9/29/2016

The autumn has finally arrived. It smells like falling leaves and melancholy outside. The days are getting shorter and darker by the minute and I'm having to burn more candles in the evening. I listen to songs like Eva Cassidy's Autumn Leaves and Adele's Hiding My Heart. It's the autumn blues.

I'm missing my mom a lot these days. It's not the terrible kind of missing any longer but I just could use some good life advice and I don't know whom to turn to. Years ago there was no question about it - she was always there, always listening and encouraging. But now I'm having to navigate without her advice and it makes me feel lost at moments. The main thing is that my studies, bloody thing, seem to be dying an agonising death. Full time work plus part time study doesn't look like a formula that could work for me. Hence so many questions and hesitation. Should I push for full time studies again? Where? Where would the money come from? Would it make any real difference if I just quit and never went for a doctorate? Would I be willing to leave my job even if the opportunity arose? Pick up the phone, mom.

And relationship advice. I seem to be needing some of that too.

No, actually, things aren't bad at all, just a little blue. There are a lot of good things happening. I have stuff to look forward to and friends who take good care of me. Interesting projects at work. And if I look around me and forget my own little worries for a moment, I see people who are dealing with much harder stuff than I am. A friend is going through a difficult break-up. Another friend is having to deal with a severe case of depression in her family that is destroying relationships in that family and wearing everyone out. (I spent almost an hour on the phone with her last night, listening to her story about how depression is doing so much harm. Scary stuff.) I attended a seminar on Monday evening about the current refugee crisis and people who were presenting there and who dropped lines like 'I was in Calais last week' and 'I've just returned from Turkey' somehow brought home the fact that I am a very very lucky girl compared to millions of homeless and war haunted people who don't have anything left and who, on top of everything else, have to face idiots who tell them to go back home. No, all is well, all is well.

Here are some nice pictures from our church's one day tour to the Eastern part of Estonia last Sunday.
In the gardens of the former presidential palace (the palace itself was blown up by the Soviets during the WWII). Such a beautiful place! 
With A. (I.'s wife) Acting mature.
Visiting an Orthodox convent. The headscarf  business always makes girls giggly.
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Oh, one more thing. It's autumn, so it's the Great British Bake Off season again! I love that series. :)

9/16/2016


I had been looking forward to teaching Greek again for a long time but when the day finally arrived yesterday and I walked from my cousin's house to the bus stop on my way to the Seminary in Tartu, I was actually all nervous and worried. The preparation phase for the classes turned out to be harder and much more time consuming than I had anticipated. The only New Testament Greek text book we have in Estonian is unusable, as I discovered. So I faced the dilemma of creating new materials or having to teach from that terrible text book. I chose the first option, I ordered Duff's Greek textbook online (we used the same book in Newbold) and I decided to break every copyright law in the world and turn Duff's book into a decent Estonian-Greek study material. So over the past weeks there have been a couple of long days in the office when I've literally cut, glued, copied, pasted, scanned, printed, sweated and lamented, just so that my students would have something decent to study the beautiful Greek language from. It has been tough indeed.

But yesterday made up for the effort and for the sweating. We had three 1,5 h classes and if I remember correctly, there were 14 students altogether - more than I had expected. It's a really good size for a language class, not too big but yet big enough to have a good energy level in the classroom. And people were so nice and hard working! It's very inspiring to see people learning, working their way through the alphabet and starting to read and write in Greek.

I thought about it on my long way back to Tallinn yesterday evening (I was too tired to even watch a movie on the bus) - there really isn't anything for me that would compare to lecturing. Lecturing can make something inside of me come alive the way nothing else can. Preaching comes close, true, but only when I teach in the classroom something which I believe God has put inside me comes alive with such a force that all the other cares and worries disappear. It is a very intense time, draining, and yet so energising that only after the classes are over I realise I'm dead hungry. Only after having been on my feet for 4,5 hours I realise I could use a break.

I really wish I could continue doing this for ever and ever and ever.

What a day it was.

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One more thing. When I went to my cousin's on Wednesday evening, being in a bit of a bad mood (because of something that had happened earlier that evening), my 5 year old darling J. decided to draw and write me a card. He didn't know anything about what had happened but here's what he came up with:
 It's a variation of a usual birthday card but instead of "Happy birthday" it says "Happy random day". Which, frankly, I think is genius and much more needed than a birthday card. Because I care about birthday cards only for 1 day a year, but I could care about random day cards for 364 days a year. I'm thinking about framing this card and putting it on my wall. I totally need to see this every day!

9/07/2016

There's one extremely important thing in my life I haven't said anything about. Until now.

On August 5th I was given a whole new title and a new role on life - I became an aunt. It was the same day I hit the wilderness with my friends and turned off my phone so I only found out about this when the baby girl was already a week old. News don't travel fast up in the North.

I saw my little niece (and for once I feel like spelling out the whole name:) Eliisabet when she was two weeks old. S. and H. came to our family reunion at my uncle's and introduced the baby to the whole family (from my mum's side). It was a little bit strange and very heartwarming to say hello to the newest addition to Kalmus' family. She was so tiny! And yet, there is something big, something awe-inspiring about a new born baby. She's got so much future ahead of her! So much life! So many choices. So much happiness. A fair share of sorrow and suffering as well. The miracle of life is miraculous indeed. And suddenly there's so much for us to look forward to. There was this sweet moment at the family reunion when the closest family, that is, me, K. and dad were standing around E.'s cradle and were looking at her and each of us had their own thoughts. My dad said, "I wonder how long it will take before I can start taking her birdwatching with me." I was like, "I wonder how long it will take before I can start bringing her books." And K. thought a little and said, "I wonder how long it will take before I can start teaching her words she shouldn't really know." I guess each of us is looking forward to teaching E. something, haha!

I don't have any pictures to post. There are photos of me holding E. but I very much respect S. and H.'s choice not to flood the social media with their baby pictures. I don't know how strict they are going to be as parents - I might not have a right to share any pictures of her until she turns 18. :P

I preached my last sermon as the local intern in Tallinn's church this past Sabbath and waved the church goodbye. The whole service left me feeling a little bit sad. It was all very different compared to the day I left Tartu church two years ago. Then the whole church celebrated my ministry, plus I had my wonderful cousin throwing me a party at his summer house later that evening. There wasn't much of a celebration here, and there was no party. But S. was kind enough to invite me over to their place after the church service and I sat there in their living room, holding sleeping E. in my arms, and I thought to myself, "Who cares about the lesser things when I have this baby to hold." She totally made up for the sadness of the day.

9/02/2016

I was sick for a while last week and have mostly stayed at home. On one hand, it is such a nuisance when you can't work properly, knowing how much there is to be done all the time. But on the other hand, it has given me a whole lot of time to read and watch stuff I wouldn't have much time for otherwise. I finished Nelson Mandela's 620 page autobiography beast the other day, Long Walk to Freedom. It is written in a very simple and plain style, from the literary point of view it doesn't really compare to the autobiographies of, say, Jean-Paul Sartre or Vladimir Nabokov. But the story itself is so gripping and so extraordinary I didn't want to put the book down in the evenings. He was one truly amazing man, the world only knows a handful of men like him. There have been more men like him for sure, but I would guess 9 out of 10 lost their lives in the struggle, so I'm very glad Mandela lived to tell his story to the world. If you ever have time for a book as massive as this one, I warmly recommend it.

In addition to this I have been on Fred Craddock's sermon binge. I hold C. responsible for this as it started when I saw a link with one of Craddock's sermons on his Twitter account. From there it sort of went out of control. I would like to give two links here. First, his sermon called Can I Also Be Included which, after having listened to it for five times, I think might be the best sermon he ever preached. The Ethiopian eunuch's bit toward the end makes me tear up still. And the second one is The Whole Law which is by far the best explanation I've heard on that verse in the epistle of James. But not only that, listen to the story he ends this sermon with, it will knock you out!

And then TED talks (I really did have a lot of free time, you can tell). Two talks that stuck out for me were these: first, Dave Isay's talk Everyone Around You Has a Story the World Needs to Hear, the title pretty much sums up his central point. It's such a heartwarming talk and when he plays bits from these interviews he has recorded, phew, tissues are needed! And the second talk that mesmerised me was Casey Gerald's brilliant The Gospel of Doubt. It was so intriguing because I never figured out whether he really had lost his Christian faith or not, he never told the audience. But the depth and eloquence with which he speaks... Wow. I sort of want to marry him.

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Other than being sick and bedridden, I have mostly dealt with academic stuff. I met Dr B. O. and the Baltic Licence students in Riga. I'm going to teach them Greek and Homiletics next school year and it was good to meet up with them. And it was just good to sit and listen to a Newbold lecturer again, it brought back some warm memories. I've been to the Seminary's academic board in Tartu. And I've kept myself busy preparing for my Greek classes which will start in the Seminary in the middle of September. Plus working on a lecture for church elders where I need to talk about teaching and why good Biblical teaching matters for us Adventists. So I have been doing the stuff I enjoy the most. I'm a lucky girl indeed.

Oh, oh, oh! I almost forgot. I have also started my 12 month exhibition/museum challenge with Dr A. N. We have agreed on the terms: both of us will need to visit at least one exhibition a month for the next year. We will try to visit two exhibitions together during that year, once in London, once in Tallinn. If one of us fails and skips a month, she is penalised by having to pay for the next lunch we have together. We need to report to each other about our exhibition progress by sending the other person a postcard (ideally) or prove our gallery/museum visit in some other way. Isn't this great?! I think this is just as great as it can get. We have already agreed on our next year's challenge too - from next September on we are going to concerts of classical music. Monthly. In all honesty and modesty, I think I have the best mentor in the world.

So today I took two hours to visit the national Art Museum here in Tallinn where they have a brilliant exhibition of Victorian haute couture. On one hand it was such a wonderful experience. Such fabrics and colors and patterns! These 150 year old dresses and accessories look absolutely beautiful. But on the other hand, one can't but wonder why the society would dress women in something they can barely walk and breath in? My feminine side and my feminist side couldn't quite agree on what to make of such an exhibition. In any case, I was a little dreamy and yet a little relieved to walk out of there - with my trousers and blazer.

8/18/2016


I let my friends talk me into a mountain hike on the Kungsleden hiking trail in Northern Sweden - 110 kilometers of rocks and mud high up in the mountains. I don't know how I let such a thing happen because I have become a person who really likes the little comforts of life. I like my bed, I like good restaurants (plenty of them in Tallinn!), I like long evenings with a good book, I like having my phone on me at all times. So I was really surprised when I found myself packing only the most essential of things into a rucksack (a tent, a mattress, a sleeping bag, handful of clothes and protein bars, brand new hiking boots, head lamp and bikinis) and taking off for ten long days in an unfamiliar place far from home.

As I was walking on the trail, I thought about the whole things as a massive experiment I run on myself. So I guess one of the main reasons I agreed to go was because I wanted to get to know myself better and because I was curious about my limits and my abilities, trying to find the different breaking points in myself. I wanted to know how long I could walk without getting tired. I wanted to know how much pain I could endure without starting to cry or complain. I wanted to know how many days I could go without washing myself. I wanted to know when I would stop caring about my looks, away from our mirror-obsessed culture. I wanted to know how many days it would take me to go through a Facebook rehab. I wanted to know whether I could always stay calm or not. I wanted to know if my relationship with some of my friends would change radically during the trip. I wanted to know how I would react if someone treated me unkindly - would I snap, would I lash back? I wanted to know if I could get real quality sleep on a thin mattress in a cold tent. I wanted to know if I could swim in a lake of melting snow water. And I wanted to see if there was something God needed to tell or teach me that He couldn't tell or teach me at home.

I guess every experiment has twofold results. There are the results that you were looking for and that make you happy, and there are the results which, well, you wish weren't there...

I could go on without washing for about five days. I stopped caring about my looks on day three. Facebook became meaningless already on day two. Yes, I could swim in a lake of snow water, only for about 10 seconds though (the temperature of the water, we discussed, might have been around +6'C). I could get used to constant pain. But I couldn't sleep in a cold tent very well, at least during the first nights. One night I had to change the tent in order to get warm, and had to sleep between two big guys like between a sandwich. I couldn't get use to the tasteless canned food (there were only a few bright exceptions to this and they all happened when A. cared to cook - I knew he could cook but I didn't quite know he could make magic with the most simple of ingredients). Yes, some relationships changed, some for the better, at least one for the worse. The person I thought I knew the best I didn't know at all, as it turned out. Some teenage guys whom I didn't know and didn't expect anything from, turned out to be some of the nicest and kindest and calmest people I know. Most of the time I could keep my mouth shut and not complain. Most of the time I could stay calm and not lash back. Most of the time. Not always. And God managed to come through, His voice and answer to a question I went to Sweden with sounded crystal clear. It was the answer I didn't want to hear, I was until the last moment hoping for another answer, but the answer came and I think that's the most important thing of all.

There are three things I am especially happy about or thankful for as I look back on the hiking adventure. I am very happy about my hiking boots (I called them Tough Mudders) that brought me through all that mud and mountain rivers, keeping my feet ever so warm and dry. I am grateful for having such a wonderful hiking buddy as W. - one of those teenagers. He never tired of making me laugh with his jokes, and I never tired of laughing. One moment (the only moment I really wanted to cry) when I managed to spill the frying pan with mushroom sauce that was almost ready for supper, losing at least a quarter of the precious sauce, I could see how he made an extra effort to comfort me and cheer me up. He has no idea how grateful I was to him for it. And third, the nature - the breathtaking, Lord of the Rings kind of nature, massive mountains, little streams with wonderfully tasting water, rushing rivers, big plateaus, massive clouds hanging right above your head, big rocks that gave shelter from the ice-cold wind. Oh, the nature really was the real star of the hike!

But I am also glad to be back. On the first evening as we arrived back late at night, I just fell in my bed, only thanking the Almighty for life and for my bed before dozing off to sleep. The next evening I was in a better shape - I made myself some good salad, put my feet up (literally because they are still swollen), listened to classical music, ate ice cream, and started reading Nelson Mandela's autobiography. And on the third evening (yesterday, that is) I accepted my dear auntie's dinner invitation and stayed at hers until I was so full I could eat no more of her delicious food.

Wilderness is good. Home is better.

7/19/2016

Work Talk

Things have been developing steadily since the conference session last month. I had a dream somewhere in the back of my mind as to what would be the perfect outcome of the session for me personally and how it might change my work but I didn't want to talk about it much as I was very afraid of disappointment. Only a few friends knew what I really had in mind. So the conference session came and it went and it all happened so quickly I didn't even have time to blink my eyes before it was all over. And then when I reflected on the decisions made at the session I realised the outcome for me was the best one I could have asked for. I was appointed the leader of the Sabbath School department in addition to the personal ministries and the educational department I was already leading before the session. Then only one more change needed to be made. The increasing work load on the conference's level had to result in some sort of decrease somewhere else. And there's only one 'somewhere else' for me - the local church. So it was that I was waiting for the first meeting of the newly appointed conference board with growing anticipation because only the board could make a decision about my role in the local church. And finally, last Wednesday the decision was made about me: I will finish working in Tallinn's church in the end of August and then I'll continue working only for the conference. After only three years in pastoral ministry I'm done with it, well, for the time being, that is. And I have to admit, I received the news with a quiet sigh of relief. Not that I don't like what I'm doing but I think I can be more useful to the church leading these departments. And honestly, I don't think I make a good pastor. Really.

The conference board is also a new thing for me. It was a very interesting day last Wednesday when the board met for the first time. The board itself is quite something - seven members out of twelve are under 40 years of age. I think we might be the youngest conference board around here. And in general I enjoyed the meeting. There were many decisions to be made that were purely administrative. But I felt very, I don't know, insecure when we had to discuss things and make decisions about people. It was then that the realisation of the weight of the responsibility hit me. Heavens, we need to make decisions which have direct effect on people's actual lives, their future! I don't feel confident at all in this role. I guess that's something I need to get used to - the decision making and the responsibility that comes with it.

But in general, things are good. I go to work every morning with a smile on my face and with a silent "whoop whoop!" in my head. And now, a month after the conference session, I've finally understood - this is my time. This is my time to work, to dream, to cast visions, to succeed and to fail, to try new things, to give my very best, and also yes, to take the responsibility for all of it. There is no future I need to wait for. This is it - the opportunity is now and the opportunity is mine. I'm lovin' it.

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Alicia Keys, One Thing. Oh, so smooth!

7/10/2016

My two weeks of bliss are over now, I've just arrived back in Tallinn with my suitcase full of dirty clothes and my mind full of wonderful memories. They were good weeks, nay, they were actually wonderful weeks, so wonderful that when I passed Tartu last Friday and had an hour to spare there, I went to St John's church and lit another candle (the one I had promised to lit I had already done a week earlier) to show my appreciation to the Almighty for all the good things I was able to enjoy during my vacation. I sat in a pew for a while, listened to one of the best Estonian pianist who happened to practice there for his evening concert (it is a church highly valued by many classical musicians), and was just grateful. I don't sit in the gratitude bubble very often but I did then.

If there's one thing worth telling from the past week then it is probably the mighty thunderstorm that hit us and its aftermath. It was Sunday morning a week ago when we were having a late and lazy breakfast of pancakes on my cousin's porch when we realised that the weather was turning bad. It didn't seem as anything too serious at first but when it started to get really dark, we decided to bring everything inside. And then the wind hit. And then the hail. And then the rain. We barely managed to get inside when a storm of such magnitude broke loose that it left us all breathless. We all stood at the big window, mouths open in awe and surprise, and there was nothing else to see other than the white of hail and rain. Two trees fell very close to the porch, the outdoor furniture flew as if it was made of paper and the electricity was cut. And it was the only time in my life when I've wondered about the strength of the roof and the quality of its construction... The storm didn't last for long, luckily. Once we had recovered from the initial surprise - things like that don't happen often in this corner of the world - and had gathered ourselves, we walked to the nearby village, only to see many many trees blocking the road and to find the village shop closed because of the power cut. So we spent the evening in candle light and without the groceries we had wanted to buy. We still heated the sauna though - you don't need any electricity for that! But things got even better the next day when my cousin's family had to leave the summer house for two days and they left me there alone. Once again I walked 4 km to the village shop only to find it closed again. So I walked back and searched for more candles. I was beginning to run out of food, there was some bread in the cupboard and a can of chick peas. The stuff that was in the fridge I did't dare to touch as it was already the second day without electricity and thunder can have a strange effect on dairy products (I'm serious). So I turned off my phone to save the batteries, I went swimming, I sat at the lake and read a book until it got dark. I felt like I was as far from civilisation as one could possibly be. It was like a real adventure for a city kid like me, nothing like this could ever happen in Tallinn! So it was with a bit of relief and with a bit of sadness that I realised the next morning that the electricity had come back. It had also come back in the village so the store was open once again and I bought way too much candy in the celebration of its re-opening (some candy are still somewhere in my suitcase). I could charge my phone again. I was back in the civilisation.

Other than that, what could be said about those weeks? I went swimming 13 days in a row. I read 3,5 books (the fourth one I still need to finish). I found two new wonderful restaurants in Pärnu. I ate too many pancakes. And I spent time with some of my very favourite people in this world: my cousin R. and his family, my dad, K. and I. in Pärnu, A. and L. in Türi who always welcome me at their place so kindly (and, oh, those late night conversations!!!!), and the Pathfinders camp people I spent this past Sabbath with... There's a lot to be thankful for.

And until tomorrow morning I can ignore the fact that I need to preach three sermons this coming weekend and I have 30 unanswered emails in my mail box.

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Here's a song I discovered last week: Robyn Sherwell's version of Landslide. Ain't it beautiful?