3.31.2011

Good-Bye Finland…

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I asked Keith if he liked Russia or Finland better and he said, “Russia!  Finland is too orderly and civilized!!!”

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When crossing the boarder, you must stop on the Finnish side and then again on the Russian side.  The Finnish side is indoors with minimal to no lines.  Within minutes, we were greeted with smiles, friendly conversation and even thanked for visiting Finland. 

On the Russian side, you must stand in a long line OUTSIDE.  Keith handed the agent all 4 of our passports.  She never smiled and only barked, “Everyone needs to have the own passport!!!”  The only time she made eye contact was to verify that our chattering teeth match those in the passport photo.  Completely frozen, we returned to our second in line car to wait 30 minutes for the unenthusiastic officials to finally make their presence known and walk by our car to “inspect” it and raise the gate so we could pass.

I am glad to be home, but so thankful for all the close by “civilized countries we can visit!!!

3.30.2011

Finland: Day 4

Good-bye Helsinki…

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Hello Lappeenranta!  Our entire trip I was looking forward to eating at this little hamburger joint that I had read about that serves one of the best burgers in all of Finland!  We arrived at 12 only to discover that they did not open until 3:30!

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So we skipped burgers and went on to Imatra.  Our hotel was tucked in the woods on a lake…not that it mattered, since everything was covered in snow, but it was gorgeous!!!

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After a quick, very late lunch of disappointing pizza, we went to the totally fun Indoor/Outdoor Water Park.  It was one big pool with waterfalls, loads of whirlpools, bubble benches, massaging jets that were so powerful you had to hold on to handles, a slide and a water tunnel that took you to an outdoor pool!!!

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We spent hours swimming, sliding, getting water massages and relaxing in the saunas~including the mixed steam bath were swimming suits were optional!!!  It was honestly so steamy that you could not see if you were alone or not!  I was so tired, I slept for 11 hours!!!

3.29.2011

Finland: Day 3

Our totally relaxing days continue with one mission.  It was not to explore the fabulous historical sights, amazing cathedrals or even purchase fun memorabilia.  It was simply to find Diet Dr. Pepper.  After 6 Grocery Stores and 5 Gas Stations, we decided to go to Stockmanns.

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Emme found a new friend. Gideon looked for over 2 hours at Legos, games and every other imaginable possibility, but could not find the perfect toy and decided to wait.  Our cup collection and refrigerator magnets were added to.  We found corn tortillas, new cereals, yummy bread, fabulous lunch meat, delicious cookies, a huge selection of chocolates, Cherry Coke, Coke Zero, 5 flavors of Fanta…including Messio Mix~a fun blend of Fanta and Coke, and regular Dr. Pepper, but no Diet Dr. Pepper.

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Gideon and Keith navigated us through the streets of Helsinki.

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Santa Fe and Texas Outback were rejected for Thai food at Mai Thai.

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Our day concluded on a sweet note with Ben & Jerry!!!

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We had a great day explore Helsinki, but our mission of locating Diet Dr. Pepper was sadly unsuccessful!!!

3.28.2011

Finland: Day 2

One benefit to living in Saint Pete is its close proximity to so many fun places.  For Spring Break, we decided to take the kids to Finland.  We were able to stay in the home of Finnish missionaries that are currently serving in another country.  We made our temporary residence in a great 4 bedroom apartment just outside of Helsinki.  We spent lost of time relaxing, reading, watching “Knight Rider” and playing with all the “new friends” (AKA stuffed animals) Emme made.

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Today, we explored the Helsinki Aquarium and saw tiger fish, enormous crabs, the cycle of water and even how much water it takes to flush your potty!!!

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It was a fun, educational adventure that ended with delicious pizza and pasta in the tiniest pizzeria with only 5 tables.  We were able to watch the Chef, who was also the waiter and cashier, make the dough and pizzas.  Emme and Gideon prefer traditional plain pepperoni pizza, but I loved it!!!

3.25.2011

3.23.2011

A Cute-Little Life…

We returned to Russia after two years of waiting, wandering, searching and struggling.  We were sooo excited when the door opened for our return and felt so confident as we saw God prepare the way…an 8 month medical clearance was completed in six short weeks; visas that were delayed, required additional documents, then blood tests postponed our arrival by only one day; hundreds of dollars of excess baggage only cost us $4. 

We settled into our new home quickly, adjusted to the new time zone and everyone began their new lives.  The kid’s journey included a great Christian school with new teachers and new friends.  Keith began traveling, meeting, mentoring, studying, teaching, preaching.  I, for the first time in 9 years, had 6 hours of peace and quiet 5 days a week.  It was glorious at first…getting to grocery shop, exercise, have lunch with no one fighting, arguing, whining or complaining.  As the days got darker, the weather turned colder and the snow piles grew, I became more withdrawn, overcome with emotion and began to waste my precious free time with worry, self-pity and mindless forms of entertainment.

I began to question why we were here?  I longed (and still often do) for a cute-little house with a cute-little yard, in a cute-little town where the kids could go to a cute-little school.  We would attend a cute-little Church that would go on wonderful mission trips…so I could take cute-little gifts to the extremely selfless, holy, sacrificing missionaries and return to my cute-little life. 

Today, after cleaning the kitchen, making the beds, picking up the toys, doing the laundry and dishes, I sat down to pour my heart out to God…who I prayed had not forgotten me or gave up on ever hearing from me….I got up again to search for my favorite pen, then again to turn on my favorite new worship CD and then once more to get some more coffee.  I got out my new Bible Study (both the music and Bible Study were cute-little gifts from the great ladies from Little Rock) and prayed that I would hear from God.

He is so faithful!!!  Kelly Minter’s Ruth begins with Two Journeys-Fleeing Home and the first question was whether to chose to remain in the arid land of God’s choosing or flee to the bountiful one (the land of cute-little houses, Starbucks and Sonic) that God had roped off?

She reminded me…

Don’t get tired of doing what is good.  Don’t get discouraged and give up for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.  Galatians 6:9

In Hebrews 11, Moses refused the temporary pleasures of sin and special treatment of being the son of Pharaoh's daughter and chose to share in the oppression of God’s people.  He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of the Messiah, than to own the treasures of Egypt.  He was looking ahead to the great reward that God would give him.

It is our wisdom to make the best of that which is, for it is seldom that changing our place is mending it. ~Matthew Henry

She concluded by saying, “God is present right where you are.  Stay put and stand firm.  It is always more blessed to be under the care of His will than anywhere else-no matter how green the grass.” 

I guess Sonic will have to wait!!! Smile 

Please do not misunderstand me…we really are not oppressed or really even suffer in Saint Petersburg…unless you consider life without Sonic suffering.  I know that God’s plan for each person is very unique and does not always include packing your bags and heading to Russia!  I am also very grateful for each person that He does call to join us on mission here or anywhere for any length of time!  My point is only that I must accept my life in Saint Petersburg as His plan for my life and find joy in being obedient!

3.22.2011

I Did It!!!

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I cook when company comes…only when company comes.  I almost never make what can be bought…even when company comes.  I am not sure where my inspiration came from, but I baked bread!!!  It was not the best bread ever, made a rather large mess, did not save me even one cent, but I did it…and more importantly they ate it!!! Smile

3.20.2011

The Two St Petes

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The Duskins, from Saint Petersburg, Florida, came to visit us in the much colder, snowier St Pete to share their dream of joining the two St Petes.  Check-out the The Two St Petes to see their vision, watch video, read testimonies and see some great snapshots.

3.18.2011