Sunday, March 23, 2008


Oh, he has risen indeed! Today at church we greeted each other with this traditional phrase and it drove it home all the more that this is the day to be celebrated. Without this day that Christ rose from the dead all that we do in life would be worthless and mean nothing. He has risen! I can't think of a time when this day meant more to me then this Easter Sunday. I don't know what the difference was. Maybe it started early in the week as our family gathered together to decorat our eggs in traditional Lithuanian style. With live plants and boiling them in water with red onion skins as dye. They turned out looking pretty incredible for our first try.

Or perhaps it started by attending the prayer time Thursday night. I entered a very small banquet room lit only by the open mouth fireplace and the candles that were generously placed on the tables which were thoughtfully laid out in the shape of a large cross with only a small plate at each chair, enough to seat about 30. Just the amount of people that showed up.

We entered the room in meditative silence. After we all hung our coats and greeted each other warmly we sat ourselves around the cross shaped tables and prayed silently continuing to embrace the quiet atmosphere. I kneeled at my chair and sobbed. A much needed release and connection with our heavenly father. It was a safe place to meet the Lord and unload my burdens into his care. We sat in prayer for a very long time. It was fantastic.

The Pastor sat at the head of the cross, his wife at his left and I sat next to her so that she could translate to me all that would be said. I so appreciated that they would accommodate me being that I was the only one there who didn't speak the language and her talking would add a bit of noisiness to the quiet, reverent atmosphere and keep her from absorbing the evening herself.

The Pastor began by sharing about the Israelites passover meal before they fled Egypt. He also shared that we would partake in the traditional passover (Sadar) meal. We passed the lamb and passed it again until it was gone and not a morsel was left. No utensils were used. It was interesting to look around and see that a few of the Lithuanians in the room had obviously never eaten lamb before and by the looks on their faces they didn't seem so crazy about it's strong flavor, but they ate it anyway. I had no problem taking up the slack here when the serving plate arrived to me the third time and still had a little meat on it. I almost felt like I was doing them a favor by eating what was left and not passing it on again:) You could feel the sigh of relief by some that they would not be asked to take anymore.

In between the elements of the supper, we heard scripture from various areas of the room and the pastor's wife and I lead acapella singing. It was a wonderful time of remembering our heritage in quiet reflective thought and wrapping up by sharing communion together, then greeting each other with,"Peace to you" at the close. The quiet reverence and low voices continued as we cleaned up the place, distinguished the fire and candle lights, locked the doors and headed home for the night.

On Saturday the church set up an elaborate prayer walk that took up half the University Gymnasium. It was the journey of the cross with 9 stations. It was simply amazing and most impressive. I have never seen anything quit like it. Several stations led in a half circle then up some steps and up some more steps to the foot of the cross at the center of the room and several meters high. I couldn't help but sob when I reached the foot of the cross as I considered how my sin had taken our beloved Lord and placed him there. It took time to pray and consider if I could let go of the burden of sin I carry with me so diligently and nail it to the wooden cross before me with the hammer, nails and paper provided. As I wept and wept I eventually conceded my burden to the foot of the cross. The trouble to nail it on echoed throughout the gym. And as each person did this it was a reminder to everyone there that God is big enough to carry all of our burdens. At the end of the journey I felt so overjoyed that our savior was not bound by death and I rejoiced in his resurrection from the grave! A new joy filled my soul as I left the room and headed home in the chilly night air.

Easter morning greeted both Garrett and I with delightful squeals from kids who found their Easter baskets and new church outfits (thanks Grandparents). Everyone dressed in their best and of course group photos were a must. All the way to church we talked about why we celebrate Easter and what that means. We were pleased to hear that the kids knew all about it and were more than willing to share their knowledge with us.

Once at church there seemed to be a spirit of pure joy in the air. People had come today with eager anticipation of our gathering. Our service opened with a young trio. Two of the students go to the Rainbow School where our kids go and I had asked them to share a song with us. They did a fantastic job and were received with enthusiastic clapping and cheers from the congregation when they were done. I can't wait to have then back again.

Worship on stage wasn't any different then usual except of course the song selection was focused on Christ's death and resurrection. Garrett and I were reflecting later that worship seemed more amazing because the attitude of the congregation had come ready to participate and it really was a whole experience and we could hear so many more people singing then we normally can. That is what made it great.

Saul preached a heartfelt sermon and we closed the service with a duet. I sang with a missionary's daughter who was out for a visit and has a magnificent voice! "My Redeemer Lives" by Mullens (?). We sang in English while the words were translated on the overhead. Elise and my voice mingled as if they were one. It was a good vocal match with power behind it. The congregation seemed to absorb the message and I could see so many swiping at their eyes. When we were done the congregation was stunned into silence and then erupted into applause in a way I have never heard from them before. It was so unexpected I didn't know what to do and we bobbled uncomfortably on stage for a few minutes waiting for what was supposed to happen next. Saul finally came back on stage, said a few words and then asked us to sing the song again (at least I think that's what he said:). So as people were invited to leave we sang the song one more time. More than half the congregation stayed for the reprise.

After church several young missionaries/staff at the University and a few study abroad students piled into our car and came to our house for a big burrito meal and fellowship in our living room. I can't think of a better way to have spent the afternoon after a fantastic week of celebrating Christ's death and resurrection.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Transitions 4

The traffic lights here are interesting. At first I felt like they were ,"duh lights" (you know, duh, do we need this much information) and this is why:

When you approach an intersection and the light is green you of course travel through, but as soon as the green light begins to turn into what we call a "stale green" light (one that has been green for some time) the yellow light comes on and the green and yellow light blink 3 times before changing to red as a warning that the green light will soon change to red, so prepare to stop. Many people stop when the light begins blinking and don't try to hurry through as most of us would (and I sometimes do myself). For those who are waiting at the red light, there is also the yellow light that appears with red and flashes 3 times to let the waiters know that soon it will turn green so they should prepare to go. We have observed many people driving through the intersection as soon as the blinking of red and yellow begin, but have found out it is not legal to do so. When I first observed this way of the traffic light, I scoffed at how "caudling" it was," Do we really need to know just when the light is going to change, my goodness." But now that I have been driving here for some time, I have really come to appreciate that the lights prepare you well for when they will change and there is no guess work at all involved in the process. At first I thought,"They would do well to adopt the American way of doing it!", but now I am thinking quite the opposite. It seems like the way Lithuanians do it is sensible and wish America would check it out:)

The rules and regulations of the road have also been very interesting and fun to learn. There are not many speed signs posted so I am often at the mercy of other drivers for what the correct speed limit is. Which is scary because they are all going different speeds. So it is not a very good beromitor for me.

I have found out many new and interesting things as I have driven with Lithuanian drivers. I always use driving people around as a time to ask questions about driving laws. I have found that anytime you are on a road driving through a village (town) the speed limit is always 50 kilometers (like 30 mph, ugh). There are no consitent posted speed limits, this is just something you 'know'. When you leave a village there will be a sign with the village name on it and a slash mark through it indicating you are leaving this village and if you are not entering another one right away then you can go 90 to 100 Kilometers. Which sounds fast, but is still only around 50 mph. You just have to relax and know you will get there eventually.

One of the funniest and most rediculous things I have encountered while driving as far as speed limits go is on our way back home from Kliapeda. There is a small stretch, not even a kilometer (which is half a mile) where you can go from 60 to 80 and the right back to 60 again. I laugh every time we pass it, but I make sure to speed up to get my 80 in:)

Another interesting difference here is the permenate metal green arrow attached to stop lights indicating that you can turn right at all times. I really like this one! Plus , we have found that the hazard lights here don't mean there is a broken down car, but that the car in question isn't parked and planning to stay for long so don't get inpatient with where they are parked (which half the time is in the middle of the road blocking traffic), and that brings us to the next topic of driving......

Cars stopped in the middle of the road to drop off a passenger or pick one up is a really irritating habit we see quite frequently here. This seems to be a convenience of the driver with no consideration to anyone else. When someone wants to be dropped off, you just pull over randomly to drop them off and make everyone else wait. It is really a road hazard and often causes some big traffic jams, but again we have to take a deep breath and not get too upset about it since it is happening all the time, all over town and is quite common.

And finally our favorite! You pretty much can park anywhere and every which way. We spend so much time in California lining our cars up just so and keeping them off the curbs. Back and forth, back and forth to get it into the parking spot nice and straight. Here, you just line your car up however the person before you has parked. If the lines are straight and you are the first one there and you choose to park diagnal, then that is the way the parking will go. If your car is too big and the street is narrow, you just pop a set of your wheels up on the curbside. We always get a big laugh out of the parking lots outside the malls around here. It just looks like sheer K-oss!

One of the things we have learned since being here is that the common tragedy that kills more missionaries all over the world is car accidents. So of course we buckle up when we drive and are always driving defensively. Most people in this country still do not see the importance of seat belts, so we are a bit strange to a lot of people around here:)

We could go on and on about the strange driving habits of this country, but we will let it rest with: Don't ever assume that the oncoming car that is passing another is going to get over in time to miss hitting you....

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Transitions 3

The weather is another big hurdle to get past! Many times when people find out we are from Southern California, the next big question is,"Why did you come here?" They just can't seem to get an understanding why anyone would leave the warmth of their country to come to this miserable place that they plan to leave as soon as they can.

The weather is almost always 20 degrees colder than what we are used to in Sunny Southern California. While we lived in California we never once complained about the heat. We loved it, more than anything, that for the last 15 years we have been able to wear our tank tops, shorts and flip flops on Christmas Day! Ah, what a dream!

A funny thing that is different too is that in California when the sun comes out you can feel it's warmth and you know it will warm up to be a great day. So when we see the sun out here we expect something from it. However, here in Lithuania, the sun will be out and it will appear to be a beautiful day. Then you head outside to experience the bitter cold of the day and feel like the sun is boasting lies! Lies we say! There is not a single shred of warmth that you can feel from it's presence! It continues to full us on a regular bases.

Here in Lithuania the weather begins to cool significantly by August/September. As we move into October we are wearing light jackets, but the kind of Jackets we would wear for winter in California. By November it is as cold as it will get in a Southern California winter and is in the high 30's and low 40's, but my no means has winter even gotten started here.

This November we saw our first big snow fall of the season and it stayed for several days, so it was at least 32 degrees outside. Snow doesn't last long here though. The Baltic Sea is only a few miles away and always brings in a warm wind and rain to melt the snow.

December and January brought us some cold temperatures in the 20's and 30's. We were really preparing for the coldest weather in January and February, but it kind of putzed out and now in February we are enjoying weather in the 40's and LOVING it!

It is funny how in Southern California we would be complaining by now about the 40 degree weather and here we are so thankful for how warm it is. It is all relative isn't it!?