Where God Guides…

Here is someone I want you to meet. And no it’s not another Etsy maven, or a fashionista from down the street, they are my friends Christiana and Phil Brande, and their Baby B (who is yet to B born 🙂 get it? )


They are 9 short days away from departing the US and heading over to Prague, to teach at the Christian School there. See, they are raising money for their trip, and believe that God will provide, because they are following his calling!


They are beautiful people who spent over 10 years living and spreading God’s word and love in Russia (my home country), that’s where Christiana and I met, when I was 14 or 15. I was a part of the group from the Wesleyan church that went to a camp for orphans organized by a team from the States. And she has an absolutely calming peaceful presence, but radiates happiness at the same time! And after talking to them today, I felt so inspired and encouraged, and once again amazed by how Great our God is! And how big our small world is!

I don’t know when I am going to see them again, but I will definitely be following their blog and you should to! And if God puts it on your heart to donate to their ministry then bless your heart!



Stories from my Closet: Bris Dress

Everyone, meet

Okay, it’s a London Times size 6 dress that I got at Housing Works Thrift Store on the Upper West Side at a huge sale. I can’t even remember how much it cost. All I remember are the changing rooms at that location, that reminded me of western saloons from old movies, and the fact that there was always more furniture, books and records, than clothes. I will always have fond memories of that place. And in all honesty, I think Housing Works is one of the most legit thrift stores in NYC.

This is also a dress I wore when I first went to a synagogue. To a bris ceremony.

I remember that day well. Having lived on the UWS for almost a year at that point, there were certain routine things I had to do. For example – sit in the car. Parking your vehicle in the streets of NYC is a form of art. And kudos to everyone who’s figured it out.I swear to G-d I still remember the street cleaning schedule, and when and where you could park your car on any day of the week. I remember that hump day, holidays and weekends were free passes, those were my favorites. Also any natural cataclysm, aka snow, freed you from having to move your car.

That’s what I did that morning, I sat in the car, reading a book, to two kids, who wanted nothing more, but to get out of that car. Then we got dressed, took a cab all the way to the East Side, and went to the bris.

The synagogue was surprisingly not that different from a catholic or an episcopal church. I don’t really know what I expected to see, but stained glass windows and menorahs, along with stars of David everywhere had a calming effect on me.

Unfortunately the ceremony was mostly in Hebrew, and I don’t speak that language, with an exception of a few well-known words and a Sabbath prayer.

Now it’s a well known fact that best cheese cake and dessert in general in NYC is at the synagogue. I don’t know where they get it, whether they raid Zabar’s on Monday morning before everyone else gets to it, or order from some secret dessert take out, it’s to die for. Here is a fun fact about me, I don’t necessarily like American desserts, French – yes, but that thick creamy icing rubs me the wrong way. But I will sell my soul for Jewish pastries, including challah bread.

And then there were bagels, mountains of them, and small mountains of cream cheese. Plus pizza, kosher pizza.

And then there was I in my thrifted dress, born again Christian at a synagogue, with just a chap stick and a flip phone in my pocket, wanting nothing more, but to be a part of the mystery, the religion, the act.

And now all I can hope for is for that boy to have a good Bar Mitzvah!

Shortly after we took a cab back to the Upper West Side, and I went back to my Upper West Side routine, never going back to the synagogue again.



PS. Stories from my Closet will be coming out every Friday on BeingZhenya now.



Saint George and His Ribbon

This ribbon has become almost a “must” on Victory Day. Well, I don’t have one, does this make me a bad Russian? I don’t think so! This morning I showed Sam the parade in Red Square. We also kind of laughed at who has more hair between Putin and Medvedev! At least everyone seemed happy, in spite of the hair factor, and some other matters! I am glad that ugly ice-rink was down!

Victory Day, or May,9 is one of the most important holidays in Russia, I guess this is the equivalent of Independence Day, except for the Moscow parade is impossible to get to and you can only watch it on TV! Unlike the US, you can go anywhere, as long as there is room on the side of the street. Also, in Russia no one throws you candy! But they show you the tanks, and other latest military equipment! How cool is that! And then it all ends up on YouTube and everyone can see what Russian military has in store!

But I am not here to talk about the “boasting” and the “showing off”, we all do that every once in a while. I am here to talk to you about Saint George!

The tradition tells us that Saint George was a Roman soldier and a priest! Catholics firmly believe in his existence, or should I say the fact that he lived on this earth back in the 3rd century AD. But they have some issues believing the stories about him. Especially the one about Saint George and the dragon. According to the story a dragon or a crocodile made its nest at the spring that provided water for the city of “Silene” in Libya or the city of Lydda in the Holy Land (depending on the source). Consequently, the citizens had to dislodge the dragon from its nest for a time, to collect water. To do so, each day they offered the dragon at first a sheep, and if no sheep could be found, then a maiden had to go instead of the sheep. The victim was chosen by drawing lots. One day, this happened to be the princess. The monarch begged for her life to be spared, but to no avail. She was offered to the dragon, but there appeared Saint George on his travels. He faced the dragon, protected himself with the sign of the cross, killed the dragon, and rescued the princess. The grateful citizens abandoned their ancestral paganism and converted to Christianity.

I love the paintings of Saint George, I think my favorite one is by Vassily Kandinsky

Here are some more paintings of this Saint. Pay attention to how the dragon changes size and form!

Saint George by Elena Kudryashova

Saint George on the Poklonnaya Hill in Moscow, Russia

Saint George by Natalya Brodskaya

Saint George by Paolo Uccello

Saint George by Katya Medvedeva

Saint George on the Coat of Arms of Russia

Saint George by Bellini

Saint George on the 10 kopek coin (Russian Currency)

So whether you are wearing the ribbon today or not, what matters is the attitude, the gratitude and the respect! Happy Victory day everyone!



Today is Palm Sunday, and, I have nothing against it, I am not one of those crazy environmentalists, “Save the Trees” and all that! I like palm Sunday, it’s about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, well you know the story!

I haven’t been to church for 3 months maybe, and I went today for the reasons that I am not going to mention, but people who know, well they approve of it! Why so long? or short? (depending on how often you go to church) I just didn’t want to. I don’t appreciate when people come up to you, hug you, tell you how good it is to see you, and when you say hi back, all you hear is – “Don’t yell in my ear!” Well don’t come up to me then, you don’t have to hug me, you don’t even have to like me! Please, if I am too loud – stay away. I am not forcing anyone into a relationship with myself. I also don’t appreciate childlike behavior, I don’t like talking to 20 some year olds who act like they are 13-14 and are just hitting puberty! I don’t like being thrown pillows at while I am trying to talk to a person I haven’t seen in months. There are many stories I can tell you, but maybe in a different post.

Today I felt extremely good, and relaxed, and that church started to resemble the one I grew up in, I felt like I went back in time. And it felt good! I really enjoyed every minute of it. I even felt the Holy Spirit. And it felt great. And when the people you grew up with don’t say hi back to you, even though you said hi to them first, well screw them! I can so live without you! Because out of many, there are true friends, there are honest, open people, who can be really happy for you. And I am grateful for those!


PS. I am not perfect, but I think I have finally learned to put all the Jewish BS away!