Sunday, December 30, 2007

Lots of quotes

My helpers outdid themselves one day recently. Asya was keeping me busy with an especially fussy morning. I did manage to get a load of diapers washed, but they were just sitting in the washer. Raia came and told me that she had gotten them out for me, all by herself. I thought they would probably be "hung" in a pile somewhere, but I didn't get any farther than that. Then Jaan came and told me that he had dumped the little potty all by himself. I hadn't seen him go into the toilet, so I kind of wondered, but again, I didn't go any farther than wondering. Later, I discovered that Raia had thrown all the clean diapers into the bath tub, and guess where Jaan had emptied the potty? Oh, well! An automatic washing machine is such a nice thing!

Recently Jaan asked me how to say mama in English. When I told him that it’s just the same, he replied, “No, it’s not! Mama in English is Phyllis.”

Christmas is still going here (actually not really even started yet), so here's another Christmas thought. I really enjoyed Noel Piper's book about family traditions. (It's available free, more reading material that I downloaded when I could.) She quoted a letter from a friend that included this:
Christmas is not very meaningful to me this year one way or the other. I feel a bit like God and I are on a journey together, seeing and doing a lot, but certainly not staying anywhere for any length of time.

Her answer to that letter was like it was written to me:
It’s not at all surprising that Christmas is hard for you this year. The reason for Christmas is the same as it ever was, and nothing is more essential to our lives than the Incarnation. What’s different for you, I expect, is that the traditions we wrap around December 25 to make it different from other days, those traditions and activities are as nothing to you this year. In fact, the thought of them probably weighs like a lump of lead in your belly. So what! Trees are nothing. Feasts are nothing. Lights are nothing. Music is nothing.

Only Christ matters. He is the only reason that you can be on any sort of journey with God, that you can have anything at all to do with God. Only Jesus matters.

. . . One time I told someone in hard times, “Just hang in there.” But she corrected me, “I’m not just hanging in there. I’m trying to hang on to Jesus.”

So, please, just keep hanging on to Jesus.

Sometimes, when things are going well, we might too easily forget that we have only one sure, immovable, dependable strength—Jesus, who was a baby once and is always and forever God. That is what holds us and keeps us whether or not we can carry out our traditions. May our decorations, gifts, and festivities—or lack of them—never block our view of him but always point us toward him.
Treasuring God in Our Traditions, page 88

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Update from the courtroom

Merry Christmas to all family and friends, and thank you all so much for your prayers. We felt the support of so many concerned friends and loved ones today, even though the outcome was not what we had been praying for.

The verdict issued by the judge was deportation. As far as Phyllis was given to understand, that means that when she leaves the country, there will be a stamp put in her passport showing that she cannot be issued a Russian visa for 5 years.

We were not told: leave by this date... However, Phyllis also has no legal right to be here, without a visa.

So, I'll be calling our Christian lawyer friend to see if he considers that we have a chance at appealing the decision. if he agrees to help us, we have ten days to appeal the decision. I will also be going to Vladimir to the regional Migration control for advice. (They will be the ones issuing the exit visas.)

Please pray for wisdom and the ability for us to make decisions quickly. The biggest holidays of the year are getting ready to start, and it's a bad time to be trying to get anything accomplished, in general.

Again, thank you all so much for your prayers, love and support for our family during this difficult time.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Quote, email, etc.

*****Please remember to pray for us on December 25!*****

If you've been reading recently, you've probably picked up that Elisabeth Elliot is one of my heroes. I've gone through some easy, busy years and haven't had a chance to learn from her (or my other heroes) for a while. Now I'm truly thankful for these current trials, because they're making me cling tighter to the Lord and run back to authors that I've learned so much from in the past. Here's something I just read:

It is nearly Christmastime. We don’t usually think of suffering during this glad season if we can help it. “It’s Jesus’ birthday!” we tell tiny tots, and we set about making cookies and gifts and trimming the house and the tree.

The very joyfulness of Christmas makes it especially hard for those who suffer. Jesus’ birthday, the Feast of the Incarnation, the Word made flesh—the happy morning when the myths about gods coming to earth in the form of men actually came true. This was “glorious news of great joy,” not only for poor shepherds but also for all people. Can it be that for someone two thousand years later who is nailed to a bed by pain, or who has lost something most precious, or who has been humiliated to the very dust, [or who is facing a scary court hearing and the possibility of exile]?

Perhaps it can if we think of what that glorious news entailed for the baby Himself.

[Skipping a very beautiful poem and more of the article here. Go read it, if you can spare the time.]

. . . we are fellow-heirs, if we share his sufferings. His splendor hereafter is what the sufferings are for. Let us think on these things, and have a very merry Christmas in the midst of whatever sufferings fall to us.

I hesitate to call what we're going through real suffering--especially compared to the situations of so many others--but it has been hard. I wish you all a merry Christmas and hope that my sharing this tiny bit of what is encouraging me will be an encouragement to someone else, too!

We're back to the same email situation we were in this summer, only worse. We're only checking once a week or so, but we can't do it with our computer, so it's even more complicated. Before I could at least read and answer from home, then go send and receive. Now one of us usually just goes somewhere, sends a few really necessary messages and kind of scans over what has come in. Please be patient with us! Your emails will get to us and be answered sometime, even if they have to wait until we get to the States.

Now, for the "etc" part of my title. . . there's so much that I could write! We really are doing well, enjoying life and friends and family. We're continuing our Advent evenings. Jaan and Raia are getting really excited about Jesus' birthday. I've decided that we are going to make at least some Christmas treats and continue our tradition of taking them around to our neighbors that evening, no matter what happens earlier in the day. Asya's growing like a weed a wildflower and eating like a pig a sweet baby girl should eat; Jaan and Raia are entertaining us with their silliness and sweetness every day; life is beautiful. And I'll stop rambling!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


*****Please remember to pray for us on December 25!*****

Jaan says that when he grows up he wants to be either an astronaut or a butterfly. (The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. A certain parent of his wanted to be a turtle when she grew up.)

Kolya (our friend and former neighbor) to Will: "Why wouldn't they want you in Russia? You're the most Russian man I know!"

Jaan to Raia: "In space astronauts can fly, but we can't do that in Russia."

Raia's version of the story of Jonah: "He didn't obey God, so he got on a boat. They threw him into the ocean, and then. . . . He ate a whale!"

Recently Jaan came running to me, all excited, because Asya had said "egg" to him: "In English, Mama!" On Sunday he was telling everyone at church that she speaks English.

Recent gifts

Before you go out into the world, wash your face in the clear crystal of praise. Bury each yesterday in the fine linen and spices of thankfulness.
--Charles Spurgeon

928. Our beautiful life: I was just watching our photos play on the computer screen and realizing that we really are surrounded by incredible beauty.
929. Elisabeth Elliot newsletters: I saved a bunch while we still in Naro-Fominsk.
930. Elizabeth, Carrie and Susan, getting me back to reading Elizabeth Elliot
931. Jaan and Raia each wanted one of my hands to hold during our walk. Their solution? To have Raia pull the sled with Asya on it.
932. The sweetness of sitting with all three children in my lap, reading an Advent story together
933. Raia napping in one leg of my PJ pants, with her doll and dog tucked in over her tummy
934. Little feet, dancing because of cheese and crackers for snack
935. Шоколадные пряники
936. A chance to prepare for the court hearing this time around
937. The fat, red-cheeked baby that I saw having so much fun on the ice slide
938. Snow clothes, skis, sled, all scattered around, blocking up the entry: signs of a very fun morning
939. Jaan's joy in his new, little yellow skis
940. "But it--God--is all too good not to be happy. We have now, here, happily, wondrously, together. We have yesterday's memories, swelling with full-bodied love. We have up ahead, the hope of Home without end. We have it all so good." (Taken from here.)
941. A long bath
942. Hot water
943. God's perfect timing
944. HOME! Even if it's just for a short time, it's wonderful
945. Playing a Bible story. . . over and over and over
946. The fun of exploring a frozen pond
947. Sweet Jojo, sharing her beloved puppy with Raia
948. So many lessons for me to learn right now
949. Ancient Faith Radio
950. A fun movie night
951. Three children napping
952. Silly "German" phone messages from Will

(Check back later, because I might add photos to illustrate some of these.)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ирония судьбы or Merry Christmas!

When we clattered into the stairwell with three tired children and an overloaded suitcase, a dear neighbor came hurrying to meet us with "I've been waiting for you all day!"
Natalia handed us a notice from the post office... and when I went there the next morning, it was indeed the long awaited summons to court.

The date has finally been set. The hearing will be on the 25th of December. (Merry Christmas, and 'God bless us, every one!')

This hearing will decide whether Phyllis will be deported, and as a result, be denied any Russian visa for the next 5 years, or if she will be pardoned and issued an exit visa, with the option to return to Russia.

To briefly explain for those who are just now catching up with us, this dilemma came about largely because Phyllis' visa expired while we were waiting for Asya's passport. Without a passport for Asya, we could not take her out of the country, and Phyllis would have had to leave the country to get a new visa.

Please PRAY with us and for us. Pray for a merciful judge. Pray that on the 25th, the glory of our Heavenly Father would triumph over the schemes of men who deny His reality.

Note from Phyllis: Obviously, it's hard to make plans when we don't know what the court decision will be and how soon after that we'll need to leave. (And no internet. That complicates things. We came home to find that the local office of our internet server had gone out of business, and our computer has decided not to recognize the fancy modem-thing anymore anyway. We're posting this from the computer center.) Sorry! There's nothing like drop in guests from the other side of the world, right? We'll probably be arriving in Florida two or three weeks after Christmas, staying with my parents for the first few weeks, and then heading up to Will's parents in North Carolina. That's all we know for now. (Poor Mom! I know that 2,000 questions just jumped into your mind. Your job is just to find three car seats, so that you can get us from the airport, and to try to stay calm. )

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fun with friends

Just one last post from this fast internet connection: a few photos of Jaan and Raia's wonderful morning yesterday. (Thanks, Susan!)

Raia and Jojo reading
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Raia painting
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

It might be a few days before we get internet set up at home again, so don't worry if you don't hear from us.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Just what we're doing today

We're busy here, packing up, cleaning, taking care of a fussy baby, and so on. Jaan and Raia spent the morning by themselves (that's a big deal for them!) with our friends. They had a wonderful time. I loved Jaan's garbled answer to my question of "What did you do?" when they came back. It went something like, "We ate bread, and we painted. They have beautiful paint. Even dark blue! But they don't have any boxes. Raia took a bath, and Rachel blew on her hair to make it pretty, but I didn't do that, because it wasn't interesting to me. And we watched TV about birds that fly and swim!"

"Doing letters"
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

(Рая говорит что они "делают буфовки," т.е. буковки.) This is one of the things that they've really enjoyed here: Starfall! At first they just sat and took it all in. Now they've started carefully repeating the letter sounds. . . but they still say the words in Russian. It makes me laugh to listen to them saying, "AAAAA - яблоко, AAAAA - космонавт. . . ."

If you've read our prayer requests, then you know that we're headed home tomorrow.

By the way, I've really been going back again and again to a chapter from Elisabeth Elliot's Secure in the Everlasting Arms, so I decided to see if it's online. It is! If you want to read with me, my chapter is "Called to Act." The poem further down in that newsletter also really spoke to me.
Child of my love, fear not the unknown morrow,
Dread not the new demand life makes of thee;
Thy ignorance doth hold no cause for sorrow
Since what thou knowest not is known to Me. . . .
That's just the beginning of the poem. There's a lot more of it, if you go to the link I gave.

Friday, December 07, 2007


I'm not sure I've said this clearly. After the court decision we will be coming to the States. No, we don't have the money for it, and, no, this is not the way we would want to do it, but we will have to leave.

The main prayer request is that we would be able to return to Russia after that! The judge could decide to deport me, which would mean that I would not be allowed enter Russia for five years or more. Or the decision could be different, and we'd get exit visas to leave in around two weeks after that. Either way, we'll be leaving, for a short time (as we hope and pray), or. . . .

Also pray that God would provide the finances we need! To quote a prayer request from a Gospelink letter that came in recently: "We be in need of financial situation."

(And, no, we still don't have a court date.)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Russian field trip

Will's been gone so much that Asya seems to have forgotten him. Or at least that's what she says.

Last night we went out for some family time. The central square here has a beautifully restored Russian Orthodox church, a Soviet war memorial, and an icon of "New Russia": MacDonald's. We visited all three. First the tank and the eternal flame, then into the church, where we enjoyed the music and beauty. Even Jaan stopped his incessant questions for a few minutes in there. After that we crossed the street and got French fries. It seemed strangely incongruous, but very Russian.

The tank! (and Jaan)
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Originally uploaded by fylliska.

1000 gifts

953. Winter sunsets
954. Friends!
955. Chatting with Julie
956. Shannon's musings
957. Children enjoying books on their own
958. Quiet, candlelit December evenings
959. The way Raia bends all the way down to pick something up when her finger is in her mouth
960. A toy snake "just happened" to be here
961. Wild family fun, with Asya participating (as a very interested observer) for the first time
962. "Голиwаф"
963. I exist to reflect and display the glory of God
964. All creation exists to display God's glory (Can you guess whose sermon I just listened to? If not, I'm not telling, though. )
965. Church services online, in English and Russian
966. Skype
967. This list: an outlet for for creativity. Doesn't seeing, in the way that I want to learn to see, require some creative looking?
968. A good end to a day of struggles
969. Fellowship
970. Nikolai Egorovich's sweet gifts of pumpkin, beets, squash, pickles, candy for the children, and his deep concern for us
971. Figuring out PhotoShop: a little outlet for creativity
972. My quote (an Elisabeth Elliot quote, just for me)

Monday, December 03, 2007

What's new?

People keep asking us that. Really there's nothing new. Will had a neighbor check our mail and read it to us over the phone. There was a letter from the regional court, but it just said that my case will be heard again in Kovrov City Court. No date. So, we keep waiting. Keep praying; we'll keep you posted.

There was something new and different on our Jesse Tree last night:

Something is different!
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

I snuck it in there to raise interest in our story. But--let this be a reminder that we're not perfect --the children were so fussy and uncooperative that we barely made it through making the ornament. The story had to wait until this morning. The snake stayed in the tree overnight, and Jaan and Raia listened with great fascination when I finally explained why it was there.

(By the way, WHY is right up Jaan's alley right now. He never stops asking "why?" I laughed so hard last night; he even asked "why?" in his sleep! I could hear him muttering, and then loud and clear "ПОЧЕМУ?" and then more muttering.)

I haven't written much about Asya recently. She's getting really big! Yesterday Will was playing a wild game with Jaan, Raia, and a ball. Up until now, she's either been indifferent to such events or scared and overwhelmed by them. This time she was fascinated. I even took her away, because I was afraid it was too much for her, and she screamed until I brought her back. She just wanted to sit in my lap, and seriously study what her crazy family was doing. She's also enthralled by a shirt with black and white stripes that I've been wearing. It's so amazing to her, that sometimes she'll even stop nursing to stare at it with her mouth hanging open. Sometimes she'll be smiling at me and interacting with me, and then all of a sudden the shirt catches her attention, and she's stuck. She's also on her way to being mobile. We've had her on a mattress on the floor at nights, and recently she scooted right off of it! I didn't go to her right away when she woke up, so she calmly decided to come get me herself. Sometimes at night she'll roll over, and that sure makes her mad. I'll close with a photo of her:

Originally uploaded by fylliska.

She's so used to taking her morning nap outside, that on the weekends when we stay in, we have to pretend. I wrap her up in her outside blanket, just leaving off the hat and coat layers, and she goes right to sleep.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


We started last night. To be very honest, I didn't really want to. Last December stands out as a beautiful month, and I've been looking forward to something like that again all year. However, right now everything is so uncertain and upsetting, and I know I can't have a perfect Advent. I knew if I just got going and did it for the children, I would be the one to benefit, though, and I'm already seeing that is true.

Last year we learned stories from the New Testament. This year we're doing more of the big picture--leading up to Jesus--with a Jesse tree, something like this.

Here's our first lesson in pictures. We. . .

Collected sticks
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Arranged them
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Read Isaiah 11:1-2
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Want to read with us? Click here.

Had tea
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Raia, too
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

A gift for Jesus
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

This was sweet. I asked what they would want to give to Jesus for His upcoming birthday. Jaan said, "Just a minute, I'll show you," and he ran off to get one of his treasures. I went on to explain that giving something to someone here, can be giving to Jesus. The idea of giving up the wrench seemed a little too hard for him, and we were only talking theoretically, so I stopped. However, this morning, right when he woke up, Jaan saw the wrench and said, "Papa, that's for a poor boy. I'm giving it to Jesus." I'm not quite sure where to go from there; it's not even our toy, but I was touched by Jaan's sweet heart.

All done!
Originally uploaded by fylliska.