Monday, 26 May 2008

Doing things back to front

If you have ever read the DIY manuals you will know that you should never paint or concrete your way into a corner you cannot get out of, but sometimes there is no choice. We sealed the concrete on our floor knowing it would only take around half an hour before it was dry but we couldn't work to our only exit as we wouldn't have been able to clean our brushes and where would we go anyway. Concreting the floor was an even trickier proposition as we needed the water to make up fresh batches  and that is in the kitchen or the bathroom and both are at the opposite end to the exit so we had no choice but to concrete ourselves into a corner, so to speak, so here I am sitting in the kitchen with my computer waiting for the floor to dry and getting a little ahead with the blog. Once it is dry it will be a far better foundation on which to tile and I have a feeling that God has something to say about it, just not quite sure what yet. (Well that was on Tuesday and we did manage to get out but it took far longer to dry than anticipated. Thought you might like to see the before and after pictures of the hall, we are really pleased with it (I know my kids don't share the same sentiment though - good job they don't still live with us then). The hanging on the wall was a scarf created by my friend Tina to remind me of my time in Colorado. It is such a wonderful piece of comments, encouragement and love woven into the fabric. I love it and it looks great on that bit of wall.

We were listening to KUNC diverse music which is an American station with an interesting mix of music when we heard a warning for a tornado. It was really weird listening knowing that it was so close to where we used to live, only three months ago. One tornado touched down about 2 1/2 miles away from our old house and one ripped through our good friend Darren's house. Darren was our pastor in the States. Thankfully he and his family including the dog and the hamster are safe and well but not his beloved truck or his house. Not quite sure what the extent of the damage was . You can see pictures on this link

 The tornado seemed to disturb my thoughts, not half as much as those who saw it or had their homes wrecked by it, but I felt it was significant. There is talk just beginning to come through of a significant move of God and all the excitement that that brings, a wind of God. I welcome  God blowing through and desire to set my face into the wind and allow Him to blow through my life but what happens if that wind is actually a tornado? Would I be so prepared to let God rearrange my landscape so significantly as the tornado through Windsor? Could I even stand in the face of such an onslaught? I desire to see God move in the area we live in but the cry from the bottom of my heart is Lord be gentle with the people. Be gentle with those women who are almost bent double due to poor nutrition in the past, or poor working conditions. Those women who despite their infirmities still go out and plant their vegetables because they have to. Be gentle with those who are drinking themselves to death because they are so devoid of hope. The news of the tornado brought be back to the following verse:-John 3:7-9 (New International Version) The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
It certainly echoes where Ian and I are at the minute as we have absolutely no idea where this adventure is taking us, so I guess all I can do is set my face into the wind and let it do what God desires and if that is rearranging my landscape then so be it.

We got two extra bins (trash cans this week) so it takes the number of bins for 18 flats (apartments) up to 8 which is fairly amazing
 and shows some of the differences between our American home and here. The American bins were huge compared to the ones we have here and yet the ones here are not overflowing every week. I was amazed in Colorado to see these huge bins filled to capacity nearly every week and the recycling bins overflowing as well. How do they generate so much rubbish (trash)? We only occasionally filled our bin and most of the time it only had about three plastic carrier bags in and then the recycling box was often full. The landfill site though is a crying shame, I guess no landfill ever looks good but this one is close to water and in such a beautiful place. It is getting so full in the last month that we have been down there and so much of it could be recycled too. How do you do something about this? I would love to know - there must be a way.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Blooming Marvelous

Spring is definitely in full flow and it is wonderful. Spring was always a season I missed in Colorado and it is great to see fields which are yellow with dandelions and cowslips, there are also little flushes of blue forget-me-nots appearing. The Latvian gardens are also looking good, and nearly everyone has their bit of ground dug for potatoes and whatever else they are growing. Seasons matter here and life is very much governed by the season, there is so much activity at the moment as people get their gardens in order after the winter and now there is not so much danger of frosts (mind you it is supposed to get rather cold again this next week). It is definitely a time to be planting and already some of the first seeds are starting to appear. I love to see the dark brown soil (dirt) furrows which have been freshly turned and they seem to promise so much in the way of life and yet you can't see it at the moment.

The apple trees and the Linden trees are also in bloom and you can smell the heady scent of the Linden tree as you walk. I also noticed the lilac trees are about to bloom so that will add to the clean fresh air. You can smell so much more with the damper air than in the drier climate of Colorado, from the smell of damp soil (dirt) to the trees, it seems so rich. Colorado was awe inspiring, Latvia feels comfortable if small and compact. We jokingly talk about going over the mountain pass to get to the nearest big town as it could indeed be the highest road in Latvia as it is so close to the highest point in Latvia - a grand total of 312m (1023ft) which is rather lower than we used to live at on the plains of Colorado around 1524m (5000ft) and certainly lower than the nearby mountain passes at around 3048m (10,000ft). Distances here are measured in time taken to travel rather than in miles or kilometres because a road can be so bad that it takes rather longer to travel than on a paved road (even some of those can be atrocious).

This last week I have been in the Netherlands as I mentioned in my last post and that was a good time of connecting with people. It was quite embarrassing at times as I had problems remembering my English English (if you understand what I mean) as I had got so used to talking to Americans and now Latvians. It was fascinating though listening to lots of other languages such as Swedish and Dutch of course. I was amazed at how much I could pick up by listening to the translation. I love listening to different languages and trying to understand what people are saying, and Latvian has a lovely melody with distinct words - not like Copenhagen Danish which always seemed like an express train with very little intonation and certainly hard to pick out individual words.

I am not quite sure why God wanted me there but I met some great people and one young german lass, now living in Edinburgh, who I got on with really well had a real passion for people, especially for those on the margins of the Christian community and she had a love of Jesus that shone through.  One of the Latvian ladies also had a passion to see ladies grow up on the inside and be released, I love meeting people like that. 

When I returned to Latvia, Ian and I went to straight to see some friends in Til┼ża on the East of Latvia. They have been steadily working into the area building up relationships, Gints who was one of those working on our apartment is being brought up like a son by our friends, giving him the opportunity to find out about life that does not revolve around drink and getting drunk. He was also baptized in probably a chilly lake on Friday. 

We are just moving onto the next phase in our renovations and that is to tile the hall floor, we bought the tiles today, which is an achievement as they actually had enough to do the hall and the kitchen. Another achievement was to order some handmade wrought iron work curtain rails - it was a good job the girl could speak some English and eventually she understood what we meant. I am really pleased that we can get some genuine hand made ones and support the people in Latvia in the process, hopefully I understood the pricing on them! 

Monday, 12 May 2008

Short post this week

This will only be short as I am currently away in Delden, Netherlands, attending a New Frontiers, Northern European Camp with a group of Latvians from Smiltene. Someone dropped out so the place was offered to me on the Monday and I flew out on the Thursday. 

Here are some thoughts that occurred to Ian and I this week for you to peruse in the meantime.

Many people say that you need to hear a sermon to be fed, or go to church on a Sunday but it struck me the other day that Jesus said his food was to do the will of God (John 4:34). Have we got it the wrong way round?

As we have been doing the garden this week it has been stimulating conversation regarding the Parable of the Sower. So often Missionaries get sent in and sow seed into the area they feel they are called to and sometimes the ground is not ready, it needs digging over and preparing before putting seed into it. Seeds need to be planted in the right kind of soil, at the right time in order for them to germinate. Some people are also just called to be the diggers, getting the soil ready for the sowers.

When the Israelites went into the Promised land they ate from vineyards they had not planted and from fields they had not sown, in fact they ate the produce that the enemy had prepared for themselves. Just a thought!

Monday, 5 May 2008

Quieter week?

We have got quite a bit of digging done on our garden, or should I say Ian has got quite a bit of digging done on our garden, but it is still only a fraction of the whole plot (I do hasten to add that I have done some digging). We will just have to keep plugging away at it I guess. Still there is enough dug over to give us quite a bit of veg even this year. I have included pics from our garden and around the house, it is looking really pretty at this time of the year with flowers popping up all over the place.

The Latvian flag went up outside our apartment buildings this week on May 1st for Worker's 
day and it was for Latvia's celebration of Independence. Independence was declared on May 4th 1990 for the second time, the first time was November 18th 1918 but that independence didn't l
ast very long. This is the longest period of history when Latvia has been independent. Can you imagine not having the right to determine your own nation's destiny for so long! This downtrodden nation has got a destiny in God, and my prayer is that Latvia will truly find independence in Him and will rise up and speak into the nations around. God loves to use the weak and the helpless to shame the wise. 

In 1180 Christian missionaries arrived in Latvia and as the Balts didn't readily convert and strongly opposed christening then the German Crusaders were sent into Latvia to "convert" the pagan population. By 1211 Christianity had effective control with the foundation stone for the Dome Cathedral in Riga laid (taken from Wikipedia). Since then Latvia has been under the control of the Hanseatic League, the Polish-Lithuanian rule, Swedish, Russian, German and Russian again. With only a brief period of independence between 1922 and 1934. What a history of subjugation this country has, what freedom it will find in Christ!

The news is good from the accountants but I still don't know what the finished bill will be, certainly a lot lot less than they told me the other week, thank you God! 
Once that is done, and the English account sorted then I will start on the Latvian taxes, heh hoh - the joys of moving countries.

I sent a text to Mark this week just to make sure he was still alive, and discovered that he is still not on-line at home hence the dearth of contact with him. He is actually enjoying not being on-line but since he didn't have my mobile (cell phone) number here in Latvia 
he hadn't been able to text me to say Happy Birthday, and by the way he had forgotten but he will send a present soon. 
Lol! Boys! I am still waiting for Matthew to post my Mars bar but he is waiting until he sees me. I didn't mention Emma's present last 
week but it was really nice, she sent a donation to Send a cow for Community Training and a Cockerel (Rooster) for Africa on my
 behalf. So in Africa somewhere is a Cockerel of mine and Ian has a toilet, which I had gave Ian as a pres
ent one Christmas. It is great fun thinking of an appropriate donation and it goes to do something useful, like Emma said, I don't really need anymore things for the house at the moment as it is fairly cluttered as it is. 

It was crunch time yesterday, I suppose it had to happen sometime, Ian and I had a bit of a fa
llout. I don't think we have done too badly as it is about 2 months since Ian has finished work and we are around each other 24/7 and it takes time to adjust. I wanted a bit of space and Ian felt rejected by that - communication is a wonderful thing and we obviously weren't communicating our needs to each other very well. Things are better today and we are able to joke about it but it did require a bit of honest communication to clear up some misconceptions on both sides. Even after 23 years of marriage communication needs working on especially when circumstances change. Although personal space is important to me I have enjoyed working on projects with Ian too, something we haven't done for a long time. 

One thing I should mention is the brave folks in wheelchairs round here. The lady in the wheelchair has just manually wheeled herself up the steep bank to the dormitories on the hill. She has to go on the road as the pavements (sidewalks) are not too good around here and certainly not for wheelchairs, and the dirt roads are not much better, yet she wheels herself up with great risks from the Latvian drivers - not renowned for their driving skills, they have some of the worst accident statistics in Europe.