Friday, October 30, 2009

Autumn at the dacha

I'm taking a sick day today, or at least this morning. I know that's a rare treat for a mother! My eye swelled up, and we have no idea why. So, Will took the children out this morning for me. Please pray for us!

The day before yesterday we went out to our dacha. We weren't sure if we would spend the night, too, or just go for the day. When it started raining, we decided to stay. It was just too soggy to come back through the woods, and it gets dark so early now.  Will kept us warm with the little wood stove, although it was a lot of work for him.  It doesn't hold heat very well.  However, we found that once the little house was really warmed up, we stayed warm, even without insulation or a real pechka.  (Is there such thing as a "bourgeois stove" in English?  That's what we have.)

On the way out

Tragedy! Natasha the Fish died

We had a funeral for her.

Picking corn!

Proud farmer!

Just before she took a bite

Bringing in wood

Eating the fruit of his labor

Rainy evening activity

Vintage clothing
(I had to take a picture, because I love this, and I don't think it will fit her by the time summer rolls around.)

We still haven't had a freeze here in the city, but it looked like there had been a very light one out at our dacha.  The peony, dahlia and tomato leaves were already black and mushy.  The first frost is actually supposed to be tomorrow night.  We'll see, though, they've been predicting that for a while now; it's always a few days ahead of us, and the weather always warms up before we get to it.

While were we at our dacha, we picked corn and tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and peppers.  I tore down all the old cucumber vines, and planted peas where they had been.  Will covered the green house with plastic, so hopefully those peas will grow.  And of course, everyone had a wonderful time playing!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Quick question

Does anyone know what this plant is? It's the main one that changes colors here in the fall, and it's spectacular! It's a large bush or small tree, which blooms with a kind of fluffy stuff earlier in the year. The leaves have a strong spicy smell.  Can anyone help me identify it?

Monday, October 19, 2009

So thankful!

holy experience

We had a great day yesterday! Will remembered at the last minute that it was Zhatva in the village of Bratskoe (pop. 408), and that we were invited. We tried to go with the group from church here, but we just missed them. So, we paid extravagant amounts of money for a taxi to take us all the way there. (Well, extravagant by Ukrainian standards, not American.)  I thought it was kind of funny that we couldn't find any drivers who knew where Bratskoe is.  I had assumed that everyone would know, since everyone in the churches around here talks about Bratskoe all the time.  The driver we ended up with asked for directions over and over and still ended up getting kind of lost.

The church in Bratskoe is the "mother church" for many of the churches in this region, including the one we go to here in Dneprorudnoe. I knew that Bratskoe was almost considered a completely Christian village, but I didn't really know anything more than that. My favorite part of the service was the elderly pastor telling the history of the church and village. Like I said, it was Zhatva, and it was also their 85th anniversary! I wish I could have recorded the whole story, or at least taken notes. Here's what I remember, though:

Soon after the revolution, life started getting harder in some places.  A few Christian men from a church in Belarus came down this way looking for work.  They had to change trains at a station near here.  They got off and started asking about other believers.  The first person they talked to was another evangelical believer, and he invited them home with him.  He "fed them Ukrainian borsch" (important detail, of course ), showed them Ukrainian hospitality and the incredible fruits of the fertile soil here.  He also tried to talk them into staying, telling them about land available, for what we would probably call homesteading. They weren't sure, but when he took them back to the train station, their train had already left, so that took that as God's leading. The men chose land, planted it and started building homes. Then they went back for their families. In 1923 a group of Christians from Belarus came down on sleds and sleighs and whatever they had. (I can't remember how many. . . 40 families? 170-something total?)  As soon as they settled into their new homes, they started evangelizing the region.  1924-1930 were the years when they had groups traveling, sharing the gospel, and starting small groups of believers.  Then Stalin cracked down, and they had to stop.  As the storyteller said, "Our church spent 110 years in prison, and. . . ."  Again, I can't remember how many years in exile, but that was total for all the men who were sent off.  Several didn't come back.  But the church in Bratskoe didn't close down!  They were pretty much quarantined, but they still kept on.  Other visitors talked about how they had come to the 50th anniversary--thirty-five years ago--and had to sneak through the corn fields to get past the police blockades.  As soon as perestroika came, the evangelists went right back to work, and that's how the Dneprorudnoe church was actually founded.

So, why am I writing all this in a post about thanksgiving?  Because Zhatva is a day of thanksgiving, and because that was the overall sum of what was told and what I felt.  I imagined that it was a lot like what Thanksgiving Day in America would have been like a few generations after the original Pilgrims.  It was thanksgiving. . . .

513. for God's great love and mercy
514. for the time of grace that we have now
515. for the martyrs
516. for the incredible legacy of the Bratskoe church
517. for the day of fellowship
518. for the chance to hear these stories first-hand
519. for the harvest: physical fruits and vegetables of fall, and spiritual harvests in all the towns that this church has touched
520. for a fun day for our family
521. for Ukrainian borsch!

And so much more!

(Sigh. I read back over this, and it's just not adequate. It just doesn't capture the story or the day or the incredible thanks.)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The story of our trip

I already posted photos of our trip to Sasha's wedding, but I also want to write about it.  The actual travel time was long, but we had fun on the way.  Last Thursday we started out on a marshrutka (van) to Zaporozhye at noon.  Asya was supposed to sleep on that leg of the trip, but she didn't.  In Zaporozhye we got on a bus to Dnepropetrovsk, and Asya got her nap.  When we arrived in Dnepropetrovsk, we had plenty of time before our train, so we ate at a restaurant.  That's a big deal for us!

After that, we met up with our friends who were also going to the wedding and rushed to get on the train.  No one really slept much, and we arrived at our destination around 3 am, to be met by people from the church and travel on by car.  We finally got to where we would be staying and crashed.

Friday we kind of wandered around in the village, getting to know people, helping with preparations, and just enjoying ourselves.  Vladik built a beautiful house for Sasha, and it was really fun to see where she'll be living.

It was funny how Jaan and Raia jumped right in to everything.  They felt perfectly at home.  At one point, I left them playing in one home, and went for a walk with Asya.  We came to another house and were invited in, to find that Jaan and Raia were already there!  Asya loved the animals: ducks, geese, cows, goats, a horse and even a павлиний глаз butterfly that sat on our fingers.  I've been missing those; we don't have them here in southern Ukraine.  It was very muddy and rainy there, nothing like here.  I should have taken dacha clothes for the children, instead of all their nice outfits!  In the evening we ended up at a birthday party with all the local youth and the rest of the group from Dneprorudnoe.

Saturday morning, we didn't go to ZAGS ("the wedding factory"), because there wasn't room in the cars.  We waited at the church.  Jaan closely inspected the well, while the girls just ran around and tried not to get muddy.  Then the service started.  Will preached one sermon, someone else preached another, and then there was the long wedding sermon.  After that the wedding party went out into the beautiful birch forest for photos, and we went back to our hosts' home for naps.

The next part was the wedding feast at a cafe.  It was fun and beautiful and delicious. . . and long, of course!

That night we got to spend more time with our host family.  We really enjoyed them and would probably be great friends, if we lived closer together.  They also have three children, and their two youngest match Jaan and Raia in age.  They work with a mission that helps Christian families adopt.

Sunday morning we went to church, then had lunch of wedding leftovers, then napped and played or just quietly looked at wedding pictures.  In the evening we went back to the home where we had attended the birthday party and had another time of tea and fellowship.  When we left, Asya told the hostess thank you in Ukrainian.  They took us to the nearest train station, and from there we retraced all our many steps.

Oh, one more sweet memory: while waiting out on the dark, cold, train platform with the group seeing us off, someone wanted to sing.  We started off with колядки (Christmas songs), because those were the first Ukrainian songs that came to mind, and everyone knows them.  Then they moved on to choruses.

It was a wonderful vacation for us!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Accomplishments of the Princess

These days, in between Jaan doing real school and Asya learning to talk, I was almost afraid that our middle child would be overlooked. But she hasn't been! First of all, she's not Raia anymore. She's a princess. (The family we stayed with in Lokhvytsia gave her a princess dress, which she loves.) Now that we have gotten that straight, here are a few pictures of her from the past few days.

The princess was very impressed with Dasha's braiding skills. Since she saw that another little girl could braid, she's been constantly twisting her hair and getting frustrated. I promised that I would teach her to do it right, and a few days ago we got around to it:

She has also been obsessed with writing for a while now.  I don't think Jaan went through a stage like this.  Any time Raia gets her hands on a piece of paper, she fills it with "writing."  She knows a few letters, and she adds a lot of scribbles.  However, since she's left handed, she often makes the letters she knows backwards and writes in the wrong direction.  So, to help her and feed her obsession, I've been printing out pages from a special handwriting book for lefties.  She loves it, and she's doing really well with it!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Our trip

We just got back from a wonderful trip to Poltava oblast.  It was exhausting, but except for the tiredness, it all felt like a nice vacation.  I have a bunch of photos: more of us spending time with new and old friends, Asya chasing ducks and such, than the actual wedding.  I'll try to get those online now. . . .

Edited to add: here they are.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

And now they're gone

Our week with Baba Julie and Grandaddy just flew by! We saw them off this morning. They're on their way back to Odessa now. It's a 16-hour train trip, so please pray for safe travels for them. Thank you for praying for their visit, too. We had a wonderful time (of course), and they stayed healthy! That's miraculous! I think that was their first visit to us without sickness.

We'll be gone soon, too. Tomorrow we're traveling to a wedding. One of the girls from church here is getting married and moving away. I added to the map I made before, so that you can see where we're going.  You might have to zoom out on it to see; I don't know exactly how that works.

Bye for now. . . .

Monday, October 05, 2009

Thankful Mondays

holy experience

I'm so thankful for the beginning of a habit of pausing on Mondays to thank! In general the habit of looking for gifts from God to be thankful for has changed my life, and now I'm liking having a specific time for it. Of course, I don't have time every Monday to actually write and add to my list online, but every Monday (and every day!), I'm at least thinking about it.

522. Multitude Mondays
523. A fall day! Maybe the first of many
524. A walk with our own family and extended family on this beautiful day
525. Another walk, on a recent morning, just me and three children, hand-in-hand
526. Marriages that last 35 years (my inlaws celebrated their anniversary today!)
527. A lovely "piece of Kovrov," from someone who knows what it means to me:

528. Evening quiet
529. Winnie-the-Pooh
530. "Вузлы"
531. "Read more!"
532. Giggles at dinnertime

And so much more. . . .

Saturday, October 03, 2009

A few photos

Yesterday the men (well, one of them is a very little man) went out to do some dacha work. We ladies went for a walk. That's the part I have photos of.

"Doolie [pause] Baba," as Asya calls her, and the girls at the overlook

Collecting "Autumns"
Asya hasn't quite figured out that the season is called autumn; she seems to think that it's the leaves themselves that we're talking about. So far at least, the fall colors have been kind of scarce. A few days ago we were walking through a little area that actually had colored leaves. Asya was ooh-ing and ah-ing and yelling "Осень! Осень!" ("Fall! Fall!") As soon as we moved away from there, she asked where autumn was. And then yesterday, she was collecting leaves and saying, "Осень! Еще одна! Еще осень!" (Fall!  Another one!  Another fall!")