Friday, December 26, 2008

Angels in the Snow

It doesn't always snow in Portland, but when it does people tend to have this amazing spirit of helping each other overcome the great white beast.

I have come to realize this after living on a steep hill, where we have seen some pretty nasty car pile-ups due to ice and snow, and pretty amazing people helping whenever they can.

But after this Christmas, I know that it isn't just our neighborhood - its Portland.

Allow me to illustrate - Christmas Eve - I was going to David's family's Christmas Eve service on trecherous thawing roads. At one point our little white Pontiac Grand Am spun out of control, nearly falling into a ditch, and getting stuck in the snow. We were half way across the street when a random person jumps out and starts pushing us, only to disappear as soon as the car moved an inch.

Then later that night, as David and I were going home, we knew the Pontiac would not be able to make it up the steep hill, so we parked at the bottom and decided to hike up. Before we could even begin the incline, a man on an SUV appears and offers us a ride. Apparently, he has been giving rides to over 20 people that day and helping tow others throughout the recent storm!

Christmas morning, we started our journey down the hill to our parked car when a person from church just happened to be driving by! We waved him down and he gave us a ride to the bottom of the hill!

On the way back from church, as we were trying to make our way up a hill, a neighboring man eagerly gave his shovels for our use, and even lent a hand.

This is what Christmas is all about, eh? Being there for your neighbor, with no need for anything in return, just simply loving and lending a hand.

I think this has definitely been a memorable Christmas, not just because of the chaotic snow, but because of the amazing spirit of the people - whatever compelled them to help and come out of the usual shell, may that continue to grow throughout the year and into years to come!

Monday, December 22, 2008


It falls from the sky
Lands on the ground
And either melts or sticks.

What kind of snowflake are you?

There are certain conditions that help
Is the ground cold?
Are there other snowflakes to keep it company?

What kind of snowflake are you?

Are you already on the ground, white and untouched?
Are you already on the ground, stepped on and dirty?
Or are you falling from the sky?

What kind of snowflake are you?

Are you powdery or wet?
Do you blow with the wind?
Or maybe you're packed solid?
Are you turning into ice?

What kind of snowflake are you?

Because life is a snowstorm.

There are seasons, there are reasons.

Things change and we're so fragile
Like snowflakes we can change
Be affected, melt, be broken
Blown by the wind
What is our foundation?

And how much can people tolerate us?

Though snowflakes don't have control of themselves
We do.

So what kind of snowflake are you?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Never alone

Today, I was sitting on my laptop going through some wedding planning details when my little 7 year old brother runs in begging to play with him. He is a musical boy, so he suggested we go to the room with the piano so I could still work on the computer while he plays and sings for me. So the darling started singing about how I would be getting married to David and that he would miss me. This inevitably made my heart melt. Then he started jumping on the bed and saying how he would miss me and then he said, in a matter of fact way, to "give me a hug because I'm going to miss you."

I couldn't help myself - I started bawling. He looked at me and said reassuringly, "Elena, don't cry. You will never be alone because you have David and God."

It was the most beautiful thing that gave way to more tears. But out of the mouths of babes, the words are true. <3

Monday, December 15, 2008

Last Week!

Last week was absolutely amazing - from Sunday to Saturday, an absolute blessing moment after moment! Many great things have happened, new milestones reached, and inevitably announcements that must be made.

First, great news - I finished Fall term 2008. It was brutal term - my first attempt at working full-time and going to school full-time, but praise GOD I survived and am ready to take on the next term. :) Only 5 terms to go!!

The next milestone of life is my great age - I have reached the infamous 21. It was a great time indeed. This year I was fortunate enough to celebrate it twice, first at Barberry Apartments doing arts and crafts with kids and friends, and then at Pambiche in NE Portland. Pambiche has amazing Cuban cuisine - thank you Oksana for suggesting it. Their website also has great music, which did greatly influence my decision to go there (along with their colorful archecture).

And last week concluded with the most wonderful, biggest decision of life events - I got engaged! It was the greatest galactic explosion yet, and there is plenty more to come. :)

Overall an exciting week that didn't simply end. The fun continues as we are snowed in and the city continues freezing. I had the day off today, and am wondering if the same will be for tomorrow...

And all of this BEFORE Christmas! I don't imagine life can get any better :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Find It Quick!

I really love this game, and I need some music as I am trying to keep my sanity amidst the studying and here it is :) The Shuffling game! I don't have an Ipod so it is completely my special Pandora mix..

1. Put your music on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
4. Post it wherever you feel like and share it with someone else!!

If someone says, "Is this okay?" you say...
Just Hope - Badfish

What would best describe your personality?
Wow - Spin Doctors (you better believe it! :D )

What do you like in a guy/girl?
This I Promise You - *NSync (yes, if every word you say is true ;)

How do you feel today?
Home - Michael Buble (actually, I am where you are, hehe)

What is your life's purpose?
Soul Rebel - Cornel Campbell (love it!)

What is your motto?
Be With You - Enrique Iglesias (lol)

What do your friends think of you?
Rodeo Clowns - Jack Johnson (interesting..)

What do you think about very often?
Great Is Your Mercy - Donnie McClurkin (amen!)

What is 2+2?
As Long As You Love Me - Backstreet Boys (guess its all relative, as long as you have love :)

What do you think of your best friend(s)?
Don't Speak - No Doubt (I sure hope not..)

What do you think of the person you like?
Why Can't I - Liz Phair (yes David, why can't I breathe when I think of you? I love you!)

What is your life story?
Heaven By Your Side - A1 (awww...)

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Look After You - The Fray

What do you think when you see the person you like?
Hold On To The One - Slightly Stoopid (truth!)

What do your parents think of you?
Crooked Teeth - Death Cab For Cutie (wow, true)

What will you dance to at your wedding?
Little Victories - Matt Nathanson

What will they play at your funeral?
Show Yourself Strong - Fred Hammond

What is your hobby/interest?
All This Beauty - The Weepies (yes! everyday is ice cream and chocolate cake!)

What is your biggest secret?
Nothing Left To Lose - Mat Kearney (but I still wont tell you :P)

What do you think of your friends?
Inconsolable - Backstreet Boys

What's the worst thing that could happen?
Radar - Britney Spear (yes, getting caught by the radar by a cop on a motorcycle)

Where will you die?
Where The Streets Have No Name - U2

What is the one thing you regret?
Sitting, Waiting, Wishing - Jack Johnson

What makes you laugh?
This Years Love - David Gray (an extended smile :D )

What makes you cry?
He Got Game - Public Enemy (because its so beautiful!)

Will you ever get married?
Pride (In the Name of Love) - U2

What scares you the most?
The Gladdest Thing - Deb Talan (not sure why)

Does anyone like you?
Come And Get Higher - Matt Nathanson (:D)

If you could go back in time, what would you change?
Naked As We Came - Iron & Wine

What hurts right now?
When You Say Nothing At All - Ronan Keating

What will you post this as?
Find It Quick - Steel Purse

Monday, December 1, 2008

Black Friday Shopping Mania

I will admit it. As much of a shopper as I was and am, I have never gone shopping on Black Friday. Working in retail for two years, I have worked the maniac hours and seen people crowd the stores as if it was the only day to shop. When I wasn't working, I intended to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to hit the proclaiming sales of the year and score some serious bargains. But I could never get myself to wake up that early after an amazing, exhausting Thanksgiving feast and celebration.

So this year, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Woodburn Company Stores started their Black Friday madness on Thanksgiving night!! No need to go to sleep and wake-up early to go shopping (I love shopping, but not more than sleep). So at around 9:30pm, David my boyfriend, David my brother, and I jumped into the car and drove off to Woodburn.

As we approached the exit, we realized we were stuck being several miles of traffic. It was literally going stop and go, the parking lot was full, and people were abandoning their cars to jump the fence. It was insane!

Finally, after an hour of waiting in traffic (2 miles) and finding a parking spot we began our adventure.

We shopped, literally until we dropped. Scoring sweet deals on athletic gear from Adidas and Nike, to the rare 50% off everything at Banana Republic. By 3am, we started getting a little delirious and everything seemed to look good. The crowds withered by then and we realized we should probably head back to Portland.

On the way, we figured we might as well stop by Fry's. Fry's, supposedly had amazing sales. I have never gone to an electronic store this early in the morning and never did I expect to wait in line for at least an hour to buy my products. I nearly croaked.

So it was pretty much an experience to remember. Several of the "morals" or thoughts I take away from all of this is simply... Elena, you are not as crazy as a shopper as you once were. I could handle probably 2 hours of the madness, but an all-nighter of shopping?! What once was my fantasy has now become a nightmare. Lines, stampedes of people, and way too much things to choose from, things I may not even need, is not worth the sacrifice of precious sleep. A few extra dollars of saving...well...I love bargains...but it just may not be worth it.

I don't regret this experience. In fact, I think its really given me a greater insight into humanity. The mania that surrounds black friday is insane. It is addicting and draws you in. But in the end, leaves you no better off than before (I got merely 2 Christmas gifts off my list in over 6 hours of shopping).

Will I do this next year? Haha.. We'll see. I can't quite say no, but I don't want to think about it now. But then again, I suppose that is the mysterious power of Black Friday...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Feeling Poetic

Actually, I really don't feel like doing any homework right now. Got 2 assignments out of the way, and now there are a bunch more - larger ones that I can't wrap my mind around completing or starting.

Yes, I am stalling for time. And now I will write.

We stall.
Stand still.
Don't move or make a sound
With our fist we may pound
Things must get done
Change come
Yet stall.

Easy to make suggestions, talk
But somehow when it comes to the walk
We stall.

Something is always in the way
The time's not right
Preliminary battles we must fight
A million things instead
Stand still.

Putting pen to paper
Letter to the press
I would rather take longer to dress
Create a bigger mess
In the end, do less
Who are we trying to impress?
Stand still.

Change only comes
By action
Nike said just do it
What if we got to it?
Stand still.

That is not His will
To stand still
We are called to move
One may say groove
To the rhythm of His heart
Love and action we impart
With grace and peace we move
Flowing from one to the next
No stalling.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

Recently, I watched Kung Fu Panda. The movie was a lot of fun - with sweet animal ninja moves, an affable underdog turned hero, and plenty of laughable moments.

But amidst this entertaining flick, the wise turtle said a famous proverb that I really liked and thought I'd share here..

"Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that's why it is called the present."

Similarily enough to what Jesus told us...

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." -Matthew 6:33-34 (read it here for complete context)

Life is life, let us enjoy this day, that the Lord has made - this wonderful gift of peace, love, and happiness in the little things. Family.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Our President's Plans

I must say, I do like what I hear. I encourage everyone to pray for our president, for wisdom and strength to lead this nation. What a difficult job!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Know Your Native Language

There is a certain thinking within the Russian Christian community, primarily the adult Russian conservative Christian community. This thinking is generally spread amongst the older generation, those who experienced something excellent in their native country, in their native land. The ones who have a strong connection to the Russian they grew up in, the culture they lived in. Those times, for them, were very sacred - oftentimes they suffered persecution for their faith and saw many great things happen.

Then they came to America and their kids started speaking English. Their kids started taking on this foreign culture, leaving behind the culture of their parents - taking on new ideas, learning new words, and expressing themselves differently. America had more freedom for them, and things which were outlawed for their parents became the norm for them. This was uncomfortable and foreign for the parents, so they resisted. They could not understand how something that was so real to them in Russia (their faith), could get lost in translation or could look differently.

So they recessed.

Instead of learning about the new culture, the parents rejected it and labeled it pagan. They encouraged their children to keep the Russian language and the old way of life. Anything else, was not of God.

I have heard and experienced this thinking for ages. I am Russian and grew up in a Russian Christian conservative church. I wrestled with the elders who thought the more Americanized you got, the less Christian you were. I remember when pants were shunned, and when speaking in English was as bad as saying a cuss word. Okay, so maybe the last part was a bit of exaggeration, but it may as well been that.

But I thought this thinking was quickly fading and the older generation was understanding the shifting of the times. Apparently not in all places.

The other day, David and I visited a church where the sermon was about understanding the language of God. This sermon was very intricate and had many fine details and thoughts attached to it. It started off intriguing.. It seemed like it was going to be about communicating love to God and understanding his love for us. That we need to understand His language. What it turned out to be, was that we need to understand our native language, which is Russian. If we are not understanding or reading the word in Russian, we are in grave danger of missing our salvation.

I am not joking.

I was very surprised that this was spoken from the pulpit. I have heard this philosophy for a long time, but never was it that bluntly spoken, in front of the congregation, when the youth is leading the service. They probably didn't understand it. They speak mostly English.

It was very sad, but it raises something that I am most passionate about. Church is NOT the place to learn a language or retain a culture. The gospel is not designed to be nationalistic, nor is that Christ's intention. The gospel is beyond culture and beyond any language. In fact, Christ commands us to go from our own town to the ends of the earth, proclaiming the gospel. Only speaking our native language will make it difficult to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth. The church is not a place to be ethnocentric and push culture. It is a place to break free of culture and experience freedom, redemption, love, and all good things beyond what culture offers. It should be trans-national. Not nationalistic.

It just hurts me to see how many people get pushed away by this exact philosophy. The gospel isn't Russian or American, or any other language. The gospel is God's language, which is the language of love, and is powerful enough to speak to all.

So why put it in a box? I pray for change. I pray for culture walls to break down, and for the power of God to be relevant in all people, in all lives, beyond what culure dictates as holy. God is holy, and He is holy alone. There is no greek, nor jew, nor woman or man, or anything of that sort in God's eyes. We are all His children.

:) God bless everyone, Russian, American, Russian-American, American-Russian, mix of either or even soemthing else. God loves you!!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Это Иисус

I like this video for several reasons. First, the song has a fun melody and the lyrics are great. Second, the bass guitarist is having way too much fun :D. And last but not least, I cannot for the life of me figure out what time zone this was made. It looks pretty retro, yet at the same time modern. Such a mystery!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Once Upon a School

We watched this video in my leadership in public schools class. Very creative and inspiring video. Hope you will find as much enjoyment in it as I did!

The Pedestrian Glare

For whatever reason, pedestrians and drivers are constantly at odds with each other. I understand the reason for drivers to be extra careful when driving near pedestrians, but it is a two way street. A pedestrian cannot walk in the middle of the road and then glare at you when you are driving by a couple feet from collision. As a pedestrian and driver of Portland, I urge you to follow the rules of the road. And if you choose to break it, pedestrian or not -- don't blame others when you get hit.


Rock'n'Roll on the Radio

I heard this song on the radio yesterday as I was driving to work. Immediately I fell in love with the beats and was bobbing my head, trying to sing along to whatever words I could catch, hoping the dj would say who was singing it. And to my pleasant surprise -- they did! Rock N Roll by Eric Hutchinson was the song that rocked my commute.

I was drawn to the chorus of:

'Cause If she wanna to rock she rocks
If she wanna to roll she rolls
She can roll with the punches
Long as she feels like she’s in control
If she wanna to stay she stays
If she wanna to go she goes
She doesn’t care how she gets there
Long as she gets somewhere she knows'

Sounds free spirit, untrammeled and free, doesn't it? I mean, who wouldn't like a song like that? It speaks to the free spirit in all of us, just wanting to go with the flow and not have anything to worry about...getting from point a to point b, somehow, who care's how, but moving along.

When I got home, I looked up the lyrics and at first cringed, as the song sings about a man going to the club, getting ready to tell lies and do whatever it takes to get him what he wants, as well as the woman doing similarly in the next stanza (or what do you call those things for songs?)

I wondered, could I still like this song? It took me a total of 20 seconds (rough estimate) to realize that yes, I can still like this song. Why? Because the lyrics speak true to our human experience. Us humans are peculiar. We have needs, and we do what it takes to attain them. Our needs vary depending on where we are in life. But there is something about wanting to be loved and feel in control, but not in a stressful way. A need to just be without any restrictions.

This has its repurcussions and no doubt can become a dangerous need, but I think God still made us this way.

Now you ask why? Shouldn't we have it all together?

No way. God doesn't want us to have it all together, with perfection figuring out every little detail of life and making sure it makes perfect sense. If we could do that on our own, what would be the need for Him?

I believe God wants us to give that need over to Him. He wants to love us and direct our paths. He says, "lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he'll make your paths straight."

Focus on Him, and He'll get you from A to B and even to Z.

Of course, this surrender is not without sacrifice.

But we will learn about that later. For now enjoy the song :) Because I will definitely be listening to it for at least the next few days.

Another attempt to start blogging

For those that know me, I have a tendency to start many wonderful projects with great momentum, and then when times get slower and my interest dwindles, the project either dies or freezes in time. I don't usually like to go back and work with what I have but would rather start from scratch.

Well this is one of those cases. I think I've started several blogs and journals over the course of the last few years, and have either forgotten or abandoned most of them. Sure there are a few that I participate in, but none that are my personal space to just say whatever I feel like on whatever subject that could ever cross my mind (and there is definitely an eclectic collection of thoughts in there!).

So here it is. No expectations. No big promises or goals to make something bigger than what it actually is. I will take this at my own pace, and see where it goes. I place to pressure or promise that there will be much more than 3 entries per month, if that. If inspiration comes, it will get posted. If not, oh well.

I really hope to stay true this. If I stray for a period of time, this time, I will be back. Its part of my new phase in life (I'm learning follow through) and this is an exercise in that.

Let us see where it goes :)
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