Thursday, April 30, 2009

My Gratitude Basket

I haven't listed for a while. At least, I haven't done it "out loud."  
Visualize the new you [the thankful one!], with your Gratitude Basket over your arm, walking up the steps to the throne of God.  The Holy One smiles and gently says, "My daughter, I see that you brought me the offering of your gratitude.  I love that!  Show me what's in your basket."  You pull out your thankful list, and as you pull, you're surprised at how it's grown.  Your list is growing, and you are growing.  Gratitude is becoming a part of you!
--Satisfy My Thirsty Soul by Linda Dillow, page 142
651. Jaan and Raia trying to put a tulip back together after its petals fell off
652. All of Asya's "babies" and her excitement over them; I didn't teach her to love bugs, but she's certainly a girl after my own heart.
653. A new book to read and really think deeply about
654. A drop of water in the center of a lupine leaf
655. The cherry tree, blooming at our dacha
656. Wilty flowers for Papa, held tightly in Asya's hand
657. Spring rain
658. The green after the rain
659. An incredible walk, when we saw pheasants, a squirrel, a swallowtail and so much more
660. Another walk, when we really didn't see much of anything, but had a wonderful time together
661. A hedgehog sunning itself in the park
662. Babushki who give us homemade kulich and incredibly beautiful eggs

663. This list (I'm sure I've said that before, but today I really enjoying looking back over it and remembering more than a year of gifts and gratitude for them.)
664. Dacha days
665. All the flowers (My thankful list was made up of flowers this time last year, too. )
666. Especially red tulips (our very own!)

667. The joy of the Easter season
669. ...for the actual fact of that,
670. ...and for people who greet me that way

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dacha improvements

Will has been busy working at our dacha, getting it to the point where we can spend nights there.  He also worked all day Monday with a friend from church to cut a hole in the wall and put in a gate and stairs, instead of the ladder entrance.  The former owner had started digging for that, but never got any farther with it.  Will and Petya finished where he had started.  Yesterday we all went out to see his hard work.

First, look at how pretty the road out there is.  Can you see all the trees blooming?  They look white in real life!

"The White Way of Delight"

Opening the new gate

The new stairs

At the top

And then inside the house:
The new "bedroom"

Bunk beds, almost done!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Easter Garden

These details are for Allie and for my own memory.

I got the idea of an Easter garden from Holy Experience.  (Oh, I just noticed the link to what she was adapting from.  There's even more there.)  I combined it with what we did last year: an Easter mountain, which I read about in Treasuring God in Our Traditions.  (I think it's in the third part there.)  This year we made a salt-dough tomb.  Jaan was a little disappointed that it wasn't a huge mountain like last year, but he liked the final result.  We used a toilet paper tube inside of it, and that worked just as well as a can.  Varnishing it was also new for us, but I think it was necessary, because it's sitting in a damp garden now; I doubt that the salt would be good for the plants or the dampness good for unsealed dough.  So, that's the tomb.

We placed the tomb in a "garden."  Ann V.'s is in a basket.  Ours is just a drawer from an old refrigerator.  For plants, our friends used cactuses and succulents, and theirs turned out lovely!  Ours has a different kind of beauty: woodland beauty.  We bought the bright green ferny plant, and added violets, veronica, a daisy and moss.  They're not blooming much anymore, so I just sprinkled in some basil seeds for quick new greenery.

Throughout Holy Week, we acted out the big events in and around our garden. Noel Piper cautions against continuing a tradition like this once the children are older and can't handle it reverently. I loved the beauty and reverence of Ann's idea of placing a caterpillar in the tomb and replacing it with butterflies on the Resurrection morning. That goes right over our preschool heads, though, so we put our Jesus figure in the tomb and were thrilled to find that He had risen!

The Easter season continues on to Pentecost.  In the past we've remembered that with a paper chain once and candles once.  The candles were the favorite, so this year we've put those into our garden.  It became a math lesson, too, since we can only easily fit in 10 at a time.  Don't tell the children, but I don't quite have 50 candles, so we might just go to Ascension, and then find something else to mark the 10 more days until Pentecost.

I also just found another idea:
Jesus Appears after Resurrection:
Hide the Jesus figure in various places around your house. When your children find it, read one of the passages where He appeared to His followers (here in chronological order). Keep this up until His ascension, forty days after Easter.

Mary Magdalene – John 20:10-18
Peter in Jerusalem – Luke 24:34
Two Travelers – Luke 24:13-32 (Mark 16:12-13)
Ten Disciples – Luke 24:36-43
Ten Disciples and Thomas – John 20:26-31
Seven Disciples Fishing – John 21:1-14
Eleven Disciples on the Mountain – Matthew 28:16-20
Crowd of Five Hundred – 1 Corinthians 15:6
His Brother James – 1 Corinthians 15:7
Ascension (40 days after Easter) – Luke 24:44-49

Discussion point: After the resurrection Jesus' body was supernatural – God gave him a special body that could do things our bodies can’t. After we go to heaven, we will have bodies like Jesus’. Notice as you read the amazing things Jesus could do (eat food, be touched, walk through doors, appear, disappear).
We did that for the first time yesterday, and they loved it! It was especially good, because since Easter Raia has been asking me, "Where's Jesus?" every evening when we light our candle.  I know what she means, but I've been answering that He's both in heaven and with us.  And then she says that she wants to play with "the purple Jesus" like we did during Holy Week. Hmm. I don't want to be irreverent, and I know that's not her intent, of course. Now we have something that combines a fun activity with "the purple Jesus" and Bible readings about the real Jesus.

I'm sorry this got to be so long!  I wanted to record every detail.  Did I miss anything?

(Pictures are from when we made our garden tomb and also from last night.)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ongoing Easter

Have you noticed the note above here that says that Easter keeps on going?  Beyond the fact that we continue to greet people with the joyful news that "Christ is Risen!" we remember it in our family, too.  Every evening until Ascension we light a candle in our Easter garden, repeat the Easter greeting, listen to the music I linked to above or sing on our own.  Such sweet times!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Another difference

I was going to ask if anyone knows why in Russia everyone visits the cemeteries on Easter, but in Ukraine it's the week after. I just did an internet search and came up with one answer, though:
Посещать кладбища на Пасху стали только в советское время, когда храмы были закрыты. Люди, испытывающие потребность собраться, разделить радость, не могли пойти в храмы, которые были закрыты, и шли на кладбище на Пасху вместо того, чтобы пойти через неделю. Кладбище как бы заменило посещение храма. А сейчас, когда храмы открыты, поэтому эта традиция советского времени не может быть оправдана, нужно восстановить церковную традицию: быть в храме в день Пасхи и встретить радостный праздник, а на Радоницу отправиться на кладбище.
From this site.*
My translation:
Visiting the cemeteries on Easter only started in soviet times, when the churches were closed. People, who felt the need to gather and share the joy, couldn't go to the churches, which were closed, so they went to the cemeteries on Easter instead of waiting another week. The cemetery kind of took the place of the church. And now, when the churches are open, that tradition from soviet times cannot be justified, and church tradition needs to be restored: be at church on Easter Day and celebrate the joyful holiday, and then on Radonitsa go to the cemetery.

So that gets me part way to my explanation; it seems that in a lot of ways, communist times didn't leave as deep of a scar here as they did in Russia. (I'm not saying that there's no mark! Just not as deep.) But why do they go on the Sunday after Easter here?  Does anyone know?  The same article that I mentioned above says that Radonitsa is the next Tuesday after Easter week.

In Russia we got used to the fact that all transportation goes to the cemeteries on Easter morning. In Moscow they reroute the buses; in Kovrov you couldn't get a taxi or marshrutka for anything. We were a little surprised at how easy it was for Will to get a taxi to church last week. But then this week there weren't any! And as I walked, I did see that all the cars were full of the garish funeral flowers. People have been carrying those around this weekend more than the Easter baskets last week. Even our church was sparsely attended this morning, and we don't follow this tradition!

Ah, another thought just popped into my head: maybe it's Sunday because they'll be at work tomorrow and Tuesday?

Sorry for the stream of consciousness entry here. . . .

*It's nice to see that the article does denounce leaving food offerings and getting drunk at cemetery visits!

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Would you be willing to send us a postcard from the state that you live in? Will's sister sent a beautiful one from Montana a little while ago, and Jaan has been fascinated by it. He's also really trying to figure out maps, places, countries and distances. Today I printed him a map of the USA, and he was so excited to find Montana "where Anna is" and the other states that he knows about. We colored in Montana and hung the map with the postcard by it. The only problem is that now he wants more. So, if you send a post card, he'll answer it and add your card to his collection. Please?

Our address is
Пр Ентузiастiв 3-52
м. Дніпрорудне, Василівський р-н,
Запорізька обл.
Україна/Ukraine, 71630
(Or here it is as an image.)
That was our old address.

30 states (60%)

and Washington, D.C.!

Create your own map

Thank you!

I'll keep adding to the map as the postcards come in. . . .

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Пасха 2009

Our Easter, in pictures

The night before, we went to bed with this:

Solemn vigil

And woke to find:
The stone rolled away, and the tomb empty!
What a wonderful way to start a day of celebrating the resurrection!  I love this series of photos of Asya discovering the empty tomb, too.

Raia was so excited to see the butterflies that she had made hanging on the cross. I don't think she picked up on the new life symbolism, but she noticed the beauty.  We read the last part of Lenten Lights, and then had breakfast.

"Христос Воскрес!"

"Воистину Воскрес!"

It's a real holiday when you have cake for breakfast.

Then we headed off to church. I took photos on the way. Then we got to church:


Jaan saying his poem
He was hilarious!  They handed him the microphone, and he just stood there, with it hanging from his hand, whispering to me, "What?  What do I do?"  I told him to say his poem, but he just stared at me blankly.  The babushka next to me said, "Lift the microphone and say your poem!"  He listened to her, and said it perfectly.

Sunday school craft
Raia and Asya really enjoyed this! I wish I had also gotten photos of Asya in her frilly dress, sitting at the table, smearing glue with the big kids.

After church we had to wait around for a while. We enjoyed just being there, being outside. Asya had to lie flat on the ground, in her dress, to watch "babies" (ants).

New puppy at church!

Our ride finally came to get us and we went out to the. . .

Youth picnic

Catching "babies"
There were so many of them! Little beetles of all different kinds everywhere!

Asya was ready to eat, long before the food was ready.

Raia and Dasha

Jaan working hard

From there we all went to a village nearby, where one of the church families has their dacha, and had tea there.

This doesn't even show half of how beautiful it was.
After that, it was just the ride home, before falling into bed, exhausted.

We thoroughly enjoyed the whole day of celebrating our Saviour's resurrection with our church and friends!  Monday night, when we prayed before bed, I asked Jaan what he wanted to say, and right off he wanted to thank God for the wonderful holiday the day before.

And beyond photos, at little commentary:
We have been doing a lot of comparing of how similar and different Easter in Russia and Ukraine is.  In both countries it's the main church holiday of the whole year.  Just like it is all the world over, it's the one day when everyone who considers himself even close to Christian goes to church.  The general way people celebrate in both countries is almost exactly the same.  What's different is that here is seems to be really a family holiday.  In Russia, it's only something you go to church for (or, more often, stay home to watch the church service on TV).  Our church always had tea or even a meal and lingered together for the whole day.  Here everyone hurried home after church for big family celebrations.  The baking and partying here are a much bigger deal than in Russia!  I never saw the thousands of kulich all over the market, or the supplies for decorating eggs and cooking the proper foods in Russia! (They don't say kulich here either. It's called paska, but it's exactly the same.)  Some people make them in Russia, of course, and there are a few for sale, but not like this.  Now I understand why Tanya had to have their Ukrainian relatives send sprinkles and such.  Oh, and Easter baskets--by the Orthodox definition, not the American fake grass and candy idea--are everywhere.  I don't know that I ever even saw them in Russia, but here people were hurrying around with them all day.  Anyway, Easter Day was wonderful for us!


Monday, April 20, 2009

A quick picture

I took this on the way to church yesterday. Today we're exhausted, but I'll tell you about our Easter soon.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Христос воскрес!

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!

Music is from here.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pictures of Holy Week

I guess I should have warned you that I would have less time to write this week. We've had a wonderful, quiet, Christ-filled week!  I've been using nap time to prepare activities instead of writing, though.  Now, as we wait for the Resurrection, today I have a chance to share pictures.

Lazarus Saturday:

Palm Sunday:

(I have so many cute photos from the triumphal entry that I put all the rest of them over here.)

Cleansing of the Temple:

Christ anointed by Mary:

The Last Supper:


Good Friday:

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Prayers

We had a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses come to our door a few days ago with this invitation, which reads:

"Do This in Remembrance of Me"
What are Jesus' disciples to commemorate?
Why is this something that is important for you to do as well?

We cordially invite you to come and find the answers to these questions this Thursday, April 9th 2009

Personally, I was overwhelmed, amused, and incensed, all at the same time.
 After all, this is historically a Christian country, with a strong tradition that speaks of the Triune God permeating many aspects of national culture. (Even if we have heard people mistakenly identify the holy Trinity as Jesus, Mary, and St. Nikolai. Seriously.)

Still, many folks are open to listening to the Jehovah's Witnesses heresy out of simple curiosity, and don't know enough to ask the simple question, "but WHO is Jesus Christ to you? The Eternal Creator God... or NOT?"

That was Phyllis' question to the women who rang our doorbell. "Do you believe that Jesus is GOD? Did God Himself live a sinless life in a human body on this earth, the Perfect God/Man? Was not Jesus' resurrection the ultimate proof of his Godhood? "  

It MUST be more than what the Jehovah's Witnesses say, stating that "we, JW's, celebrate his death in order to obtain God's favor and an approved position before Him, obeying Jesus' command in Luke 22."

"If Christ (the Messiah and God in the Flesh) has not been raised, our faith is mere delusion, and we are still under the control and penalty of sin;

And further, those who have died in Christ are eternally lost!

If we who are in Christ have hope only in this life and that is all, then we are of all people most miserable and to be pitie
(1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

The absurdity and sheer brazen audacity of advertising a false gospel and false christ during this season of preparation leading up to the greatest celebration in the Christian year is just staggering.  (For us, tomorrow is Palm Sunday, and here the Great Fast is drawing to a close.)

Please pray for us and all our fellow Christians, who know and celebrate the true wonder of Easter, - our Savior Redeemer God who out of love for us died and rose again. Pray that we would continue to boldly proclaim this miraculous truth throughout this Easter season.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Plans for Holy Week

Our preparations for celebrating the Resurrection are picking up speed around here.  I've had a list going in my mind, and I need to get it written down.  These are the preparations and then the stories for each day:
  • Thursday - make tomb and finish up Easter garden (We've been gathering and adding plants for a while.)
  • Friday - varnish tomb, finish making little people  (I should have brought over a pack of pipe cleaners!)
  • Saturday - story of Lazarus (I know it doesn't fit with the chronology of the life of Christ, but this is traditionally Lazarus Saturday.  It will be fun to play the story with the tomb that we've made, before we put it in the garden.)
  • Sunday - triumphal entry
  • Monday - cleansing of the temple
  • Tuesday - Jesus annointed
  • Wednesday - Last Supper (Again breaking up the chronology, but Thursday's events are too much to cover at once, and I want them to hear this before we go to church on Thursday.)
  • Thursday - garden of Gethsemane
  • Friday - crucifixion
  • Saturday - waiting, mourning
  • Sunday - HE IS RISEN!

For more about what we're doing during Holy Week, read the Easter section of Treasuring God in our Traditions or this article, and this.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Consolation in a Ukrainian lesson

Since I'm changing out the quote on the side, I'm archiving the old one here.  I still love it!  Don't bother to ask for a translation, though.  If you know Russian, you can understand it, and if you don't. . . well, poetry doesn't translate well.

Не журись, коли недоля
В край чужий тебе закине!
Рідний край у тебе в серці,
Поки спогад ще не гине.

Не журись, не марно пройдуть
Сії сльози й тяжка мука:
Рідний край щиріш любити
Научає нас розлука.
--Леся Українка

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

SPRING dacha days

After being away from our dacha for about a month (!), we've had two wonderful days there recently.

On April 2 we planted
  • mustard greens (I hope Will likes them as much as he says!  We have a whole row.)
  • spinach (So excited to find that here!)
  • marigolds
  • some old salvia seeds (Not too much hope of seeing any results there.)
  • baby lupine plants, along with some old lupine seeds
  • the poor lavender plants that have been wanting to go into the ground for so long
  • peonies!
  • and peas for the children.
The greens that we had planted under a window frame so long ago were up and looking great, but none of the little bottle "greenhouses" were successful.

Yesterday we planted
  • morning glories
  • two kinds of petunias (Jaan)
  • calendula (Raia)
And we did lots of exploring, observing, and wallowing in dirt.  We had also lost a tree , so Will cut it up.  The most amazing part was the flowers!  When we got there in the morning, I could tell that we would have a few blooms soon.  I went around and took pictures of a fat daffodil bud and some on the apricot tree.  They looked like they would be blooming the soonest.  And by the time we left in the evening, they were open!

And of course, a day outside wouldn't be complete without a nature discovery.  After lunch, Will put the girls down for naps, and I settled down to read outside.  Jaan was supposed to just be quiet, so he was sitting up in the top of a tree.  We've been curious about the small holes in the ground that we've been seeing around here lately.  There were several right near me, and I saw movement in them.  I waited, and soon a beetle poked its head out of the one nearest to me  As soon as I moved, he hid again.  I called Jaan over, and we set the camera up, aimed at the hole.  When the beetle started to come out again, we got this photo:

We also watched one of these beetles cut off a dandelion leaf and drag it home.  And then we dug one up to show the girls when they woke up.  Asya was especially thrilled to have a new "baby" to play with.

Last night Will and I figured out what the beetles are: Кравчик-головач (Lethrus apterus). Unfortuntely, they're a vineyard pest.  Yes, they're concentrated around where our grapes grow.  I don't think they'll be a problem, though.  We have enough grape vines to share.  We started out thinking that maybe our beetle was a kind of scarab beetle, but the body shape wasn't quite right.  And why would it have been carrying leaves?  So, we kept searching and found this.  The article I linked to is quite interesting.  (Sorry, it's in Russian, though.)  I'm planning to read it to Jaan and Raia.

I put the rest of the photos from yesterday in a Facebook album.  (You should be able to view them, even without a Facebook account.)