‘Tis the Season

I’ve avoided blogging about our first Christmas season in India up until now. I’ve honestly not really wanted to talk about it. I’ve more or less taken the approach of “if you don’t say it, it’s not true!” Maybe it was the three emotional breakdowns I had in three days because of the constant jackhammering outside our bedroom window when I was trying to sleep. Or maybe it was because we didn’t find a Christmas tree until December 10th. And then when we did, PK broke it trying to put it together. (He ended up fixing it, but not before there were a few tears shed.) Maybe it was the horrible head cold I woke up with on Christmas Day. Or maybe it was because of the lack of Christmas lights everywhere, the lack of cold weather, the fact that they were selling fruit cakes everywhere instead of Christmas candy. I’m sure it’s a mix of all of these things, but nonetheless, I guess I’m ready to talk about it.

Christmas was weird this year. But we also both identified with Advent more than ever before. We were able to observe and reflect on the longing for Jesus. The need for a Savior. It’s a little bit easier to reflect on your own need for Jesus when all is not calm, and all is not bright. When your heart resonates so deeply with words like “a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices” rather than “there’s no place like home for the holidays”. That set the tone for the holiday season — a thrill of hope, MY weary soul rejoices. We reflected a lot and read verses and I journaled a lot about how weird it felt to be here instead of home, how tired i was, how sick of being sick i was and how thankful I am that because of that night, so long ago, I have hope. A hope beyond all compare. And every day, i made the decision to choose joy. I didn’t always succeed, but I chose it. I chose it and I claimed it. And i celebrated hope and joy even in the midst of my weariness.

So Christmas was weird, but there were also some awesome moments. There was going to the boys school to see their Christmas program that they had been working so hard on. There was my language helper doing mehandi (henna) and cutting my hair for Christmas. There was Christmas Eve, celebrating with our new HOL family and seeing the joy on the kids faces when we gave them their gifts. There was the Christmas program that PK and I directed, which was equal parts hilarious and awesome. And there was the time I had the girls over to make and decorate sugar cookies. There was Preston waking up early to fix the Christmas tree to have it fixed and put together before I woke up. And there was our first Christmas just the two of us and eating hamburgers at Chili’s on Christmas Day. There was skyping with both of our families on Christmas Day, even opening presents with mine. And there’s the 2 12 packs of Dr. Pepper that my mom managed to get all the way from Houston to Kolkata for us to open on Christmas Day. And there was a deeper understanding of Advent and why it is important and thankfulness for who Jesus is and why he came.

And now, we’re gearing up for 2014. Celebrating all that 2013 has been and anticipating the newness and greatness that will come with our first full year in India.

Happy New Year!

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on learning to feed my soul

I don’t think I ever realized how easy feeding my soul was in the states. If I was having a bad day, a day where seeing the goodness of people was hard, I could pick up the phone and call my mom. Or any number of people, really. I could use my mornings off from work to have a good conversation with one of my best friends, the women who anchor me and hold my arms up when I can’t hold them myself. I could take my dog to the dog park, stopping at Starbucks on the way. I could lay by the pool with a good book, listen to music that resonates with my heart at times that I could not find my own words. I was able to go to a church every Sunday and sing songs that reflect both the joy and the doubt of my own heart. Songs that talk about the tension and how good the Lord is. I went to community group every Tuesday where I got to do life with a bunch of people whose honesty and openness was challenging and life-giving. I got to hang out with an awesome 2 year old two days a week whose joy and fun personality made life not seem as hard. And even though I worked in a high-stress environment, I worked with a bunch of women who inspired me and were so much fun to be around.

But here, things are different. It’s a lot harder to feed my soul. I can’t drive through Starbucks or play with my dog after a long day. I don’t get to have coffee with my anchors whenever I want to. Church is way different here and life here is so chaotic, it’s hard to truly rest. So, I’m learning what I need to do to feed my soul. I’m learning new ways to keep myself grounded in the Lord. I’m learning more about who I am and how I function. I’m learning to be resilient and I am learning how to find a deeper reliance on the Lord. I’m learning about the wilderness and what it means to walk through this season joyfully.

I’m learning that I need to read words regularly that challenge me, that encourage me, that are written by people who don’t have it all together. I need to hear people’s stories of the Lord’s faithfulness, of His goodness in the midst of suffering. I’m learning to feed my soul by listening to music that touches my spirit, that encourages me and takes me to a place of understanding, music that I can relate to. Music filled with doubt and hope and grace. I’m also learning that I need to give myself a break, that my life can’t be all learning Hindi and making English lessons and everything else. I also need to create. Whether it’s another decorating project or knitting or reading (the amazon gift cards my mom has been sending are a life saver) or my newest hobby — baking (I know, no one is more surprised than I am). I need to be doing something other than studying. And I need to be able to have good conversations. Conversations that are unrelated to life here and ministry, but I also need to have conversations about that too. I need to be able to talk openly about what we’re experiencing here and what we’re walking through.

My soul is the same, no matter where I am. But I am learning new ways to ensure that I do not become weary. That I fully rest in who the Lord is and all that He is doing. I am learning to embrace our life here and finding ways to lean into the ways that it is hard. And there are days that I do this well. That I conquer the difficulty of daily life. And then there are days that my knees buckle underneath me and I get tossed around. But I am thankful that The Lord is the same. On my bad days, on my good days and all the days in between.

change is happening.

I recently saw this awesome list of the “28 Most Iconic Feminist Moments of 2013.”  Ya’ll. THREE of these moments were from India! This is a huge deal. There is a conversation going on worldwide about women’s rights and it is a good thing. These conversations are not only happening in Western countries but they are happening in places like India, where every 22 minutes a woman is raped and where the gender ratio is 914 girls to 1000 boys (in the age group 0-6), which means that for every 1000 boys, there are 60-70 girls who were killed before or within 6 years of birth. UNICEF estimates that there are 50 million girls missing from India’s population due to female infanticide and sex selective abortions. To put 50 million into perspective… that’s the entire populations of Texas, Louisiana and Florida combined. There are huge systematic injustices at work in India, yet there is good happening too and I think it’s important to celebrate the good because if you don’t, you’ll get so overwhelmed that you’ll forget what and who we’re fighting for. 

Here are the three moments from India:

1. A Bollywood actress goes off on a reporter who claims she is misrepresenting India by calling it “repressive for women”. This actress loves India, but wants to talk about the real issues facing her country. The video is awesome. She talks in Hindi for a little bit of it, but it’s definitely worth watching. 

2. The international outrage after a woman was attacked and gang raped on a bus. I blogged about this earlier this year. It was all over the news and sparked protests in India. It was the start of a much needed conversation about violence against women and how frequently it is happening. Unfortunately, it is still going on, but at least we’re talking about it! 

3. This amazing parody video by All India Bakchod went viral around the world. The video depicts so many stereotypes about sexual assault. It’s very specific to India, but there are elements of it that apply to all cultures. 

 

You can find the full list here. I also read this amazing article about going back to India after surviving sexual abuse as a little girl. It’s not only very well written, but is an extremely honest depiction of what growing up here is like as a girl. It also gives a great glimpse into the whole culture. 

I hope that you’ll join me in praying for both the men and women of India. That this conversation will spark real change. That women will be seen as people too, not property. That men will start acting differently and that women will be treated with respect and honor and dignity. That the repression of women and the fear that they live with will be a thing of the past. 

 

“Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence. I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” Psalm 27:11-14

advent poem

this poem reflects the season of life that we are walking through. we had read Habakuk and afterwards wrote this poem. i feel like it connects to where we are and to the advent season.

Come, hear my voice.

Come, hear my cry.

Come, lift me up Lord.

For my soul is dry.

Come, bring restoration.

Come, bring new life.

Come, in my affliction, Lord.

For I am in deep strife.

My heart aches with pain.

My feet crumble beneath me

but you, Oh God, have rid me of my stain.

You are my healer, restorer.

You are my all.

You are my everything.

You have heard my voice.

You have heard my cry.

You lifted me up

My soul, no longer dry.

You have brought restoration.

You have brought new life.

You came in my affliction and fixed my strife.

You have healed my pain.

You strengthen my feet beneath me.

You, oh God, have rid me of my stain.