Thursday, April 7, 2016

Memorials, Assemblies, & Goats

Well, we finally had our Imitate Jehovah assembly.  Barry had a soliloquy that made everybody giggle (he kept talking about his fictional wife named Mary).  He was awesome.

We had a lot of fun with the Memorial campaign.  That video was amazing!  It made a lot of people cry, which made me cry, and then everyone was crying!  

Barry met a goat in service.  An actual goat.  The goat was mad, and when Barry went inside the house the goat started ramming the door over and over.  It was crazy. He hit the door so hard he flew backwards.  I didn't think we would ever go back to that house, but at the assembly a sister on stage said she knocked at a door where an eccentric woman wanted to show her a pet squirrel.  The squirrel got loose, and they had to chase the squirrel down the street.  She almost didn't go back on that strange squirrel lady, but she did, and now she and many members of her family are studying!  So now we have to go back to the goat house.  😳

Our Memorial was beautiful!

After the April Broadcast we are highly anticipating our Regional Convention!  

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Long Time No See

finally finished the video of our journey to Estonia.  The link is above.  It was certainly the highlight of our year, and the best thing that ever happened to us.  

I have been keeping busy and am in a lot happier place mentally than I was last fall.  We are getting a new kitten this summer (it hasn't been bred yet), and we have planned a few new adventures for this year.  

We are going camping on the beach for our anniversary, and will be scuba diving.  

We booked a Caribbean cruise in December.  It's pretty exciting!  I love to cruise even though I get very seasick in my middle age.  

We are trying to eat better and exercise more.  We have both lost weight. Barry has lost more.  I have been consistently walking and lifting weights, and I anticipate feeling better soon.  

I've been working on the house and we have redecorated and repainted the living room, turned an empty room into a study, took a lot of things to Goodwill, and are gradually replacing all the things that broke last year when all our money was going towards Estonia.  We did without a computer for almost a year.  

Once we got a computer I started editing the hours of footage I had.  It took weeks to finish the project.  Once completed, because it was in HD and 4:40:00 long, it took three full days to upload to YouTube.  So now it's there for everyone to enjoy!  It's set to private, but it's okay to share with the Friends.  

We haven't had much of a winter.  We had six inches of snow forecasted, but it didn't happen.  We got exactly zero inches.  We have had a few 70°F days, though, which has been nice.  We went to the zoo a few weeks ago and I played with my camera.  All the animals were happy for the warmth!  

Panda (Le Le)
Barry by the Mississippi River

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Grief and Salt Water

Our visit to Estonia was the greatest week of my life.  

What makes me the happiest is that I could share such a life changing experience with my husband.  

My adventures all happened before I married my husband, and he has had to listen to my anecdotes  and tall tales for years, and now he has his own.  

Estonia happened during a very difficult time in our personal lives.

A few weeks before we left, my only sibling, my 20-year-old brother, announced his engagement and wedding (to a girl he had yet to introduce to us).  They chose to get married the exact weekend of the Special Convention, long after we had confirmed our attendance.  

He suggested I simply come home early.  As if that was even possible!

I was beyond hurt.  He had been pushing me out of his life for the last two years, and I wasn't sure why, but I had always done my best to let it go and had always given him the benefit of the doubt.  This was deliberate.  He didn't want me to meet his girlfriend when they started dating, and now he didn't want me at his wedding.  

His fiancée called me, I'm not sure why, but basically she said they weren't going to change the wedding date for me.  That was the only date that "everyone" could be there.  (I must be nobody, as I didn't register as being important enough.)

When I protested that I'm his family, that I was about to be her family too- she shut me down by saying that "he will be my family, but you will never be my family".  

No wonder he didn't want to introduce us while they were dating.  

It doesn't end there, because now no matter where I go or what I do, I run into someone who asks me how my brother is doing, or asks me about the wedding that I wasn't at, or asks me how I like my new sister-in-law.

There is no way I can answer those questions honestly.  

I usually leave the conversation in tears.  

And my family is just making things worse.

If I had behaved that way to my brother, my family would have protested my wedding entirely.

Since it happened to me (and I really am nobody) they all went to the wedding and treat me like a pariah for being extremely upset about how I was treated. 

I didn't do anything wrong, yet somehow it damaged my relationship with my entire family.  

Not one person stood up for me.

Three days before we left for Estonia my much beloved cat named Ramses became deathly ill.  

Vet said he had kidney failure.  The vet treated him while we were gone, and we came home to a barely alive hospice kitty.  

I had to push fluids under his skin to keep him alive a few more weeks, but he passed away on August 29th.

A part of me died that day, too.  

I have cried myself to sleep every night since.  

I never had favorites between my 3 cats, but in his absence I now know he was the best.  He loved me unconditionally, and the feeling was mutual.  

Between the loss of my fur-baby and the loss of my family's respect, I have been inconsolable.  

No one has any comforting words for me, only that I need to get over it.  

It has made me very withdrawn and untrusting.  I feel like my skin has been ripped off and interacting with people only results in salt in the wound.  

I pray often for Jehovah to take this pain from me, to take this burden off of me.  

Barry decided to take me camping on the beach over the holiday weekend to clear my mind for a few days.  

We stayed at a magical campground in a Florida State Park with a beautiful white sugar sand beach, a snorkeling cove, an alligator lake, and wild deer walking through the woods.  There were sea gulls, pelicans, woodpeckers, dolphins, flying fish, and tangs.  We actually swam with the wild dolphins!  

We ate fresh seafood every night and became lazy beach bums.  Barry bought his first pair of flip flops.  I used my boogie board that hadn't seen saltwater since 1999.  We went snorkeling.   

I moved to the beach when I was 18 (it was short lived), but I'm a total mermaid.  I'm a certified scuba diver, snorkeler, and in those days I was a body boarder and a wannabe surfer.  

Yet I live in Arkansas, in a town with no pools.  

It was nice to be myself for a weekend.  Unfortunately, we had to come home.  

In my moments of grief, I try to focus on our last night in Estonia when we sang kingdom songs together in the town square.  And then I reflect on being in the ocean with my husband watching the dolphins jump.  

I always dreamed as a child of leaving home and finding a place where people cared about me and understood me.  I'm homesick for a place I've never been.  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Day Nine- Special Convention Sunday

They had warned us about rain.  I put on my lined raincoat, packed 2 stadium umbrellas, and wrapped up in my new scarf.  

It felt like it was in the 50s with a cold Artic breeze smacking us in the face, along with a downpour.  We found seats up top that were protected from rain, but not the wind.  Barry had a cold and I was developing one.  

After lunch the rain stopped, and the temperature increased.  The wind never stopped.

During the last talk, Bro Noumair made a great point about Jehovah being a chess master.  He can see all the possible outcomes.  So if Satan takes a pawn here and there- don't worry!  Jehovah is ten moves ahead of him.  

Unfortunately the arena and surrounding neighborhood sustained a power outage during the last video, so we didn't get to see it.  

There were signs held up after the convention.

The Russian brothers sang us out of the arena.

As our bus left, the local brothers and sisters waved goodbye to us.  

We ran into two Russian sisters who spoke a little English and joined them for dinner at a Russian cafeteria with several Russian speaking brothers and sisters from many countries.  They showed us a secret portal where they can still access the website.   They remove the covers off of the literature and place it anyways.  They said if you are caught with multiple pieces of literature, it means intent to distribute, and is a $5000 fine.  I feel better knowing they are still getting their literature.  

We took a walk into Old Town and did a little shopping.  

We ran into the brother who did much of the translating into Estonian for the convention.

Around 10:00 we walked into Town Square and there were witnesses in a circle singing together.  It drew everyone towards the circle.  There must have been at least a hundred of us singing kingdom songs together, in English, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Russian, Swedish, Norwegian, and probably many other languages.  

Tourists and locals would walk up and ask who this singing group was.  A great public witness was given.  It was a spectacle!

It was a spiritual paradise, as we filled Old Town Tallinn with our joyous brothers and sisters.  No one wanted to leave.  The hospitality we received was overwhelming and indescribable.  I am forever changed.  There are not words to describe how this experience affected me.  Everyone worked so hard to make this week so enjoyable.  I learned so much about putting your trust in Jehovah despite what Satan throws at us.

We made it home, and we will try our hardest to keep this joy in our hearts forever.  

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Day Eight- Saturday Convention

I'll try to keep this one short.  So much of today I can't share yet.

Barry felt a little better in the morning, but felt worse as the day went on.  The weather became extremely cold and windy.  

This is the view from our seat:

You can see all the spires and towers in the distance. A train line is behind us.

They have clocks to try to get us in our seats before the music starts, but the arena is so full and the lunch break is so short (1 hour) that 5 minutes isn't enough time!  
Here are some photos of the people we met:
They interviewed a couple we met at the RTO who now serve in Korea Bethel, but Estonia was their first foreign assignment.  Later they were in Congo and Hong Kong.   They said how hard it was to get a new assignment and have to pack and learn a new language but Jehovah helps them.

A sister from the Finland branch let me borrow a scarf when the cold air became too much for me.  (I'd put my raincoat up over my ears.) She left before the convention was over and insisted I keep the scarf when I tried to return it.  What love!  
Brother Noumair gave the final talk of the day!

On the bus ride back to the hotel I met a sister from Crimea- the state that was in Ukraine but was annexed by Russia in 2014 causing an international faux pas.  

An announcement was made at the convention that all delegates that were traveling to Russia afterwards should meet with the brothers for special instructions.  They announced that last week the NWT and were added to the list of "extremist" material in Russia.  That is like being put on a terrorist list!  Haven't they learned you can't stop Jehovah?  The new rules include bringing absolutely no literature inside the country and no items that say  I am glad we decided against visiting St Petersberg, but all our dear Russian brothers and sisters have to return to such horrible treatment while I go back to JW Broadcasting and my new Bible and all the literature I can download.  

We went to eat at a restaurant highly recommended by a local brother, and it was delicious.  

Barry had elk pot roast, which I snuck a bite of, and it was delicious, like beef.

My item was called "Crispy Chicken Chest".
After dinner we took a walk to find the oldest tower in Tallinn called Tall Herman by locals.
Then we made our way down to Old Town.

And look who we happened to run in to...
We asked Brother Noumair if Brother Jackson was okay, and he said Brother Jackson's father was gravely ill so he went to Australia to see him.  We sent our love.

Then, out of the blue, I saw Julia!
Sister Hunt had met Julia in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and exchanged our information.  We had been emailing each other trying to meet up this week, but my delegate schedule and her volunteer schedule were conflicting and I didn't think I would get to meet her.

What a spiritually upbuilding day!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Days Six & Seven: Old Town and Convention Friday

We didn't take many photos the past 2 days, but I took incredible video that I can share in a few months.

On Thursday we did a tour of Old Town Tallinn.  It is so beautiful here and so old. 

The lower town was built by German merchants who formed a union.  They would trade with the local population.  They built large warehouses to store their goods.  There must have been a little bit of animosity because the locals built a gate between their town and the German's town and they locked it at night.  

Then we went shopping.  There are many shops and markets that sell wool products, such as scarves, mittens, and hats.  

Flax linen products are also popular.  Russian nesting dolls (matryoshka) are everywhere.  

Our evening gathering was something to be remembered.  We had Estonian, Ukrainian, and Russian entertainment.  Half of the delegates are Russian, and they became excited when the Russian music started.  I wish I had learned some Russian.  

From what I can understand, on July 14 the Russian government banned import of the NWT.  This is following the ban of other literature in May for being "extremist".  Access to has also been cut off.  Haven't they learned?  

I don't want to spoil the convention, but I will show the arena.  

We sat up top under the shade, but the wind was very cold.  Even the hardy locals were "freezing" and wrapped in scarves.  One brother we met couldn't wait to go home and get in his sauna.  

Our lunch was provided for us.  The sandwiches here are strange.  This one was made with a cold fried egg.    

Estonia generally has no water fountains, so jugs of water are set up for our use.  The bathroom situation is similar to home.

We heard Brother Jackson was supposed to be here but he was unable to come so we have Brother Noumair.  (He is often on JW Broadcast.)

Russian speaking are on one side of the arena, and English/Estonian on the other.  Estonia has more Russian congregations than Estonian!  Many on the Estonian side are US delegates or from Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark- all listening to the English translation.  The Latvian sister next to me only had the Greek Scriptures NWT in Latvian.  

The translation is funny sometimes.  They keep using the word baptist for baptism, and since Estonian language has no "z", "zealous" comes out as "jealous".  

We had dinner with one of the Estonian brothers who gave his experience.  He is the only witness in his family.  He said he knew by the 3rd study that it was the truth, and he couldn't go back, even though his family was very set against him.

One experience strongly emphasized how important it was to let go of your family who do not believe in Jehovah.  

It is tough to be a witness here in atheistic Northern Europe.  You have to take a firm stand for Jehovah, and no one is accepting of your decision. You can't have your cake and eat it too.  They seem so happy about the truth here, though.  They don't look behind at all.  

We had some photo ops at the convention.  

The only down side to our trip is Barry came down with a cold and a fever today.  After eating German food for dinner, Barry felt a lot better and his fever was gone.  We couldn't find NyQuil, but locals suggested vodka.  We found an airplane sized tiny bottle of whiskey instead, and Barry fell right asleep!