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This Thing Called “Life”

July 14, 2014
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Ahh life…you are such an interesting creature.  And I thank God every day for you.

I don’t think life ever works out *exactly* the way we plan it, but I think that’s part of the beauty of it. When I look back, many of the most rewarding moments of life were things I never *planned.*

As I sit here, I find myself at a crossroads again. To be honest, I kinda feel like I live in the middle of a crossroads. But…that’s what I signed up for, so I can’t complain about it.

A few months ago Russia was getting to be a little too “normal” for me [crazy how that works], a little too “familiar” – I felt myself not walking by faith anymore, but walking by routine. I had it all pretty much figured out. And it felt like God might be moving me from here…so I started praying like crazy. I told God I was ready to be back to an “easy” life [while Russia felt "figured out," that didn't mean it was "easy"]. I’ve learned [mostly] to not stress about stuff like this so I just kept going and praying and seeking direction, and dreaming of living back in America. I applied to two stateside jobs and my heart started pulling me that direction. It was easy to imagine a comfortable, American life, complete with more regular visits to family.

And then…suddenly plans seemed to be put on a fast track and it seemed like God was moving me back way earlier than I planned. Like 3 months earlier. 

And then I had a job rejection. And then a job offer.

But ultimately I turned down the offer, and canceled the interview with the other organization. And decided to jump back on the “living by faith” train and pursue living in yet another foreign country. [Albeit one much more like my own. And one that doesn't require learning  attempting to learn another language. But it does require learning to drive on the "wrong" side of the road. So there's that. And I think that's a bit more dangerous than learning a new language, eek.]

While I am over-the-moon excited about the possibilities [nothing is finalized here, I'm still in the visa application process], I also find myself veering back towards all the “what ifs” that threaten to derail the living by faith train. It is SO easy to head down that path. I find myself second guessing myself. Wondering if this is the right decision. Especially when all my students’ parents are disappointed that I am leaving. I wonder if I should be staying.

And then I remember my very first night in Russia. It’s the only time I ever had this thought, but I remember it all hitting me as I went to sleep that night: “WHAT have I done with my life? Have I gone crazy? I quit my job and…this is scary.” Thankfully from that moment on, well, from the next day on, I never doubted again and God gave me the best year and a half of my entire life.

I KNOW from experience that God can provide, and work out all the little details that threaten to crowd my brain and take control of my thoughts. I know He can and WILL lead and guide. But it’s still a little bit scary to again walk into the unknown.  Scary and exciting.

So…what is next? Well, 3 more weeks in Russia. Then back to CA for a few weeks and two family weddings. And then…? Possibly a new continent. =)

Nikolskaya Street flower display

July 1, 2014

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I wandered down to Red Square tonight after Bible study, since our new location is so close to it and was excited to see this gorgeous flower display going up. I presume it’s not finished yet, as I saw pallets and pallets of flowers waiting down a side street. Not sure if they are all being set up on Nikolskaya Street or not, but the ones that are there are gorgeous. If you are in the area, stop by and check it out. =)

*It was 11 pm when I took these pictures tonight, check out how light it still is. Love these long summer nights! Probably could have gotten better pictures had I walked by here earlier in the day though!

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Ostankino Tower

June 30, 2014

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The tallest freestanding structure in Europe resides right here in Moscow. [And, interestingly enough, I learned this while climbing the Eiffel Tower last summer] Ostankino Tower  can be seen from all over Moscow. I finally went over to Ostankino park to get a closer look.

The tower is 540 meters tall and you can pay (about a 1000 rubles) to go inside and up to an observation deck if you like. I chose to visit Ostankino Estate and park instead and enjoy the views from the ground. =) From Metro вднх you can take a tram (17 or 11) to the park. As is true of all of Moscow’s parks, it’s a gorgeous place for a stroll!


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Neskuchniy Sad [Moscow]

June 23, 2014
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Cutest bird feeder ever, no?

 

нескучный сад – whether these gardens are “boring” or not, you can decide for yourself. =) But this is one beautiful park right near the center of the city and certainly worth a look.

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I simply adore all of Moscow’s parks, and wish this (rainy) weather would cooperate so I could get out and see some more of them! I have done so much exploring in my time here, and yet there is always more to see! I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of this beautiful city.

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One common theme around Moscow? Bird feeders.

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This one looks a little dangerous to me

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“For the foreign birds” ha (the English…)

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I will never understand Russians’ fascination with hand-feeding pigeons (bleh).

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I had never seen a double stroller like this one before

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Helsinki, Finland

June 16, 2014
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Some church that I forget the name of

One of the super fun things about Tallinn? It’s located right on the Baltic Sea, and directly across from the capital of Finland! Which means it’s just a short, inexpensive ferry ride across the sea to get to Helsinki! I can’t think of a more fun way to spend a day while in Estonia!

While I was in Tallinn, we went to a Tallink office and booked a ferry ticket for the next day. There were a few options of fast or slow boats, the difference in price being a few euros. I paid more to ensure that I would be back to Tallinn earlier for my hosts to not have to wait up late to get me, but unfortunately the ferry was late in arriving at port, so I still ended up getting there about the same time as the slow boat would have gotten there. =( (We also left late from Tallinn on the way to Helsinki, so apparently that’s a common problem. Probably best to take that into consideration when planning a day/excursions there).

I had no set plans when I arrived at Helsinki, I just wanted to wander and explore for the day. I wandered into a free Finland museum (which, incidentally, has free bathrooms and is located right next to the paid public toilets, just a tip!), visited a few beautiful churches, wandered down by the waterfront and did some shopping, ate lunch at a place I would not recommend, and basically just photographed the city while wandering and getting myself lost. When it was time to head back to the ferry I just slowly started back in the direction I assumed was the way back to the port and sure enough, I eventually (and in plenty of time) found the port and ship headed back to Tallinn. I was exhausted from spending so many hours just walking, so it was nice to relax on the ferry (which, is a cruise ship btw, and the nicest “ferry” I’ve ever been on!) and kick up my feet!

A few pictures from the day:

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Just wandering the ferry and exploring

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Watching the cargo be unloaded from the bottom of the ferry

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Yay! Country number 36 for me.

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This guy was rocking a hot pink hat =)

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Fun architecture


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Angry Birds car, ha

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These large silver balls were all over the waterfront

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The only picture of me in Finland =)

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Well, ok, and another angle =)

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Very bright blue suit. Can’t imagine anyone really wearing it in public…

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Fun and funky chandelier!

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Cool old lamps outside this church

 

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Inside the church

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Pretty sure I found Noah’s ark, this thing was huge

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Random art in a square near the mall

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The ark (or whatever it was) from a distance

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Can’t really tell from this picture, but this was such a pretty place to stop and rest for a bit

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Fun bridge

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That vase is missing a flower or two…

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So what if it was cold out, or if this was insanely expensive? When you travel, ice cream is a must ;)

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Finland flag, American flag, EU flag, and?? Can’t see the other one.

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Love locks have taken over the world. It doesn’t even matter which country you are in anymore.

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Tell me…does that black car bother anyone else? So random…

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The free museum. With the free bathrooms. Just sayin’… (you never turn down a free bathroom in Europe!)

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Um…that’s a big carrot…

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I can’t decide if these benches look super comfy or super uncomfortable…

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Fun window display


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Creepy light/art

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Pretty sunset that greeted us back in Tallinn – love all the holes in the clouds.

Tallinn, Estonia

June 11, 2014

 

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Last month I took advantage of a few days off and booked a short flight up to Tallinn, Estonia. A friend had some friends who live there and she put me in touch with them. They were out of the country at the moment, but they put me in touch with some of their church members and I am so glad they did. I had such a great time getting to know them and seeing the country from a local’s perspective. They made my trip so much more than it would have been otherwise.

And, I highly recommend Tallinn. It’s such a cute, walled medieval city! (And as a bonus, it’s just a short ferry ride across the sea to Helsinki, Finland!)

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Some of the twisty steps we climbed to go walk the old city walls

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Some parts of the wall contained chairs and chests of books, as if someone had set up a mini library =)

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Views from the old walls

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St. Olaf’s church is incredibly tall. A fact you appreciate more the closer you get. Look how tall that window alone is.

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My gracious hosts took me to an old abandoned monastery one of the days I was there. It was so neat to explore! (Paradise Monastery outside Tallinn)

 

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Some of the pastries we enjoyed at Tallinn’s oldest bakery

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At the Japanese Gardens in Tallinn

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At the building where the president works in Kadriorg

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Amazing lunch at Kadriorg cafe

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First black swans I’ve ever seen!

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Spring in Moscow

May 27, 2014

Spring, summer, and fall are simply gorgeous in Moscow. Even winter is pretty in certain areas. One of the things that surprised me most when I moved to Moscow was how beautiful it was. It completely defied all my preconceived notions about the city and made me fall in love with it.

A few weeks ago I decided to take advantage of a day off, and some beautiful weather, and headed out with my camera to visit some of my favorite places.

Here are some shots of the day:

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