5.15.2017

Out-of-Station Feet

Yuck, right?

I swear, I bathe my children. And contrary to some ideas of our living arrangements, it's not a mud hut with dirt floors.

This is what it looks like to go out of station. In 'Merican language, that's to leave town (i.e. holiday, vacation, business trip).

We recently left our home for 5 days. When we left, everything was clean. The floors had just been mopped. Random chimney sweeps weren't traipsing through while we were gone. We returned to what-seemed-like-a-clean house. Yet, after just a few minutes of play my children's feet had turned black.

Here's the deal. We live in a dirty city. We leave our windows open while we are gone (so as not to return to a sauna). Dust comes in, settles and our feet pick it up. It's gross (let's not think about what we are breathing in shall we?). It's constant. And I feel like we constantly battle it.

In America, dusting was like a hobby I did when I wanted to reorganize the pictures and knick-knacks. Mop the floor....weekly-ish. Remove grime from the light switches and ceiling fans...when my mother-in-law visited. Scrub the inside of my sock drawer...never! But here...seriously, no place is safe from this dust. It's the most intrusive force to this house since Disney princess ballads.

My floors are marbled white. Once I scrubbed a stain with a new cleanser. After a few minutes, the stain was gone. I stood up, pleased...until I realized I now had a gleaming white spot in a mother-of-pearl house! I thought about putting a potted plant of that hideously clean spot...but alas, it was in the middle of our living room. I scrubbed the entire floor (this took several days and 3 bottles of cleanser). I was so proud of my shiny floor.

A week later grime had reclaimed it's off-white victory!

Yeah, so I might go get a pedicure next week. I know it won't even last as long as that shiny-clean-floor week. But it will be a whole lot more enjoyable to accomplish. Victory! 

3.23.2017

Pink-er Love

This past weekend I had the opportunity to speak on love at a women's conference. I followed two awesome ladies speaking on faith and hope. That was the theme:Faith, Hope and Love. 

Now, I was wishing it was something like: Faith, Hope and Justification. Or Faith, Hope and The Reasons Why We Tithe. 

I didn't want to speak on the love. I'm more of a black-and-white thinker. Love is so...pink. It’s too sappy.  Too women's-conference-y. 

But, of course, this is exactly the thing I needed to teach on because it is exactly the thing I need to learn. God has been working in me. Loving me. And I hope this talk is an expression of all of that. It's certainly not exhaustive and probably not all that well-written (my outline, to my talk, to my blog...yikes), but thinking through has sparked a pinker (!?), more genuine love in me for Jesus and others. 



Our Love for Christ
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)

How do you respond to this statement? If you are a non-believer, well, you don’t love Jesus.That's pretty simple. You don't and you can't until He changes your heart. 

If you are a believer and He has changed your heart you may respond like:
1.       I do? Really?
You are not sure. You doubt. You might be hurt or feel like you have nothing to give. Scripture’s saying this about you and you’re like, “What? Really?”
Here's God's response: God patiently waits for you and works in you, in your doubt and hurt and hesitancy. Do you see hope? You see Him “not now” but later! This is sure faith and a love based on that hope! This is more than arranged marriage, growing to love someone. This is supernatural love in you, by the Spirit.
2.       I do! Hasn’t He noticed?
You are proud. You are entitled. You are falsely humble and deceived.
I’ve been there too. You may be there now too, like the elder brother (Luke 15). You say and think “I love God and work for Him and this is the thanks I get?” or “Where’s my best life now?” or it’s an indifferent “huh…yep.. got this.”
We have to see that this is His work. Even love is something we can’t muster up. “Joy filled with glory”…only God can do that.
3.    I do.
You don’t exactly know why or how, but you love Him. It’s like a new realization each time. There's a scene in “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days” when the girl realizes she loves the guy. Ok, this is just about every rom-com, but either way, it's a "Yeah, I do..." taking the person by surprise. 
This is a mystery based on a solid promise to rest in, to hope in, to humble ourselves in. It’s a mystery even angels long to look into.



God’s love for us
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13:4-13)

This is perfect love. Only God has this. God is love. Some of us will react like we talked about earlier: scared, fearful, doubtful anyone (esp God) can love you. OR you know it, you expect it. You feel lovable. This love doesn’t blow you away. It’s OLD news.
By grace, we need to see God’s love for us anew. Be gripped by it. Come into the light of it. And to not just jot take-aways or resolve to love better….until and while we are startled by this. Blown away and held by it.

God is patient: not foot-tapping. Not just tolerating you and all your quirks and flaws and failures. He doesn't sigh and roll His eyes. He disciplines in loves, continues to give good things and call you back to Him.
Kind: God gives you what is best for you, whether you think so or not. Have you ever thought about if He wasn't kind? What if God is all-powerful (can do anything), all-knowing (knows everything about what you need and every inner dark thought) but not loving? You'd be squished! God would be in control of your life and know all your dark secrets but have no loving kindness toward you! That is not a God I want, nor is it the God of the Bible.  
Bears all things: On the cross Jesus bore your sin IN His body. Every offense, unloving, middle finger, passive indifference. It is paid for on the cross. This is love that He who knew no sin became sin for us...Jesus didn't deserve death but died in our place. 
Believes all things/hopes/endures: This is based on the sure work of Christ at that cross. This isn’t like your mom really "believing in you" (which is great and all) or some inspirational quote. This is beauty in our brokenness. Rugged reality. God loves you without end. His love never fails. His love will bring you to Heaven and eternal joy. 

If you can’t believe God love you, He believes for you. Still loves you. He doesn’t need you, but He wants you.



Our love for each other

Let’s not leave the good news of the gospel, the blow-you-away power of God's love and work He is doing in your hearts to love Him; but let's build on it, with it, through it. How can we love one another as women in community?

Can we be patient with each other? As we fail, have annoying quirks, are immature, are slow to change? Not just tolerate each other. Can we communicate hope (again and again!)? Can we patiently actively love by showing our openness, our own failures, being transparent but also speak truth, speak Jesus?

Can we be kind? Can we interrupt the status quo of back biting or claiming sides or bitterness or defending ourselves? Can you genuinely love the girl who’s dating and you are not? Can you encourage the mom whose kids annoy you? Can you build up the one who gossips about you? Not just gloss over it. No silent treatment for manipulation. Can we be generous with our time, our gifts, our money and credit?

Can we applaud and thank God for others using their gifts? Not envy the woman who gets to be up front? Who everyone seems to want to hang out with? Who doesn’t seem to struggle with all the crap you are dealing with? Can we not envy another’s season of life…married, kids, older kids, a husband like that, more money, etc?

Can we boast about others rather than ourselves? Talk about what God has done and is doing rather than what we are?

Can we serve humbly? Without credit or applause. Can we do nursery and children's church? Sing 3rd part harmony? Host people for dinner?

Can we seek wisdom, pray and discern God’s calling…asking in true humility, rather than insisting on our own way? Even when it makes no sense to us, can we submit to God’s authority in our lives? (elders, fathers, husbands, bosses) And can we encourage women to do so, to not tear down men in general and foster respect for men specifically?

Can we forgive those who hurt us? Can we stop assuming everyone is out to get us? Let things slide off our backs (onto Christ).

The answer to all these questions is no. No we can't unless God works in us and through us. He is at work in His people. He lovingly works in our hearts to love Him and others because it's the best thing for us. It's what we were made for.  We can't do this, but God can and He will. Let us pray we are instruments in His hands. 


2.21.2017

My Laundry Room

Freshly scrubbed Crocs in my sink. These are basically the only shoes
my kids wear. They are both awesome and disgusting. 
I think you can tell a lot about a person's daily life by what's in her laundry room. Swim moms have gobs of towels, soccer moms have dirt clumps from the cleats, empty-nesters always seem to have collared shirts hanging to dry (maybe the slower pace of laundry lets them give the dryer a rest). When I was single, my roommate and I let our jeans hang to dry, as to not let them shrink. But somehow that didn't work because I no longer fit into those jeans of my twenties. Hmmm.





So, here's the meat of this blog post: Do you want to see inside my laundry room? 

I actually didn't take a picture of the obvious parts. So, let me fill that in first. I have a washer. It's capacity is exactly one pair of jeans, 2 shirts and five pairs of (children-size) underwear. Maybe a pair of socks if you wanted to live dangerously.


Plants and princesses (and I think that's Manuel, our Little People contractor)!
The girls each picked a plant for the room (added perk of outdoor laundry).
The princesses (and Manuel) had been playing in the bath with a certain two-year-old
who...well, did something in the bath which meant the toys needed another
bath (with bleach this time). Ahem. 



















I do not have a dryer. And, I'm gonna be honest here, I'm OK with it. We have a few balconies rigged for air drying. It's hot here, so stuff dries fast. And, there ain't no room. Joanna Gaines cannot find an inch of space (or shiplap) on my balcony. No redesign could make this work.

Coconuts! These are "tender coconuts" for drinking.
Except, one small detail: you have to open them with
a machete. I have no machete. So, when donated
coconuts come to my door (from our building's tree)
I put them in the laundry room and think wistfully about
machete-bearing people showing up to help....well,
not too wistfully. 


Oh, yes, I did say balcony. My laundry room is not so much a room (like with walls and stuff) but a balcony (with monkey bars and stuff). At first I thought this was barbaric...keeping the poor washing machine outdoors, indeed! But, then, it's never complained...except to overflow a few times (which made me glad it was outside). Why not spend a few minutes in the fresh (diesel fumes/burning trash) air to reflect as you load your washer?
















I have a sink! (No, it doesn't have hot water...let's not get crazy) This is a big deal, I know, because people pay big money to have redesigned laundry rooms with a sink...for accidentally dropping your detergent in and stuff. I have to say I don't use it much aside from Croc-washing.

Now you can rest easy. You have seen my laundry room. You probably know me a little better now. Until you read my next blog-post...about my box of mushrooms I'm growing out there now. I'm just trying to keep you on your toes.





2.07.2017

Travel Bingo

We recently received this awesome care package. If you have ever wondered what's in an awesome care package, here are a few gems of awesomeness: books on cd, books not on cd, one of those reusable sticker princess scene things that end up with reusable stickers stuck to my foot (but I really do love them), matching t-shirts for my girls, wooden magnetic bagel tongs...yes, and travel bingo cards. 

Travel bingo cards. They give you things to spot as you drive. "Dump truck! Stop light!" Thought we'd give 'em a go on our way to church. 

Things I didn't account for in our travel bingo expedition: 
1) Living in a congested city of 10 billion. 
2) The immediately obvious cultural differences.
3) Incredibly observant kids.

Overlooking these three things meant the bingo game didn't last much past a few city blocks and most of our car-time was travel-cultural-diversity conversation. From the backseat we heard a happy chorus of "Car! Motorcycle! Another Motorcycle! Cow! Baby Cow! Street Dog! Bingo! Another Bingo! No, I got a bingo too!" and then "What's this sign with the deer on it?" "Do we have stop signs here?" "Oh! There's a church on mine! I'll wait till we get to our church and then I'll have a bingo!"
We had to make some amendments to our cards. I'm wondering if I can publish this for all those children just itching to get 5 in a row. 

Here's my cultural/city adaptation:
Car = car with at least 7 people in it.
Cow = cow...easy one!
Horse = horse-drawn cart
Traffic Cone = tree branch sticking out of a pot hole (it's a warning people!...or maybe a branch just is in a hole?)
Tree = tree with no trash around it
Dump Truck = dump truck full of people
Deer Crossing Sign = actual herd of goats crossing road (although I did see a jaguar crossing sign once)
Stop sign = jay walker
Bus = bus that has working brake lights
Dog (peering happily out a car window) = street dog sleeping
Fire Hydrant = fire...also, fairly easy one
Motorcycle = motorcycle with family of 5 or 3 men (bonus points for carrying something odd like a car hood or 10 foot sugar cane)
and my favorite...albeit another easy one
Port-a-potty = guy peeing in public

BINGO!

11.21.2016

Demonetization: The financial crisis you haven't heard of

Never thought I'd write a post with this title!


The financial crisis that most of you have never heard of is going on right now in this country of 1.3 billion people. It's a move to root out "black money": tax evaders and bribes. I won't comment on the politics or financial reasons behind this. But I will tell you what I see.

The night after my home country's election, my other-home country's Prime Minister announced that from tonight the two most-used bills will no longer be legal tender. 500s and 1000s (roughly $10 and $20) were to be no longer taken at any place of business.

And by the way, the ATMs and banks will be closed for the next two days.

And by the way, this is a cash-based economy.

And by the way, there are 1.3 billion people.


So, Friday comes. The banks open and they run out of cash. ATMs are not restocked with the new bills. People wait hours to simply exchange money or withdraw from their accounts. The newspaper reports on the daily deaths occurring in ATM lines.

The autos mostly sit empty. Fruit vendors disappear from the streets. Our building watchmen cannot buy their daily groceries because their cash is now useless.

Some, like us, have credit cards. And while it is inconvenient to find a place that takes a foreign card, we can still buy food. Many do not have this luxury...and how I forget it's a luxury! Over 40% of this country do not have bank accounts, let alone Visas or Mastercards.

The demonetization of these cash notes threw (is throwing!) our economy into a whirlwind. We are figuring it out. We are readjusting. This country is resilient if nothing else.

The uncertainty is constantly hitting us here. I know, I know...everyone was surprised by the election. And that Clemson lost a football game. (Ok, that was just me.) I'm not trying to say we have it worse, but I see people that do. I am face to face with them, buying tomatoes and onions for them with my credit card, wishing I had cash to support their business, standing in line with them for temporary security. 

10.20.2016

What It Feels Like

If you have read my last four posts, you'll know I have taken on the small (yet challenging) project of relating what it is like here through our five senses. It was Lydia's idea. I'm sure she didn't know how cathartic this would be. Especially this one: the sense of touch. Forgive me, dear blog-reader, but I'm going to have to go a bit metaphorical here.

What does it feel like here, to live here? I fear I may not be skilled enough to detect it, explain it and make it interesting. Who could? Marilyn Robinson? In a way that would have you weeping and rejoicing over what seemed like just words. Ann Voskamp? Emphatically poetic and raw and without proper punctuation. The Pioneer Woman? With step-by-step pictures and self-deprecation and Rotel-void desperation.

I am none of these women. So, here in a completion of my daughter's challenge, I'll tell you how it feels here. How I feel. 

I feel like I am part of something (a people, a country, a community) but never really fitting in.

I feel proud to be where I'm from, patriotic even. I also feel ashamed of my country, the (usually right) stereotypes and things we take for granted.

I feel despair and I feel hope. For my friends, for this country and for myself.

I feel lonely and isolated.

I feel loved.

I feel frustrated and impatient. I feel entitled.

I feel busy and purposeful, but also caught in a cycle sometimes. Overwhelmed and sometimes under-whelmed.

I feel normal. Like a normal house-wife, an ordinary mom.

I feel everything is different and to explain the difference is exhausting and difficult.

I feel grace working in me and through me. I feel God's assurance and peace and power all right here.


10.06.2016

A Taste of "Home"

Three senses down, two to go. Now I've got the job of a Food Network host: conveying taste through media.

So many people have had "curry" (at some ethnic food fair), "chai" (at Starbucks) and "naan" (reheated from a package at Publix). Some even LOVE this country's food. They've tried butter chicken....and uh, "some other saucy thing" with rice. I'm not looking down from my elitist foodie knowledge here. I'm trying to say what we taste of a culture may not be authentic or even the best sampling of what a place as diverse as this has to offer. And it's certainly not comprehensive.

Neither is this blog post...because neither is my knowledge, my palette or even my food-adventure-spirit. Mine is more of a don't-get-sick, it's-probably-too-spicy, but-i'll-try-a-bite-if-you-offer-it mentality. I know you can tell so much about a culture by its food; and maybe so much about a food by its culture. I'm still a very early student of both here. Yet, a girl's gotta eat. So, here are my elementary culinary findings.

The trinity seems to be onion, tomato and coriander (cilantro). Add in cardamom and cinnamon and ginger-garlic paste for the next level of flavor. Mustard seed joins most parties, though I don't think I notice. Of course curry leaf...not curry powder, mind you, but fresh green leaves. Mint is there for savory dishes, but not delicately...and giving chutney a green color. I love when coconut milk is used, and I won't say I mind generous portions of ghee and salt. So much is fried. Vegetables are cooked to an unrecognizable orange-ish gravy. Potatoes are usually yellowed with turmeric. Rice is always (ALWAYS!) better than any rice I have ever made, eaten or seen in any other non-Asian country. And, by the way, it's always there. So much rice. Coffee is instant and sweet (yuck!) and chai is nothing like that mix you get at Christmas....no vanilla, no cinnamon...spiced with ginger and cardamom.

This place is full of good food, complex with levels of flavor. There is something about fresh ingredients, local specialties and people that just know how to cook! Yes, a lot is spicy. Some has made me sick. And I don't venture out too much. But even this limited category added to my menu has probably made me a food snob (in this category!) forever. 

9.18.2016

What it Smells Like Here

I bet you are wondering two things:
1. What does it really smell like here? and
2. How am I going to blog about that?

I'll start with an answer to the latter.

Ahem. I have no idea.

But here I am on my self-imposed journey conveying of this place and life here via the five senses. Joyfully on the journey. It is a rather freeing thing writing because I like to and not because I have to. I'm up for the challenge. If I succeed, we may never have another visitor here again. And even if I fail, I don't think that changes most of your plans.

So imagine the smell of nothing, like just ordinary odorless wind and the laundry-detergent you are so used to you can't really detect it.It's probably what you are smelling now.  Got it? Ok, now add to that smell-less-ness this:

 and a little of this...but closer to your nose.

See, I had pictures. But now, because I frankly do not want to go around my house snapping pictures of household things and then out in the streets again (I just exchanged my kurta and jeans for t-shirt and shorts...I'm staying in!), you'll have to imagine without visuals.

Ok, so we have the garbage...rotting in piles, eaten by cows. Add jasmine flowers women wear in their hair, glycerin soap, all the spices (cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, mustard seed). Plus the almost-fermented smell of dal and rice, the sweet smell of chai, the heavy lingering cooking oil. Mix with dust, diesel fumes and every so often cigarettes. Then, particular to my nose: crayons, baby shampoo, tide and coffee. One friend's house smells like her fabric softener, another's like wood from the table her husband built, another's always of floor cleaner and metal pots on the stove.

It's truly an assault on the senses. And they say your sense of smell is the strongest link to memory. I can look ahead to one day if and when we leave here....I'll have so many smells to remind me of this season's home. 

9.10.2016

What it Looks Like

Forgive me, dear reader. I have not posted in some time. I went to Bali for a week. The kids got sick and sick again. Brian got worms. You know...life. Anyways, before we begin, here's Bali:

Take a moment....

Forgive me, again dear reader. I am not a photographer, neither artsy or skilled in this area. But to forge the way in my feeble series of the five senses, I must show you what it looks like here. Caveats: 1) the above disclaimer, 2) this is only my city, the everyday life and 3) most pictures shot on an iPhone...nothing like the advertisements.

I see cows and parrots. I see dirt and potholes and piles of trash. I see the most beautiful flowers and fruit. I see people...all the time.


 The streets are not the best...




But you can get away with just about anything on them.




I find the oddest things (these guys were next to where I bought my coffee pot).



Some genius made a coffee table book of people carrying strange things on motorcycles. I could have added a couple of volumes, but I forget to take pictures....or I'm driving carefully around the loaded bikes.



 But most of what I see looks like this. It's a pretty good view. 


What I see, more than these pictures can convey is the beauty of God's creation tainted with our destructive-rebelling against Him. I see color and dirt. I see creativity and joy, despair and filth.

If we could pray for eyes to see what God sees, not just the beauty in the brokenness...but the redemption to come, His kingdom breaking through, what a glorious sight that would be. Better than any billboard or Bali vacation. Oh, grace my eyes!

8.14.2016

What it Sounds Like Here [or "blahBEEPpsshtOMahhhhhhh"]

How do you convey sound through a blog post?

No, stop. That was a rhetorical question. I'm sure there is some audio link fancy thing I could put here. But why? Why go through all that if you could have me, an expert hearer-of-things-here, explain it to you?

This whole thing was Lydia's idea. While in the States, we had a few opportunities to share "What it's like" here with school-age kids. Lydia, being an expert school-age-kid, suggested we use our five senses. It was a big hit! If you get kids making crazy noises (cow, pressure cooker!) and tasting spicy chickpeas you are sure to have a (semi) captive audience for at least 7 minutes.

You, dear reader, are not a school-age-kid (I think) and thus I will not keep you for 7 minutes. Here's, to the best of my typing ability, what it sounds like here. You could probably get this read in a minute. Three if you try out all the sounds as you go.

Think in layers.

People. Talking in different languages. One sounds like "blblblBLAHblblb" and another I'm learning so I pick up a few words "blah blah blah A HOUSE blah blah hai". And English...so much English and so different (still) to my ears.

Cars. BEEP! (The horn is a non-negotiable here). beep. beep. beeeeeeeep. A car alarm, "weeooweeoo". Trucks rumbling over potholes. The grinding go-cart motors of auto-rickshaws. A musical backing-up sound (some cars have this feature when you put them in reverse)....my washing machine has the same tune when the cycle is over. A constant hum of traffic.

Pressure Cookers. PSSSSSSHHHHHHT. (repeat) Always at 5:45 am followed by an incessant search for the right pot: clang, bang, clang. Scraping of metal plates.

Worship. Chanting...a low repetitive hum. The call to prayer...a lyrical loud-speaker song. Drums. Bollywood music...always a nasal-voiced woman singer.

"The wake-up bird".....oooooo-oooooo-eeee-e-e-e. He's actually an Asian Koel who lives in the mango tree 3 inches from our bedroom windows. Please google his mating call. You'll get why we gave him this nick-name. Parrots make a squeaky toy noise. Pigeons. CoooCooo.

So, that's the usual. It's a noisy city and our windows are always open. But it's really not that bad. You get used to it and pretty soon I am off to sleep with the sounds of here...for at least 7 minutes.


8.02.2016

Small (open) Hands: Crafts to Masala Chana

You might have been a part of this.

Lydia and Molly's "store" was traveling, ever-growing, and relentlessly-marketed by girls hard to say no to.

They made crayons, bead necklaces, intricate (and sometimes not-so-intricate) drawings, pot holders and binder clips. Basically, anything you needed.

Lydia and Molly decided these crafts would be for sale. They came to me with several petitions. Here's their final accepted proposal:
 1. They could not set the prices. Patrons could pay what they want. ("But, if someone offers like a nickel on my pot holder, I might wait a little bit until they give at least a dollar. I mean, I worked really hard on this Mommy.")
 2. All the money was to go to "poor people in India."

I was OK with my children badgering friends, house guests and total strangers for money as long as they stuck to the original covenant. They wholeheartedly did. In the end, they raised over $80. And what plans they had for this money! Half went straight to our friend Neetu who does a school program for children in the slums. She bought notebooks for 100 children.

The other half was spent on food for beggars. We encounter beggars daily. We try to keep bags of rice or non-perishable snacks in the car and stroller to hand out. It's amazing what $40 can buy in a country with so many foods packaged in 10 rupee (15 cents) bags. Here they are ready to pack individual bags of oatmeal, chips, rice and chana (chick peas) into our car and stroller boxes. The girls love handing food out and saying "God bless you" to the poor.

What a joy to see their hard work become a blessing to our community. Oh, let me be so generous as these little hearts and open as these small hands!

Out-of-Station Feet

Yuck, right? I swear, I bathe my children. And contrary to some ideas of our living arrangements, it's not a mud hut with dirt floo...