Friday, December 5, 2014
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Sunday, November 16, 2014
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
It's strange to me that living in a distant land doing something I'd never done before was easier for me than "living the dream" that I've had these past few months. But perhaps not so strange. It was easy to admit and surrender that I had no idea what was going on in circumstances where I was helpless to take care of myself. In class, in the grocery store, in the airport, in the post office, on the bus, on the street, in Karaganda I was pummeled by my own helplessness, and it was easy to give in to that. I needed help, of course I did. I think faith is a little like Florence says, "It's over and I'm going under, but I'm not giving up, I'm just giving in."
Here, in my "element", in my home culture, in a city that I love, studying what I love, doing work that I love, here I ought to have been comfortable, here I ought to have been master of myself. Here I should have been strong enough to do as I ought to do. Here I should be others-center, self-disciplined, industrious, composed. But instead here I have hated my helplessness, and I have counted His help as something available only to those who aren't in survival mode. Here I have struggled to duck-and-cover behind the shield of His help, I have resisted trading the shreds of my self-efficacy for His gentle guidance. But what can I say that David hasn't already said better?
When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
I feel the hunger to testify, to express in some sort of public way that my God is real to me, near to me. That my God is the reason I can face my students with a smile on my face, that my God is the reason I can roll out of bed in the morning. I have felt like a mess, I have burdened myself with the guilt of a hard heart, piled with doubts that I was capable of abiding, recipient of anything more than cheap grace. I am not capable. I am a mess. But my God is my helper, my protector. The only strength I have in my heart is the portion He has given me. It sounds a small offering indeed, but what He is doing in me is a painfully wonderful open-heart surgery. And I love Him, I love Him, I love Him.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
- People are a priority.
- The Lord is always with you.
- Reach out.
- Fear not.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
One phone call. If I had know that was all it would take I would have done it weeks ago.
I have been struggling. The tough, independent person I want to be is nowhere to be found. Little things are getting me down. I tried talking about it, or talking around it, I cried in UBurger, I cried every night in my room, but none of that helped. I wondered who this stranger was who had taken over my body.
But someone understands!
Solidarity is such a gift.
It's okay to struggle.
Law school is hard. Moving to a new city is hard. Missing Karaganda is hard. All of the new stuff in my life is hard. I'm not adapting well. I'm struggling to find peace in routine, and I'm not doing the greatest job following Jesus and caring about people right now.
But it's going to be okay.
All will be well, and all manner of things will be well.
Monday, September 29, 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
There was this one time my sister got proposed to on the train. That's a great story.
I'll give you the Cliff Notes. We were in Kazakhstan, traveling from our city to the capital, and we took the afternoon train, which is always pretty crowded. We ended up sitting with a former student of one of our friends who heard us speaking English. So he had three hours to figure out my sister is as sweet as she is adorable! But it only took him one hour. The remaining two hours I spent trying to alleviate some of her discomfort and make awkward conversation.
So naturally the topic I chose was death. The poor guy was baffled by my reasoning. He thought I was crazy to prefer a place I'd never been to (that might not even be real or might not let me in!) life on earth. For him it was a morbid way to live, embracing mortality and not living in active avoidance of the things that could do you in.
But the way I see it, when I'm lying there waiting to die, I'm not going to be thinking, "If only I hadn't sat on that concrete, if only I'd worn warmer clothes." Or, to contextualize the example for the western perspective, I'm not going to blame my demise on all the times I microwaved my meals in plastic or ate GMOs or got a vaccine with who knows what kind of preservatives. I won't be regretting the foods I should have avoided or the treatments I shouldn't have gotten. I'll be regretting watching TV instead of investing in people. I'll be regretting the times I closed in when I should have reached out.
You can try and duck the things that are bad for you: smoking, red meat, carcinogens and free radicals. You can eat clean and go homeopathic, and yeah, you might even be healthier for it. But death is still going to come.
I'm not saying it's silly to care about the industrialization of food or the ingredients in our medications, cos it's not. I'm glad people care about that. And I'm not saying you shouldn't care about your health and your safety, because you should. Honor Him with your body.
What I am saying is that we try to stay healthy not to health's own end, but to be of service. You can't visit shut-ins if you're home with a fever. You can't mow your neighbor's lawn if you're heaving over the toilet. Our priority is people. And if we live to serve people in Jesus's name, does it matter what kills us?
For me, admittedly speaking with the naiveté of a relatively healthy youth, I don't care what's going to kill me. Risk a little.
All this to say, it's time to get your flu vaccine, folks.
Sunday, September 7, 2014
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Nevertheless, I feel a little bit like I stick out. Maybe I've grown discriminatory in my old age, or maybe I'm just more aware of incongruence after spending a year being the obviously odd one out, but when I see people "like me" in my neighborhood, I notice them because they're different. They're yuppies or they're students. They're dressed business casual, they carry some kind of work bag, often they'll have coffee in their hand. I feel self-conscious because I know I look like they look, with my sun dresses and backpack and travel mug. And if they stick out, I must also stick out.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Monday, July 28, 2014
Friday, July 25, 2014
Saturday, July 12, 2014
Friday, May 30, 2014
Friday, May 23, 2014
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
I've believed that for a long time, but I'm coming into a fresher understanding of it.
In his book Speaking of Jesus, Carl Medeiras shares the testimony of a friend who worked in a tree-planting camp, and how this friend started a group that read the Gospels and talked about Jesus. In essence, a Bible study, but it wasn't called that for semantic reasons. The thesis of his whole book is something like, evangelism is a lot more about loving Jesus, following Jesus, and speaking of Jesus than it is about sharing proofs, doctrine, and a defense of church history. He warns against the danger of leaving Jesus out of the gospel.
I really love Jesus, but I also love ideas, and so I am more often than not more entranced by trying to think about things the right way than I am focused on following a Person who is the Truth, period.
I've been thinking about the disciples.
Peter and Andrew are on the beach, and He says to them, "Follow me."
I take it for granted that Jesus is Jesus, and there was some strange look in His eye or manner about Him that somehow persuaded Peter and Andrew to be crazy and follow Him, but I think it's noteworthy that they didn't get some length theological explanation. Jesus didn't sit with them and lay out His whole plan. There was no, "So, hi, I'm the Son of God, I'm going to die for your sins because I love you, and I'm going to rise again, and if you trust in Me I'll spend eternity with you." Boom, gospel in a sentence, but no, there was none of that. Just, "Follow me."
And they were like, "Sure. Okay. If you say so." Presumably because they saw the power in Him.
Along the way the disciples are always asking questions. And I love this. They are always asking the same questions I'm asking. And sometimes Jesus is like, "C'mon guys, you don't get it?!" I love that the disciples don't understand. I love that Jesus explains stuff to them. And I love that there's still so much He keeps from them. They don't even realize that He's the Son of God until the middle of Matthew. Apologetics emphasizes that that's a pretty important theological point. Jesus has to be God. It's the only way all this atonement stuff adds up. But Jesus doesn't lead with this information. Why?
I'm discovering how much I want my relationship with Jesus to have the posture of a seeker. As in, that Christianese word we use to describe someone who is interested in Jesus and wants to know more. Seekers don't take doctrine for granted. Seekers don't do things because it's the "Christian" thing to do. Seekers are concerned with getting to know Jesus. Maybe because they think He's freaking weird but maybe also because there's just some strange look in His eye or a manner about Him. They don't care about the religion crap or Christianity's baggage, because they are compelled by a Person and they want to know if He's legit.
There's that Misty Edwards song, "I don't wanna talk about You like You're not in the room," and I'm beginning to understand now what she means. I don't believe in Jesus because it makes sense to believe in Him. I believe in Jesus because He has made Himself real to me. And I don't want be a person who calls herself a "Christian" just like she calls herself "libertarian" or "introverted" or "melancholy." Jesus is not another idea that defines me. Ideas are important. But He is more than an idea. He is more than a definition. He is a Person I am seeking, following, and unlike an idea that is a daily equilibrium, I want more and more and more of Him each day.
Sunday, May 18, 2014
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
But you know, I'm not one of those people. I am a I-gotta-know-what-I'm-getting-myself-into kind of person. Whenever I'm sick you know I'm all over WebMD. If someone suggests a movie I look it up on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes before adding it to my list. I use the internet to solve a lot of my day-to-day problems; recent Google searches include "How long should chicken thighs bake", "is mahi mahi really dolphin", and "how to manually flush a toilet." (Friends, my life, you have no idea how exciting it is.)
So when I was trying to find a new place to eat this past week, I quickly exhausted the English resources available on the interwebs and instead decided to step out in faith. And trial-and-error has been a fabulous way to find the good food in this city, but for those who, like me, prefer something a little more premeditated, I've prepared a small guide of good restaurants in Karaganda based on my own experiences. As damdi bolsyn!
So for all you Googlers out there . . .
Uighyr food and some central Asian offerings, as well. Flakey, melt-in-your-mouth samsa! The menu has pictures, which is always appreciated, but you can't go wrong with any of the lagman. Off Bukhar Zhirou, bus stop Shestnasti. (Near to the other Uighyr restaurant, which is also tasty, but Arzu has free wifi and nicer decor.)
Korean food. It's not on the menu, but they have dog if you ask for it. (I don't know how to do this, but if you speak the language or go with a local, you can make this happen.) I have only had the dog (which was great!), so I can't speak for the rest of the food, but the place is immaculately clean. It's not on the bus route (maybe it's on Street Ermekova?) so you'll have to go by taxi.
Americanized Chinese food. English menu available. Don't get the crispy chicken, it's mostly bones. Everything else is great, though. Tempora cauliflower is outta sight. On Gogol Street (Yogo-Vostock side), across from the German Orthodox church and next Infiniti night club.
A small cafe nestled in Stepnoi 3, this was a favorite. Georgian food! You simply cannot go wrong with Georgian food. Cheesy bread. Enough said. They didn't have an English menu, so we just pointed at random things and were never disappointed. Cheaper and more delicious than the Georgian place on Nurken Abdirova. Within walking distance of the Korzina bus stop.
Italian fare, altered slightly for a Russian palate. (Case in point, there is dill on the Margharita pizza.) English menu available. The horse meat pizza is great. The price is in the middle, not so cheap but not extra expensive. The place has a classy vibe. I always went to the one on the second floor of Korzina in Yugo-Vostock, but there is another location on Alikhanova in Centre.
German food and beer. The menu is in both English and Russian. The decor of this place is incredible. It's like eating inside the basement of a castle. Prices are on the high side (we were conservative but it cost ~3000/person) but the food is excellent. The sausage dishes are only sausage, so, get a side. On the corner of Bulvar Mira and Bukhar Zhirou.
For sushi this place is affordable, clean, and pretty chic. It reminded me a lot of my second favorite sushi place back home. We got a sampler tray and it was plenty for six of us. (They also have this berry tea that is RAD.) The cafe atmosphere makes it a good place for hanging out for an extended period of time, and there's a semi-open kitchen. On Bulvar Mira, close to Stanislovski Theater.
I've never had food here, but their desserts are lovely and their drinks are great! This is my favorite place to go warm up in the dead of winter, especially with their pirate punch. And the decor is adorable, it has such a cozy feel inside. Bright orange on the outside. Menu in both English and Russian. Halfway down Nurken Abdirova, bus stop 1000 Melochey.
If you're needing a little slice of America, this place feels like a typical western coffee shop. Lots of foreigners hang out here, and the staff usually do what they can to overcome the language barrier. And coffee is a bit cheaper and more delicious than Intercoffee, I think. On Bulvar Mira near the Galleria mall, Dietctolovaya bus stop.
These recommendations are based on my own limited experiences living in Karaganda, Kazakhstan for the 2013-2014 academic year. Corrections or other recommendations welcome!
Saturday, May 10, 2014
|Photo by Lillian Hathaway, Newport 2012|
|Моя сестра перед президентским дворцом|
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Sunday, April 20, 2014
When it was finished (okay, I cried a little), I reflected on where the past two hours had gone, how it was 2am, and it was irresponsible to be up that late, and how deadened two hours of television had made me feel after such a wonderful day.
This, I thought, this is why I gave up TV.
I actually gave up TV in order to better practice the presence of God. I don't often observe Lent, just because self-denial for its own sake seems to me something I can only practice selfishly, for example, slipping into the trap of thinking that watching less TV would make me a better person.
But something curious happened.
On April 12th, three days before the response deadline, I sent in a seat deposit to Penn State. I made my decision. I chose a law school. And I had such peace about it. I looked for apartments as I Skyped with Maggie and we spit-balled about visiting Disney over our spring breaks.
But three days later, on April 15th, on the response deadline, I got an email from Suffolk, my first choice law school, offering me a full-tuition scholarship. (PSU had offered me this to begin with, which I why I had chosen them over Suffolk.) When I saw the email frustration seeped through me. "Why. Why. Why." I chanted to myself as I sat at my desk.
Once I got over my initial angst, I launched into advice-seeking, pro-con list-making, general rationalizing. I emailed PSU to see if I could get my deposit back. No dice.
The whole time I questioned, "Why, Father, would You have this happen this way?" All my life my path has been steered by the gentle channel of closed and open doors. I walk forward in my desires, seeking congruence with His will, and trust Him to halt the plans that aren't His. And this has really worked for me. I'm not one of these people who agonizes of the mystery that is knowing the will of God. His personage has a depth I can't fathom, but it seems His will is very simple: seek Him.
This being my paradigm, I was flummoxed by the sudden appears of two doors. The trust I had previously placed in my decision for PSU faltered as Suffolk again became a possibility. But I was also loathe to change my mind after I had already accepted PSU as my fate. I had waited for weeks for an email from Suffolk with such scholarship news; how stunting for it to come just days after I put the money down.
"What do You want me to do," I would inquire of Him sullenly, frustrated that He would have me question my future beyond the next three months, annoyed that He would tease me with something I had desired for so long. I wanted clarity. I wanted an answer. I wanted handwriting on the wall.
And I don't want to elevate myself to put words in His mouth, but in that moment what it seemed He replied was, "I want your attention."
Lent was not about watching television. The scholarship news from Suffolk was not about my law school decision. The choice has made me batty, but it's not about choosing a school. (Either is perfectly fine!) This is about something much more important.
It's about my heart. It's about increasing the proximity of my heart to His.
And it's funny how understanding this doesn't automatically attune me to Him, just like six weeks without television didn't kill my capacity to stay up late binging on episodes that have already aired. It's funny how easy it is to adopt "Seek Him" as your guiding decision-making paradigm and then you forget to actually like, seek Him.
But He won't relent until He has it all, our whole hearts, our complete attention. And how patient He is, and how creative, how He gives us these slow pitches as He teaches us to keep our eyes on the proverbial ball . . .
The baseball metaphor is dripping with cheese, I know, but I have so much joy that I am loved by a G0d who demands my attention and teaches me to give it to Him. That He says to me, "Daughter, I will not abandon the work I began in you." He lives. He leaves us not to follow Him blindly groping, but He will open our eyes and grab our attention.
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Words are below in Russian Cyrillic script, Russian Latin script, and English.
Февраль. Достать чернил и плакать!
Писать о феврале навзрыд,
Пока грохочащая слякоть
Весною черною горит.
Fevral'. Dostat' chernil i plakat'!
Pisat' o fevrale navzryd,
Poka grokhochashchaya slyakot'
Vesnoyu chernoyu gorit.
February. Get ink, shed tears.
Write of it, sob your heart out, sing,
While torrential slush that roars
Burns in the blackness of the spring.
(Poem and translation accessed from http://www.kulichki.com/poems/Poets/bp/Rus/bp_3.html. Discovered thanks to Hope Johnson.)
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Thursday, March 20, 2014
- Hit the major cities:
Astana, Almaty, Shymkent
- Go to the banya
- Make a real American cheesecake for the office
- Give purpose to the staff at the Karaganda Region Museum
- Go to a football game
See the view from Bayterek Tower Eat beshbarmak See the museum dedicated to the Karaganda branch of Stalin's gulag, the Karlag Go to a hockey game
- See a dombra concert
Drink kumis Have an entire conversation exclusively in Russian
- Attend mass at the Catholic church
- Spot a wild gerbil
- Ice skating / Paintball / Rock climbing (not necessarily unique to KZ, but generally new here)
Visit Timertau and the Nazerbayev Museum there
- Get my picture taken with every monument (there are at least 10)
- See the inside of the Orthodox church
Hear stories from someone who lived under the former Soviet Union
- Ride a camel
- Catalogue Kazakhstan's vast variety of candy
Learn how to make borsch
- Visit the Kyrgyz Republic.
- Watch the Hobbit 2 in Russian, and in 3D.
- Spill hot oil all over our kitchen.
- Drink unfiltered water from the tap. (Our friend remarked, "You shouldn't do that.")
- Buy train tickets all by myself. (Myself plus Google Translate.)
- Lose my phone. And my wallet.
- Overstay my visa by two months and get stopped trying to leave the country.
- Watch a Russian serial. (With English subtitles, of course.)
- Try vodka.
- Make my student cry.
- Eat dog.
- Go to the hospital. (For chest x-rays to prove I didn't have TB.)
- Ride a bus to an unknown location. (This has happened more times than I can count.)
- Learn how to make crumpets.
- Ride a Soviet-era ferris wheel.
- Go to a wedding. (Don't worry, we were invited.)