I remember a late night conversation with one of my cousins, a conversation which turned out to be unexpectedly deep. "I've thought about what I want to remember and what I want to take with me in life," she said, "and I've come to the conclusion that most of all I want to collect memories." I thought it was a really nice thing to say and a really nice thing to wish. To collect memories...

I was thinking about this just yesterday and this morning I happened to read Annie Dillard's essay that went so well with that idea. Dillard talks about her childhood and how she used to take some pennies and leave them on the sidewalk for someone to find them. She drew arrows with chalk that led to the pennies. The idea of an unexpected surprise that was waiting for someone excited her. And then she continues, "There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from some generous hand. But - and this is the point - who gets excited by a mere penny? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so hungry and tired that he won't stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get."

And I think this is what I have been doing these past four days. Collecting pennies. They aren't worth a fortune, at least not separately, but by picking those little pennies someone's generous hand has cast on my way, I can, in my own poverty, buy a lifetime of days. During these days spent here in Pärnu I have indeed stooped to pick up every little penny and every little memory that has come my way. I leave today to the next leg of my trip with a lot of little memories in my heart that will tinkle for a long while still.

I have met up with some good friends who happen to spend a shorter or a longer part of their summer here in Pärnu. It was very kind of A. and I. and K. to invite me over to their place for some pizza and sauna and conversation. Good friends keep us grounded, they keep us sane and they keep us loved. I am very grateful for such friendships. Another penny is the sea - and I have faithfully gone swimming every day, no matter the weather. Every time I feel the warmth of the water, the strength of the waves, the sand beneath my feet and the wind in my face, I am grateful to the Almighty for the ability to sense things physically. Morning walks in the seaside park - yet another penny. The sparrows who want to eat my cake as much as I do and who keep me entertained the whole time spent in my favourite cafe - isn't that a penny too? An hour long conversation about theology with my dad in a fancy restaurant we've just discovered. The freedom to leave my phone and my wristwatch home when heading to the beach. Eating strawberries. Watching tiny Iceland win an epic football battle and yelling my head off in relief with the final whistle - even this I counts as a penny worth picking up. :) The freedom not to open my work e-mail. Books. Sun. Rain.

That's a lot of pennies!



I woke up early this morning, packed two weeks worth of clothes and books in my suitcase, threw in also my running shoes and bikinis and left the city for two weeks of vacation. I was careful not to take my laptop with me, I buried it in my drawer in the church office. I have yet to figure out how to make my email account send automatic holiday replies to people who dare to write me. I'll figure it out alright.

I have decided to start my Eat Pray Love trip of this summer from Pärnu. Vacations here are now very different from the summers I enjoyed here when I came from Newbold and had two and a half months of unlimited freedom, when I could wander to the local library and decide on a whim to read the whole of The Lord of the Rings and then lie two weeks out in the sun in the backyard reading, occasionally popping by the kitchen to find out what mom was preparing for lunch. Life is different now. Time is much more limited. Joy doesn't just lie around the house but comes with more effort. There are more things to remember now, and more things to forget. But the moments of life are precious all the same.

I am trying to maintain a healthy balance between activity and inactivity during these weeks. We have become so busy in our lives we unknowingly take this busyness with us to our vacations too, cramming every day and every moment with something, a place, a trip, a family get-together. By the end of such a vacation one is so tired a second vacation is needed to sleep off all this holiday busyness. I try to avoid this. And yet, there is a list of people in my head I wish I could meet, and a list of places to go. First of all, as soon as I am done writing this, I need to go and check if the sea and the beach are still where I left them the last time I was here in Pärnu. Then I want to go and sit alone at my mom's grave in Türi without anyone bothering me for a long time. I need to go and light a candle in St John's church in Tartu, sit in the pew and thank the Almighty for the past three years and for what He's let me do in the church (it's a promise I made before the conference session but I was unable to find time for it). And if there's a cherry on the cake for me, I want to sit in the sauna at my cousin's summer house until I can't sit there no more and swim in their lake until I can't swim no more. Only then I think I am ready to return to Tallinn and to the never ceasing pile of obligations.


The last two weeks have been as ordinary and extraordinary as any other fortnight. I could almost cram everything into one sentence: I've marked exams, I've written sermons, I've raked hay and peeled potatoes in our conference's new camp site, I've watched the guy I studied the Bible with last winter get baptised, I've accompanied K. on a shopping trip, I've watched football, I've read two great books, I've agreed to take on a museum/exhibition challenge proposed by Dr. A. N., I've seen a psychiatrist (who declared me sane and healthy), I've booked plane tickets to a preaching trip in Norway. Oh, and I think I managed to get my first theological article published. But one thing I wasn't able to do over these weeks though. I wasn't able do make up my mind about being in love or not being in love. It's a decision I'm quite relaxed about as a) I'm in no hurry and b) even if I make up my mind about it, no-one gives a damn.


This morning on a bus I started reading my 15th book of this year - Annie Dillard's The Abundance. She makes magic with words.


It's been too long since the last time I posted any music. Here's Jack Savoretti and his Catapult. Have you ever heard a song more beautiful than this?


It's time to share some emotions from last weekend.

The anxiety started to build up sometime in the beginning of the last week. It started with rather serious sleeping problems which for me equals a disaster - if there's anyone who needs 8+ hours of sleep every night, it's me. It's difficult to say what exactly caused it but I think I worried about the upcoming conference session a bit more than I was willing to admit to myself. The number of obligations I had agreed to take on for that weekend also added their share of stress. On Friday morning when the session started in Tartu I wasn't exactly feeling well but despite that the day was good and productive and the session actually very nice. Looking around in the church hall one could tell there was a serious generational shift happening. Many of the delegates from different churches were young people. And the conference leadership wasn't exactly old either. So the atmosphere was serious and yet enjoyable. I thought I. did a brilliant job leading the session. Later my dad told me this might have been the best conference session we've had in Estonia for a long long time. And he's attended a number of them.

I preached on Friday evening service, participated in the Sabbath school discussion on Saturday morning and sang in the choir. We had rented a big concert hall for the whole of Saturday so all church members who wished could come and join in the session's celebration. It was great seeing so many people coming together and enjoying the preaching and the music and fellowship. The only thing was that my anxiety got worse and worse, by Saturday I wasn't eating properly any more and I started having troubles with my sense of balance. It was as if a big dark cloud was starting to gather above my head. At one point I realised I was going to have an anxiety attack, the only question was where and when and how. And sure enough, it happened. My dad was sitting backstage in the afternoon, waiting for his rehearsal time for the evening concert and I was just hanging there, feeling terrible, when the attack came. Fortunately not many people saw it but what was even better, the right people sort of happened to be there. At one moment I just found myself sitting in the dark backstage corner, crying and shaking uncontrollably - it must have been the worst anxiety attack I've had for many months, if not longer. Of all people H., bless her, happened to be there. She sat with me for a long time and held me and talked to me and reminded me I needed to breathe, she gave me tissues and water and candies which tasted like sugar. The cloud disappeared slowly. By the time the evening concert started, I was back on my feet. I didn't dare to wear high heels because my balance problem hadn't got any better, but at least I was able to stand and attend the concert and sing my dad's songs with the rest of the choir, and enjoy being part of this weird thing we call church. I sensed very strongly that I had once again been saved (or at least my sanity had been saved) by those wonderful people God has blessed me with. Without them... No. I don't want to think about that.

Sunday morning came again with sleeplessness but the day went by so quickly I didn't even have time to start worrying about the things that had been worrying me for some time now. The committees were elected and they did their job well and without interruptions. After the lunch the most important part of the election was over. I. was re-elected as the conference president. If it hadn't been inappropriate, I would have done a little happy dance right then and there. The relief was huge! The committee went back and although at one point it seemed like they were never going to leave the committee room again, by the evening the new conference board and the departmental leaders were in place and confirmed. The conference session was closed, our job was done.

So here are the decisions that affect me. I was re-elected to lead the department of education and the department of personal ministries. In addition to this, I was elected to lead the department of Sabbath school. Plus I was elected a member of the conference board. The Sabbath school thing I was secretly hoping for but the conference board thing came as a total surprise. Now I am waiting for the first conference board meeting which will hopefully decide about my role on the local church level. Because obviously, when new obligations are added, some old ones need to be taken away... This is what I was hoping for in my heart but didn't even dare to say out loud. I cannot even begin to describe the relief and joy and gratitude and excitement that fill my heart right now. This can only be God's doing.

As to today, I've taken a day off. I've slept a lot and have taken a long walk on the sea side. I'm still not doing well when it comes to eating properly but I'm feeling much better. Nevertheless, do say a prayer for me.

What a weekend. Heavens.

The session has begun. Voting is taking place.
I love preaching.
The Sabbath school discussion.
The evening concert. I'm somewhere in the choir. The worst is over.
On Sunday evening with the new conference board.