This week has been hard. Extremely hard.  Language wise, I’ve been extremely frustrated, and physically, I’ve been exhausted. Being the perfectionist I am, I’ve been a little bit too hard on myself this week about my progress.  Classes have been going well, but they have been extremely challenging. I know that my language skills have improved since I got here, but it can be really hard to be objective about one’s own improvement.
        This week I started running. I normally hate running. But, with the motivation of a friend (thanks Jesse!) I decided to give it a try, at least three days a week. We found a track right between our house (we live on the same street) and meet there at 7 to run for 30 minutes before school. And at first, I didn’t really like it. I wasn’t surprised. But I was surprised on our second day of running by an early morning epiphany. As I ran around the track for the umpteenth time, feet thudding to the beat of my beloved Russian techno pop, it hit me:
       I am living my dream.
       I looked up at the sun peeking through the clouds and realized I was staring straight into a Russian sky. I looked around me and saw the Soviet era apartments, the neon painted jungle gym and the crackling sidewalk and I was struck by the fact that I was actually here. And every step I take here, every lap I run here, is a gift. The steady beat of my well-worn music now filled me with an almost magical exhilaration. The songs that I spent hours translating in my room, pining away for a return ticket to Russia now provided the soundtrack for this long-awaited adventure. And I’m pretty sure that a runner’s high has nothing on what I felt.
      And that’s only one of the gifts that running has brought me this week. This Tuesday, I was able to get connected with a church! And how is running connected, you ask? Well, I was able to get contact information from a friend’s sister who lived in Vladimir of a church she was involved with, and my friend Shelby and I set off to find the church, hoping to make the 7:00 youth group. But, after no avtobuses came and we missed the street we were supposed to take walking on foot, we realized we were running out of time. So we ran. I, in my uncomfortable flats and skinny jeans and Shelby, in her dress and backpack, heavy with her laptop. We ran, and ran, and ran, and finally reached a landmark close to the church. We were sweaty and out of breath, but we made it on time. And it was so worth it. The youth pastor welcomed us into the group and made us feel so at home. We sang a few songs, some which I actually knew in Russian from my church in Krasnodar, began studying the book of Mark, and then walked around town and chatted. The people there were so genuine and I am so thankful I was able to connect with this youth group.
      So yes, linguistically, this week has been hard. Extremely hard. Yet each and every moment has been a gift from God. I am so thankful for this passion He has put in my heart for Russia, and even when the going gets tough, I can look to Him in anticipation for the next step of this crazy, beautiful adventure. In three short weeks, I have already formed relationships with amazing people, both American and Russian, grown in my linguistic confidence, and had more adventures (and delicious food) than should be legal. And I’m beginning to see the gift in every step. Yes, even in running;)

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