08.07.14

There is no solace for the introvert. Always a constant clamoring outside in the streets, even the safe confines of our bedroom, our one place of true comfort, the chaos is still ever present.

The days start early, invaded by honking, barking, yelling, and speeding vehicles. The jarring ring of our doorbell goes off, it’s the house cleaner, and though our dishes are cleaned and floor swept, I can’t help but feel a friction inside of me with this invader. India has crept in.

I make my way downstairs to my ride to work. Two little girls, the apartment’s caretakers’ daughters, meet me; they’re dirty and naked but have smiles across their faces. They ask where Auntie is, most likely for some little candy treats. I wish so badly to speak to them, with their parents, but they all speak Bengali and I am learning Hindi. Oh how I wish I pushed to learn Bengali. I hop on my bike and feel a tugging sensation, I look back and the two little girls stare up at me, smiling, giggling. They start speaking to me but I can only guess at what they are saying. I continue on after shooing the girls off to their mommy.

The roads are becoming more and more torn up by the construction, heavy trucks and rainy weather. I guess it’s no worse than the 100 plus degree heat wave that has been beating down on us the last several months. I pass the workers digging up the roads, piling up sand and stacking bricks. They have such worn faces, hands, feet. Are they here by choice or forced to work? I can’t shake the thought. Kids, women, they must be forced for one reason or another. There always seems to be too many of them working.

Off shooting the “main” road are alleyways leading to shacks and shanties; homes, houses. Looking down one, a small boy, he stands naked, well, besides a red band of thread around his waist. It’s a Hindu thing meant to ward off bad spirits and misfortunes. Yet the boy stands alone, crying, looking and waiting, for mom or grandmother I suppose. I wonder how well that string is doing for that little boy’s misfortunes.

Down another alley a girl is washing dishes in the street, on the other side I hear screaming and yelling, sounds of slaps and cries. It’s such a long bike ride. It’s loud, harsh, the horns firing off from everywhere.

In the middle of the road ahead a man squats near a manhole, holding something. As I come closer I can make out what he is holding, an arm, protruding out form the manhole. The top of his head is just visible, his mouth just above the murky blackish-silver water. It reeks of something awful. I don’t want to think about what’s in that filth let alone be chin deep in it. It’s an unwanted job though, and someone has to unclog the drainage.

The nearby artificial pools and lakes are no better and yet they are filled with people bathing in them and others washing their clothes from the water. The river close to the boys home is full of the stagnant drainage as well. The stench is unbearable. I have to pedal faster before I puke. How do these vendors sell any fruits and vegetables right off the bank of this terrible river?

It’s not even 9 in the morning and there’s so much to process. So much brokenness and I see it over and over every morning and every afternoon back to my apartment. So much happens in this short ten-minute ride everyday for the past eleven months. I don’t think much will change in the next thirteen.

There is a hope, a comfort. Greeted by the sweet hellos and warm hugs from the kids. This is why we are here, why we we get up in the morning and meet each grueling day. To love these kids, to share and show them what the gospel is and to give them a peek into what a true kingdom life can be.

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” – James 1:27

 

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eleven.

I just finished one of the best books I’ve read this year. Actually, I’ll probably put it in the category of best books I’ve ever read. An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor is about learning to encounter The Lord outside of the walls of a church and in the seemingly mundane practices that make up our everyday lives. I could go on and on about this book, but the part that stood out to me the most is actually in the introduction. She talks about going to speak at a church and asks the priest what he wants her to talk about. The priest replies, “Come tell us what is saving your life right now.”

We hit eleven months in India yesterday. And it has been way more difficult than I ever could have imagined. Physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. But we’re still here. And we’re still fighting — for joy, contentment, gratitude, faith in our unbelief, perseverance. We’ve learned so much and we’re still learning every day. The first reason that we’re still here and still fighting is just Jesus. He’s been so faithful and so good to us over the last 11 months. I can honestly say that in spite of the hardships and difficulties, we have never once doubted that we have been called here for reasons both known and unknown to us. And we know that He will continue to be faithful and good for the remainder of our time here.

The second reason that we’re still here and still fighting is because we’ve both learned how to feed our souls in different ways here. We’ve figured out what works for each of us individually and in our marriage. We know that in order to pour ourselves out day in and day out, we have to be super intentional in filling our own tanks and letting The Lord pour into us. Nourish is my word for the year and it has been incredible to see the ways that The Lord keeps using it to bring me back to himself. That’s why I love this quote so much. It reminds me of ways that I am not an island. It reminds me of all the little things that have the potential to nourish my soul.

So in honor of our eleventh month in India, I give you 11 things that are saving my life right now, because who doesn’t love a blog post that includes a list? 🙂 Side note: These are in no particular order and don’t include obvious things such as, Jesus, Preston, family, friends, etc.

1. reading — I am a big time reader. My mom used to take me to the library as a kid and she would only allow me to check out as many books as I was old. We went once a weekish. I was the ultimate book worm as a kid and I’ve totally reverted back to it because it’s pretty much the only hobby I can retain here. Books I’ve LOVED recently: Tell the Wolves I’m Home, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World, Mudhouse Sabbath, Beautiful Ruins, and the Flavia de Luce Mystery Series.

2. music — on repeat this month: Joni Mitchell, Lorde, The Head and the Heart, The Fault in Our Stars soundtrack and fun Spotify theme playlists.

3. fun, pretty little things — i have developed a slight washi tape obsession. it just jazzes up the most basic of things and it makes me happy. Also in this category, nail polish, headbands, my fun quirky prescription glasses that I bought in Thailand for $4, candles and anything that would be in the office supplies section of a store.

4. encouraging emails — it makes our week if we get an encouraging email. we’ve both gotten a couple over the last month or so that have really lifted our spirits and reminded us that we can keep going.

5. Praying the 23rd Psalm over myself — I’ve been doing this in the mornings as I walk to the girl’s home and it is such a great practice for me. My favorite part = “He restores my soul.” This reminds me that no matter what I walk into or past on a daily basis, I serve a Savior that will restore my soul.

6. journaling — I’m on my 8th prayer journal since we moved to Kolkata, but the last little bit I’ve learned some new processing techniques that have been really helpful in my day-to-day processing. One of these is peaks, pits, praise & prayer. I thought it seemed really lame the first time I saw it, but it’s been pretty helpful in assisting me in categorizing and compartmentalizing my days, which tend to be really chaotic. (also, i’m a paper products fiend and this totally feeds that obsession.)

7. care packages — June brought some awesome packages and we know we have some in the mail right now. It’s both encouraging and just fun to get mail. + there are always loads of fun things in them that we can’t get here, so really we appreciate care packages more than we can say.

8. podcasts — up until recently, I only used podcasts for sermons, but recently I’ve discovered others that I love and that are just fun. My favorite is “Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey”. I listen to it while cooking and it’s just good for me to listen to fun, normal conversations. She also always asks her guests about what they are reading, so I usually end up with several book suggestions.

9. online resources — since moving to India, I’ve spent a lot more time online. This may sound weird, but it’s the only way I keep in touch with anyone at home and in learning to nourish my soul, i’ve had to tap into completely different resources. A few of my favorites are She Reads Truth, IF: Equip, Velvet Ashes and A Life Overseas. The latter two are aimed at expat life, but the first two are awesome resources for quiet times.

10. comfort food — we got home from Thailand last week with a suitcase full of things we can’t get in Kolkata. Mainly food. We brought back Goldfish, Cheez-its, pretzels, animal crackers, crisco, GRANOLA BARS, etc. We even managed to snag some marshmallows from the volunteer team that left all of their leftover food. Side Note: if you leave food from America on a table in a room full of people who work in South Asia, there will be a mad dash as if there were $100 bills on the table.

11. our trip to Thailand — one of us will be blogging about this later this week or next week, but know that it was restorative and refreshing and so so good for us.

 

Thank you for supporting us, praying for us and encouraging us for the last eleven months. I am so sorry that we’ve been so horrible at keeping up with the blog lately. We’re trying to get back to regular blogging now that we’re back to a regular schedule. So you can expect to hear from us more often.