I talked to one of my church members yesterday who happens to be a city architect and the guy said something that I found really interesting. He said that when you move to a new town/city, it's all closed for you in the beginning. And the longer you're there and explore the place, the more this place opens itself up to you. And I agreed with him.

I think a new place has opened up to me in Tallinn. Three evenings this week I've found my feet take me to a park on the seaside just a walking distance from the city centre. It's a park which surrounds a summer palace built by Russian emperor in the beginning of the 18th century. And I knew this place before but then again, I didn't really know it. But I'm beginning to know it now. And I'm not sure whether it's just the fact that everything is growing and blossoming or it's the actual place that has enchanted me but it looks like I keep going back there. Even today. As soon as I got home after a day in Tartu (had to get the certificated translations of my BA and MA diplomas from the uni there), I changed my shoes, picked up my camera, and headed to the park. Something makes me go back there.

The 'summer cottage'
Chestnuts in full bloom. My favourite time of the year.
The beauty is in details.
Everyone's out and about.
Big green
Bon voyage!
Green haze


One of the greatest writers of our days, Frederick Buechner, says:

The invisible manifests itself in the visible. I think of the alphabet, of letters literally - A, B, C, D, E, F, G, all twenty-six of them. I think of how poetry, history, the wisdom of the sages and the holiness of the saints, all of this invisible comes down to us dressed out in the visible, alphabetic drab. 

I am speaking of the humdrum events of our lives as an alphabet.

I am thinking of grace. I am thinking of the power beyond all power, the power that holds all things in manifestation, and I am thinking of this power as ultimately Christ-making power, which is to say a power that makes Christs, which is to say a power that works through the drab and hubbub of our lives to make Christs of us before we're done or else, for our sake, graciously destroy us. In neither case, needless to say, is the process to be thought of as painless. 

This is exactly how I feel these days. Little things, the humdrum events of my life that seem too small to be even mentioned in my blog, all these are quietly working for mysterious ends and purposes which I'm not aware of. Or if, then only vaguely. The letters of the alphabet of grace. And the forming of those words, of course, is not a painless process.

I walked the streets of my beloved Tartu again a week ago. I went and sat in the uni's library, had a lunch with one of my best friends, and even had courage to show myself in the department of Estonian and general linguistics. Some old lecturers were there, happy to see me again. They still remembered me, five years after I left.

Last week I had a chance to meet up with the guy I did my legendary (or not so legendary) travels with exactly five years ago. We sat in my favourite restaurant in the Old Town and recalled the memories of our backpacking, hitch-hiking and couch-surfing through Europe with very little money and no plan B. He said he missed them days. I said I didn't. But it was very nice to meet him again nevertheless.

I took a long walk on the seaside yesterday evening with a friend and I realised that now really is the time of endless Nordic evenings when the sun doesn't want to set and the nights hardly get dark. There is something very special about this after a long and dark winter. And it made me think of the famous words of Albert Camus - in the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.

I spent half of the Sunday staring at my laptop screen. I'll get there one day.

The humdrum events of life.


I think last week I received the best birthday gift ever. I'm still trying to get my head around it, or in other words - I'm still unwrapping this present. It takes time. Because it's a big gift with a lot of wrapping paper around it. :)

Dr A. N. wrote me in the beginning of last week and said she wanted to skype because she had some good news to share. So we found time on Wednesday evening (which was my actual birthday) and after talking about birthdays and books we got down to business. "Here's the deal", she said, "there was a big TED/Newbold meeting with all the important people present and we happened to speak about Estonians educating their future pastors in the Baptist seminary in Tartu. Some people opposed this idea in the past but now it's clear that this is the best way for you to do things. So here's the thing. Newbold wants to support you. People were like, Mervi's doing a great job back home and we need to back her and the whole Estonian conference up. We need to offer them our support and see whether we can send our lecturers over for intensive courses and teach what's needed." I was just sitting in front of my computer as if lighting had hit me. And she continued, "I said I'd take this to be my personal project. So I'll be mediating between you and Newbold. Just let me know what courses you want us to teach and I'll fix the rest."

Newbold appreciates what I do here.

They're going to help...

with Dr A. N. leading the whole project.

Dear heavens.

After the conversation everything happened so quickly I didn't even have time to blink my eyes. Wednesday night I sent my senior pastor a message: Maaaaaaaaan, Newbold's backing us up! On Thursday evening we had a meeting with the principal of the Seminary and we let her know some of our own courses were going to be taught by awesome Newbold lecturers as intensives. She said, "That's great, go ahead". By Friday evening we (me and A. N.) had agreed on the modules they'd help us with during the next academic year. We'll have Hermeneutics in the fall and Biblical Theology in the spring semester. A. N. herself will come over to teach Hermeneutics... I'm so happy and humbled I don't know what to do.

Well, all I do is walk around like, Thank you, Jesus, this sure is one MASSIVE gift!


It's been already three days since The Weekend and I still haven't written anything about it. Part of me doesn't know what to say, and part of me is afraid of getting too emotional when saying what I want to say.

But long story short - it pretty much ended up being a perfect birthday weekend. For me and S. and J. it contained a lot of good food and sightseeing and selfies in the Old Town, some tea and some good conversations, a lot of laughing and maybe a few tears, some roadtripping and some getting stuck on a muddy road in the middle of Southern Estonian nowhere, a decent sauna with jumping into cold water (they made me proud:) and some hilarious going-in-circles rowing on the same lake, pancakes on Sunday morning and an adrenaline shot in an adventure park, and then on Sunday afternoon a birthday lunch with a whole bunch of the bestest of friends.

But what touched me the most and what I still keep thinking about is something my cousin's five year old son said when we were at their summer house on Saturday. This little kid thought S. and J. were my brothers, like... literal brothers. And I think it's the sweetest thing I've ever heard. Me and S. talked about it yesterday and what S. said impressed him the most about it was the fact that there are children in this world who regard the race differences as nothing. And what touched me the deepest was the fact that he thought they were my actual family. It really melted my heart. And by Sunday afternoon when we had to leave their lovely place, S. and J. weren't only my brothers and thus their family too but they had risen to the status of heroes in this child's eyes. S. had become his "ninja brother" (his actual words) and J., who had played football with him, obviously became the greatest footballer ever lived. Because, according to my cousin's son, no-one had ever kicked the ball as high as J. did. We really left their place as members of their family. So if S. or J. would ever care to come back to this country, they'd sure have a place to stay in the far corner of South Estonia. No, not a place. They'd have their family waiting for them...

But I'm getting too sentimental now.

Here are some pictures from the weekend. Some are my own photos, some are S.'s.

Compulsory Old Town selfie.
The Times.

J. behind the mountain of pillows and blankets. 
With the statue of Kissing Students, Tartu
Little J. waiting for pancakes.
Sunday morning.


I don't know what has happened since I got back from Newbold three weeks ago but life has become so ridiculously busy I don't even have time to catch my breath and write here. It's kind of sad really. Because when I stop writing, at one point I start forgetting.

Last week I should have written about how I attended the theological committee of Estonian Council of Churches and spent a day with a bunch of old men from every possible denomination, discussing... well, theology. I didn't wear my pink blazer. But I liked it nevertheless. And I've really gotten used to being the only girl in the company.

And then I should have written about having an awesome birthday cake baked last weekend for my birthday (which actually isn't until next week) and eating it with good friends on a sunny and lazy Sunday morning. Bliss.

And I also should have talked about another one of Dr A. N.'s brilliant books I finished a few days ago (Chaim Potok's My Name Is Asher Lev. A genius book. Which forces the reader to think about tough life questions but which also made me realise I know next to nothing about Jews and Judaism).

And then I should have written about having turned into a sort of consultant of educational affairs to the conference. Over the last week or so my senior pastor has asked me to take over some projects concerning education. Which has made me very glad. And which promises even more and longer lecturing hours next academic year (whoop whoop!).

And I also should have written about not having time to do things properly which has led to some rather ridiculous attempts of doing things in unnatural contexts. For example, there was a point late yesterday evening when I was on the bus back to Tallinn after some important negotiations with the principle of the Baptist seminary when someone was watching a Russian soap opera without headphones just next to me (?!?!), and I was attempting to write my PhD proposal. Dear heavens. Some things ought to be done in the quietness of a book smelling library.

And I also should have written about a couple of guys who come to my office every now and then for Greek tutorials. Just this morning I got to wave my hands and talk about the Greek verb paradigm. Stuff like this makes me very happy somewhere deep inside.

All these things I should have written about.

But I'm trying to do better this coming weekend. I just dug my camera out of my closet so I intend to be armed with it the whole weekend. Maybe I'll even catch a moment or two with it. Because S. and J. are getting on a plane tomorrow morning in order to come over and help me cope with the fact that I'm turning old next week.

But none of it is complaining really. Because, you know, as John Mayer says, "the heart of life is good".  :)


We had a bigger health conference today in our church. And as I was sitting towards the back of the church hall in the middle of cords and headphones (simultaneous interpretation equipment - not fun), busy trying to follow the speaker, for a moment I saw an unfamiliar lady who sat in front of me turn around and look at me with a rather strange expression on her face. I barely took notice because the translating job had all my attention. And then I forgot about it.

Later during the lunch my auntie came to me and asked if I had already met my mother's friend from her high school days. No, I said. The name didn't ring any bells. How could I possibly know her? So my auntie took me by hand and brought me to - yes, of course - the same lady who had stared at me earlier for a brief moment. We introduced ourselves to each other and I was so glad to be able to sit down with someone who had known my mum in a special way long time ago - they had been very close friends during their studies. And what she said really moved me. She said that at one point during the conference she had heard a laughter behind her (I couldn't remember that) and as it sounded vaguely familiar she turned around... and as soon as she saw me, she was certain I had to be Marjam's daughter. We had never met before and yet she knew instantly. And even as we talked, she kept looking at me with a bit of surprise and marvel in her big round eyes and she teared up for a couple of times as we spoke, and she kept repeating me how much I resembled my mother.

She said she'd come and hear me preach tomorrow morning.

And I realised today that I'm slowly, very slowly coming to a point where the memory of my mum doesn't only bring back the shock of loss and the heavy burden of grief, but that there are a few moments, a few glimpses of pure joy when I can talk about her and when I can meet people who cared for her and knew her and loved her in a special way. And oh, people keep telling me what a wonderful woman she was. And it seems to me that it's not just out of politeness they say it but that they were actually touched by her life and faith and her character. And to be seen even just a little bit like her... for me, there is no greater compliment one could make.

And although I'm crying again, writing these words (it's been a long while since I've cried, thinking about her), there is a little bit of joy in my tears. Just a little bit. But that's quite enough.