
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

This is what I'm thankful for!
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

A Pilgrim, an Indian and a baby
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

After our own family celebrations, we were going to go visit our friends, but they called as we were walking out the door to say that their littlest had just fallen asleep, so we went for a walk instead. Raia was convinced that there were two moons. We could see one out the window before we left and another outside. Perfect logic, right?

When we got back we decided to try to take a Christmas photo, since we already had the children dressed up. All I will say about that is that it reminded me of a recent post by Liz.

And that was our wonderful Thanksgiving day. I hope you all had one just as nice!

(I added two-month-old photos below. And Carrie put up a few more of our visit together. )

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pictures and update

Last Saturday Julie hosted a day of fellowship in Moscow for us and our friends who were passing through. I decided to experiment with Picasa, since I have this great internet connection. Here are all the photos we took on that wonderful day:

And now for an update:
Obviously, since I have the camera cord, Will has been home. He left on Friday to go back for the regional meeting that was on Saturday. Soon after he left, I got an email from the Russian Consulate in Kiev, telling Will to bring back his new visa to be annulled. What!?!?! (Please pray!) Also, at home Will found a letter in our mailbox, saying that Kovrov Migration Control is appealing the court decision that was in my favor. What!?!?! (Please pray!) That's the bad news. The good news is that the regional Vladimir-Ivanovo Baptist Union was approved to invite foreigners with no problem, and they took the initiative on their own to try inviting us on work visas, which is a new and really good option. It sounds like we'll have those in February. (Please pray!)

So, where are we now? In the land of confusion! Will came back from Kovrov/Vladimir last night around midnight. Tomorrow he is going to call Kiev and see if he can clear up anything there. He'll also leave early in the morning to get all of our passports translated and notarized in Moscow and hopefully out to Ivanovo to be turned in right away for those new visas. Then, he'll get ready to be in line early to talk to the regional head of Migration in Vladimir on Tuesday--the only day he receives people--in hope that he can help. (Please pray!)

Now I've told you all I know. Hopefully you're not as confused about it as we are! Just a warning in advance: our answer to all questions is going to be, "We don't know yet."

If I have time tomorrow, I'll tell you about our wonderful Thanksgiving day. . . with photos!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Visits with friends, two months old, etc.

Carrie has started posting photos from our time together. They're great! I hope to get some of ours up here soon.

Until then, here's an older picture from a few Saturdays ago (November 3), when we were still at home in Kovrov. Friends from church came to officially welcome Asya. It was like a little baby shower. Here are some of the younger guests:

The children's "table"
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Asya's two months old today! Again, I would love to post photos of her, but that will have to wait a little longer.

(There. I typed this whole entry with both Jaan and Raia sitting in my lap. Jaan has kept up a continuous stream of questions the whole time, and both he and Raia keep bumping the keyboard, bouncing around, blocking my view of the screen, and generally trying to thwart my typing efforts. They're too big to fit in my lap. Asya's asleep!)

EDITED LATER TO ADD: Here are photos of our big girl!

The two-month-old
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Pretty in pink
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Construction preschool?

This building where we're staying is surrounded by construction sites. We spend most of our outside time watching the work. I was feeling a little funny out there with my bunch this morning, wondering if people thought we were weird just to be standing in one spot for an hour, watching. Then I saw a teacher come out of the building next to us, with a whole preschool class lined up behind her, two by two. They all took places along the fence and joined us in watching. I guess we're not that weird after all.

Please try not to worry, if you don't hear from us. Nap time used to be my computer time, but now Asya has decided that it's our time. If I don't write, assume that my hands are happily full, not that something is wrong.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Raia's famous!

If you want to see a cute picture of her (and a good recipe!), go here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Catching up

All three children are asleep right now. Hard to believe! Nap times have been rough lately. Often it seems like the children are up and down like popcorn the whole afternoon.

Today is a beautiful day! Very cold, but clear. All the trees are coated with hoarfrost. After nap time we're probably going to go sledding with our friends. We're staying in an apartment owned by very kind friends near Moscow. It's so wonderful to have a nice, safe place to stay. We don't have to worry about Migration Control knocking on our door here. And remember I said we'd be less communicative because of our internet connection? We have the fastest, unlimited connection imaginable! I'm enjoying classical radio stations all over the world, Jaan gets to play with Starfall for a few minutes a day, and once we get a microphone, you all should try calling us with Skype.

I forgot to bring our camera cord, so all our photos are stuck in the camera for right now, but I can tell you about the past few days:
Wednesday we travelled to get here. It was a long day, but an uncomplicated trip.
Thursday Will went to Moscow, to get a paper that we needed from the American embassy. We stayed here, enjoyed the wonderful fresh snow, and had a great time visiting with our friends here.
Friday Will did a lot of running around, getting documents sent off and such. We mostly just rested. . . and Asya fussed.
Saturday was another exhausting, FUN day. We went into Moscow to visit our friend Julie, who has just arrived in Russia, and also to spend the day with Jon and Carrie and their sweet little ones. I can't wait to post the pictures from that!
Sunday: after the day before, we could barely move! And so we didn't do much at all. Will went to the local home group.

And that catches us up to today. . . .

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A visa for Phyllis... maybe?

That's where we are right now, in short. =)

Here are the details. For about two weeks, we were applying for the
Bi-regional Baptist Union to be issued the right to officially invite foreigners to Russia. This past Tuesday, the lawyer from the Union and I went to submit again the now complete package of documents required for this process. Upon meeting with the proper official, our friend the lawyer and the official discovered that they had misunderstood one another. We didn't need to be doing this application in Vladimir after all, but in Ivanovo! ...As Sergei commented, 'well, ptfoouey!!'
(This is due to the fact that the Bi-regional Union's legal address is actually in Ivanovo, although they are legally registered as a religious organization in both regions.)
I know you all love the details... =)

Well, this is a somewhat disappointing development in some ways, since we were wanting to do everything through Vladimir, since they are already somewhat acquainted with our case, as it were. On the other hand, the Bi-regional Union has a very good record of working with migration control there in Ivanovo. They have made personal acquaintances, have had many foreigners come and go, and have established a good working relationship over the years. We are praying that their track record of 'good behavior' will be transferred as our application for invitations is considered.

Sergei (the lawyer, and an official representative of the Union), upon receiving notification that the Union is now able to invite foreigners, will be turning in the application as soon as is possible. That should be Tuesday-Wednesday this week. We are praying, and will be asking for special processing time for the invitations. That process usually takes a month, but considering our circumstances, we will be pleading for the shortest amount of time possible.

The problem is that Phyllis' visa is actually expired now, and the longer she stays in Russia with an expired visa, the worse our position is. Again, the ultimate result is in God's hands, and the decisions to be made regarding us are still made by individuals in the government. We have seen over and over now how God has softened the hearts of the authorities making these decisions, and that is what we continue to pray for. We are pleading for mercy, and a chance to get everything 'all fixed up' finally. We as foreigners are not particularly detrimental to Russian society, no matter from what perspective they look at it, after all. We're not importing drugs, we're not taking Russian jobs or wages, we don't make bootleg alcohol, we're not involved in anything resembling politics (God forbid), we are not starting foreign churches, and for that matter, we're not even doing extremely noticeable things to convert all of Kovrov to our denomination (again, God forbid). Objectively speaking, we're fairly harmless, albeit strange and difficult to understand, foreigners who have just messed up with registration laws.

Please continue to pray with us that God would direct the hearts of those in places of authority. Pray that He would cause mercy and grace to triumph, so that we would be able to praise Him together with all of you for His protection and provision.

Thank you all for your support and encouragement in prayer and otherwise. We love you and treasure you as friends and brothers and sisters in Christ.

(more to follow...)


If someone would come hold the baby, I'd update our blog. We're doing really well, but I'm not going to type a long entry with one hand.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Age-Long Minute

Very early tomorrow morning we're leaving to go stay in another city. We are taking our computer with us, but our internet will be on roaming, like a cell phone, so we probably won't be as communicative as usual. Still, we'll be in touch. Please keep praying for us! Hopefully, once we get settled there we can write a general update. Until then, here's the poem that was running through my head all this evening:

The Age-Long Minute
by Amy Carmichael

Thou art the Lord who slept upon the pillow,
Thou art the Lord who soothed the furious sea,
What matter beating wind and tossing billow
If only we are in the boat with Thee?

Hold us in quiet throught the age-long minute
While Thou art silent, and the wind is shrill:
Can the boat sink while Thou, dear Lord, art in it?
Can the heart faint that waiteth on Thy will?

(I just glanced over at the paper next to me. It's a list of Will's, titled "To Do in Exile." )

Monday, November 12, 2007

Not always happy

Originally uploaded by fylliska.

But isn't she cute even when she's not happy?

And a few more random things:
I've seen a new bird! When the men were here to fill out charges against me, I was watching this little bird hopping around on the ground just outside our window. I wanted to look it up, and of course, I couldn't right then. The next day it was back, though, so we had a great time watching it and figuring out what it was. We also have tons of синицы at our feeder, along with sparrows ("greedy birds," according to Jaan). One снегирь landed on our feeder quickly one day, but he hasn't come back. I miss them from when we lived upstairs! Maybe they don't like the ground floor?

We haven't kept up with the cold, and so now we have frozen pumpkins, squashes, beets, carrots and garlic. I thought it would be warm enough on our enclosed balcony and in our garden house for a little while longer. What should I do? I'd especially like to save the pumpkins; they're a really yummy variety. What if I boil them right away?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Thank you, Lord!

Once again, we actually felt God's protection this morning. Will and I went into the passport office and waited for a little while. They took us straight to court. Will wasn't allowed to be present while I talked and while the migration inspector presented his case against me. Then I called Will in as a witness, and he gave his testimony, too. And then we had to go out and wait while the judge made her decision. When she called us back in, she had to read two pages of typewritten details, before she got to the verdict. Finally--I didn't think I would make it to the end!--she read that she had decided against deportation, because of my small children, and because we are trying to get all this straightened out. So, we just have to pay a fine and keep trying to hurry our new visas along! Thank you, Lord!

We probably are going to go somewhere else while we're working on getting our visas, though, because the inspector's last words to us were, "Remember, I have the right to file charges against you every three days." And he probably would.

At this point, Will needs to add a few more papers to the pile that they turned in to register the bi-regional church organization to invite foreigners. He'll do that on Tuesday. (We hope! Pray that he'll be able to get those last few papers.) Then we'll probably leave here on Wednesday to go to another city. It will take a week for the registration to go through, then we'll apply for invitations. That's another prayer request: for the invitations to be ready very fast. Once we have those invitations, we'll go to Kiev to get our visas. Please keep praying for us every step of the way!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Did you miss us?

First, before you read any farther, stop and pray for me. We had another visit from the local law enforcement agencies yesterday. Now it's my turn. I have to go in and talk to them tomorrow morning. Up until now, Will's done all the talking, and I'd rather not have to do this!

So, did you miss us? Our internet connection went out a week ago. Will got it going again yesterday, but I didn't have a chance to post anything until now.

It's really winter here now! We've had snow off and on for a while, but it was all slushy. (Ooo! Will just came in with a pair of the little plastic training skis that Jaan has been dreaming of and talking about for a year now! We're going to hide them away until there's a little more snow. ) The transition seasons of spring and fall are beautiful here, but they're MESSY. Now the mud has frozen, so we can really enjoy the snow. And, since it got colder, we've had sunshine all day, every day.

Getting ready to go out
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

It's quite an undertaking to get everyone out the door. Usually I dress Asya and start Raia rocking her. Then I help Jaan get ready and send him outside. Then I dress Raia, while rocking Asya with my foot. Last of all I jump into my coat, and we girls go out. Whew! This morning Asya started fussing, while Raia was talking care of her, waiting for me. I heard a sweet little voice say, "Baby, don't be afraid. God is with you, and I'm right here, too."

Asya, ready to go out
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

See the eyes?

Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Help from Papa
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Happy girl
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Oh, I love that Raia is saying funny things now, too. Yesterday when we came in, she insisted that her feet were "sleepy." Thought she meant tired, but no, she insisted that were sleepy and that she understood that meant they wanted to sleep. After naptime they felt fine again.

Another Raia story: this one isn't a funny thing that she said. It was just a very toddler-ish thing that she did. We had fish and cole slaw for supper tonight. She was dipping her fish in ketchup ("kepuch"), and when she finished there was still a little ketchup left. So, she grabbed a handful of cole slaw, dipped it in the leftover, and stuffed it into her mouth.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Recent photos

The oak
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

A while ago I wrote about collecting acorns. One of them sprouted! And a few days ago Mark's grandmother pointed out another oak tree to Jaan and Raia. This time they took note of the leaves that had fallen from it. When our little tree got big enough for the leaves to be visible, Jaan pointed out that we have "an oak on the top, and an acorn on the bottom."

Will says that if Jaan and Raia could really work, we'd have a new apartment by now. They are constantly "working." Everything is a tool, and there are all kinds of sound effects. They work together beautifully, too. I love to watch them!

Worker Jaan
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Off to work!

Worker Raia
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

"I want to pet the baby."
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

When Raia is tired she always wants to "pet" Asya and suck her finger. (Jaan just jumped into the photo.)

Reading with Papa
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Jaan's favorite pastime!

Oh, and Raia just pointed out all the R's (which look like P) on the cover of a "Russian Reporter" magazine! I didn't know that she knew that! There were quite a few of them.