Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015 - Happy New Year From Siberia!

Happy New Year 2015 with Russian Ornament.
Happy New Year From Siberia!  
In Russia, New Year's Eve to New Year's Day is THE big holiday of the year.  Since Soviet times, Russians decorate a New Year's tree (or in many cases, a branch) and Дед Мороз (Grandfather Frost) brings presents to children New Year's Eve.  New Year's dinner is eaten near midnight - and it is a feast comparable to America's Thanksgiving dinner, but with traditional Russian New Year's dishes.  Fireworks start in earnest at midnight and are still going as the hands on the clock reach 7 or 8 AM, although with less intensity and frequency.  All night you can hear people singing, laughing, and talking as they walk down the streets.  Quiet begins to settle only in the morning when folks fall exhausted into beds or couches.  

It's probably been ten years since we stayed up all night with our friends.  Kids and age have changed how we meet the New Year.  But we do congratulate each other at midnight.  

It is 2015 in Novosibirsk.  As we say in Russian, We congratulate you with the new year! 

С новым годом!!!

Happy New Year. 

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Monday, December 29, 2014

What They See, What You See - Mark 2:13-17 Post 2

A tax collector.
That's what they call me.
A taker, 
that's what they see.
All my using and cheating and striving, 
betraying to meet my own needs.
And You - 
You must see it, too. 
Surely You see what they see - 
and worse - the very depths of me.
How low I can sink.
How rotten I can be.

But...You must see something else.
Something they don't
something maybe I don't even see myself.

Follow me...follow me...follow me...

I don't know what it is You see.

But maybe...THIS is not my identity.
Maybe when You look at me
You see
what I could be
what I was meant to be
Disgraced, fallen
yes
but still one who could be Yours.

Is it possible You are talking to me?
Is it possible You really do mean me?
Is it possible that You WANT me?
Your words haunt me.
No praise.
No censure.
Just...
"Follow me."
 

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas from Siberia!

Merry Christmas from Siberia to all those who are celebrating the birth of Christ on December 25 according to the Gregorian calendar!   Although Russia officially celebrates Christmas on January 7, according to the Julian calendar,  today we celebrate with you all in our hearts.

As you move into Christmas day, remember why we celebrate.  

In Russia, we don't say "Merry Christmas."  The Christmas greeting in Russian means, literally, I congratulate you "with the birth of Christ."

С Рождеством Христовым, everyone.    

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Solstice

Solstice - Picture of Orthodox Church in the Snow
We celebrate Christmas with garlands of tinsel, bright lights, gifts, rich food and sweets, parties. 
You were a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, like one from whom men hide their faces.  Despised.  Rejected. (Is. 53:3)

We decorate and light Christmas trees. 
You took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows. (Is. 53:4)


We sing, "Away in a Manger" and "Deck the Halls."
You cried, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34)

We pull presents from under the tree, pass them to each other, open them.
You were pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities. (Is.53:5)

We clean up wrapping paper, set the table for Christmas dinner.
You bore the punishment that brings us peace, and by Your wounds we are healed. (Is. 53:5)


We go our own ways -
But the Lord has laid on You the iniquities - the SINS - of us all. (Is. 53:6)



Still it is right to celebrate.

And though no one knows the real date of Your coming into this world as one of us
it seems fitting that we (in the Northern Hemisphere) celebrate it right after the darkest time of the year.  

For we walk in darkness, 
and we live in the land of the shadow of death.
But we have seen a great light. 
A light has dawned
You have come 
into our darkness. (Matt. 4:16, Is. 9:2).

Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men. (Luke 2:14). 

Merry Christmas.


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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

One Year After My Surgery in Siberia

One of the things we fear as expats is major medical issues.  It's challenging to navigate an unfamiliar system in a different language, and the challenges multiply exponentially when you're sick.  

Until a year ago, whenever I heard of people who chose to have major surgery in their host countries, I shook my head and thought, "Not me."  Even after almost 20 years in Russia, I was certain I would head to familiar ground if one of us was faced with a medical emergency.  

But I didn't.   To this day I'm still a little startled about it myself. When I sat in my Russian gynecologist's office, hearing her tell me that I needed to have it removed and not to delay more than a month or two, I just knew.   I felt an eerie confidence that this was how it was supposed to be, that I would have it done in Novosibirsk, though a few hours earlier I had been sure I would go to America if I needed surgery. 

Somehow it had turned into an adventure.  A scary adventure, but one that I could walk through with God.  Facing surgery with God would be the same no matter where I was, no matter what language the doctors used to talk to me.  

Right there in the doctor's office it started to become part of my story.

Don't get me wrong.  I stumbled through those next weeks of preparation slightly numb, like walking through a world that was no longer quite real.  

But God was with me.  

Was I in pain after the surgery?  Yes. But not more than anyone else.

Was I weak for awhile after because of my severely low iron levels? Yes.

Did I feel like I kind of messed up Christmas for my family? Yes.  I made it home by Christmas, but it did throw a wrench into things.

Did I feel bad about worrying my family members on the other side of the world? Yes.

But these things are part of life.  And now they are part of MY life and the lives of those around me.  Pain, fear, worry, learning to trust God in a new way, the blessing of those who cared for me in the hospital and back home, family and friends who showed me love -
and always the nearness of God.

I said to a friend recently, "It may sound odd, but I wouldn't trade this experience.  Not the fact I had surgery or that I had it here. I'm glad this is now part of my story."

Do I think returning to one's home country for medical issues is wrong?  No.  In the event of health issues, we had always planned to go back to our home country if circumstances allowed, for a number of logical reasons.  Often the right choice is to go back to your home country.

Would we do it again?  It would depend on the situation, which of us is sick, the illness, and many other factors - the most important of which is "What is the Lord saying about it?"

How has it changed me? I don't think I understand yet the ways I am different because of it.  Changes are subtle and ongoing.  It may be years before I can clearly see and say, "This is how I'm different, this is how it changed me." (Besides being a little lighter - smirk- and having a lot more energy.)

Do I miss my uterus? - Honestly? No.

Do I feel in awe of myself now that I've joined the ranks of those who've had surgery overseas?
Not really.  Because the truth is, many people undergo surgery in other countries.  They just usually happen to be from those countries.  Four or five others in our church here also had major surgeries last year, some more serious than mine. 

I was just one of them.


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Read more about My Hysterectomy in Siberia 
My Hysterectomy in Siberia Part 1 - Finding out I need surgery and deciding to do it in Novosibirsk.
My Hysterectomy in Siberia Part 2 - Meeting the Doctor
My Hysterectomy in Siberia Part 3 - Checking in to the Clinic the night before.
My Hysterectomy in Siberia Part 4 - Waking up in the clinic the morning before surgery.
My Hysterectomy in Siberia Part 5 - Coming off anesthesia following surgery
My Hysterectomy in Siberia Part 6 - Spending  a week in the clinic.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

What If I Ask What's on Your Heart? - Mark 2:13-14 Post 1

Chalkboard: Mark 2:13-17
You went out beside the lake.  And once again a large crowd comes to You (Mark 2:13).  What were You thinking?  What were You feeling?   I sit here, wondering what was on Your heart that day, as You walked by the lake...but will I ask You what You are thinking and feeling today?  
Or am I afraid?  Afraid I might find myself face to face with You like Levi (Mark 2:14), afraid You

Monday, December 8, 2014

If My Home Is Yours, Will They Tear My Roof? - Mark 2:1-12 Post 11

Chalkboard: Mark 2:1-12 Post 11
I started to draw the conclusion that if I make my home among others, among people, a village, a town, if I make myself at home and be at home among them, then maybe others will be set free and able to "go home" to You because of it (Mark 2:1-12).

It's true, in a way.  Sometimes You ask us to make

Monday, December 1, 2014

Going Home - Mark 2:1-12 Post 10

Chalkboard: Mark 2:1-12 Post 10
You came home.  You said, "Your sins are forgiven," and set the paralyzed man free.  You said, "Get up."  You said, "Go home"(Mark 2:1-12).  
The Lord of all must be obeyed and will be obeyed by all creation - including all the cells and neurons in the paralyzed man's body.  Nerves restored to their proper function, both receiving and

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What I'm Thankful For at Thanksgiving

I've had a good year.  I'm thankful for my health, which is better today than it was this time last year.  I am thankful for my immediate and extended family, for the privilege to be part of their lives.  I'm thankful for the joy and honor of living in Siberia and the deep friendships I've developed here.  I'm thankful that all of these things and people are part of my story.  But what if this year

Monday, November 24, 2014

Which is Easier to Say? - Mark 2:1-12 Post 9

Chalkboard: Mark 2:1-12 Post 9
"He can't say that," they were thinking. "He isn't God."

When You asked them, "Why are you thinking these things?" (Mark 2:6-8), You knew the issue was You.

You responded, "Which is easier to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or 'Get up, take