through the valley

There’s a scene in “Friday Night Lights” (the TV series) where Coach Taylor and Buddy Garrity are talking to a local community advocate to get the lights turned on at a park in a rough part of town. This conversation is taking place right after a kid was shot at the park while Coach was there trying to track down one of this players. The advocate, who is an ex-gang member, tells him that he has one question for him, “Do you really want to make a difference or are you just sad that you saw a kid get shot?”

As Preston and I were watching this scene recently, it hit me in a completely different way than it had before. In the US, you can often easily avoid the reminders of how broken our world is. You can only read news headlines or avoid the rougher parts of your city. We cannot do that here. Every morning, I walk out my front door and am immediately greeted by barefoot Bengali girls. Their family acts as the “caretakers” of our building. One of them has a freshly shaved head as a sign of her Hindu faith, she goes to a local school. She is one of the lucky ones whose parents can afford to send her to school. Then I start walking down the street, I see all of the other kids of the caretakers for other buildings who are also barefoot, but are not in school. I see dogs who look like they belong in a Sarah McLachlan commercial. I turn the corner and see old women digging through the trash to provide for their families. I continue a little further and see countless child laborers and other laborers. Seeing the other laborers may not seem so bad, but did you know that statistically most of them are probably enslaved? I see all of this on my 7 minute bicycle ride from our house to the boy’s home.

One of the things I struggle with a lot here is feeling like I’m not doing enough. I think that’s why that FNL scene hit me so hard. “Am I really wanting to make a difference or am I just sad because of the things I see everyday?” And honestly speaking, I think it’s a mix of both. I do want to make a difference. So badly. But I am also deeply sad and burdened for what’s going on around me. I wrestle through all of this daily. What else can I do? There are so many great ministries here. I am not doing enough in this city.

And then the Lord speaks. He makes me aware of my own humanity. How I can only do exactly what He’s called me to do. And this is such a lesson in humility for me. I want to do it all. I want to fix everything. But I can’t. Not through my own power.

There’s a quote from Katie Davis‘ book “Kisses from Katie” that I’ve been reminding myself of often lately:

“And even though I realize I cannot always mend or meet, I can enter in. I can enter into someone’s pain and sit with them and know. This is Jesus. Not that he apologizes for the hard and the hurt, but that He enters in, He comes with us to the hard places. And so I continue to enter.”

This is where I am right now. I cannot fix all of the brokenness around me, only Jesus can do that. But I can hold little hands, bandage cut knees, listen to hard stories. I can read stories and teach English and play games. I can do all of this fully confident that there are no small roles in the Kingdom of God. I can continue to enter in, to lean into the pain, even though sometimes this everyday life feels like a valley that we’ll never climb out of. I can do this knowing that He is making all things new. That He is a God that makes streams in deserts. That he isn’t afraid of this valley, this present wilderness. That he can handle my humanity, that in my own weakness, he is strength. And I can believe all of this deep down in my soul, even though I am typing this through tears and doubt. And I can be assured that this valley won’t last forever.

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(Side note: if you haven’t experienced “Friday Night Lights,” you should do that. This was PK and I’s second time going through the whole series and it really is the best.)

the battle is won.

I have a confession to make… I have been combatting a lot of lies. I don’t even know how it happened. But it did and I feel like I’ve been at war with my own mind.

But here’s the thing, I am fighting a battle that was won many years ago when Jesus took my own hot mess and died instead of me. It’s not him that’s sneaking in and whispering “you’re not cut out for this place.” He is the one who called me here. And I believe that he is faithful. (1 Thessalonians 5:24). The Lord is not the one screaming at me, “YOU AREN’T QUALIFIED TO BE HERE.” For I know that He has given me everything I need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3). He’s not the one who is telling me, “you’re losing yourself here” because I know that my home is found in him. That because of Christ in me, I have the hope of glory. (John 15, Colossians 1:27). He is not the one who is whispering, “you don’t have anywhere to belong,” because I know that in the kingdom of God is the only place that I need to belong. I know that I belong to the Lord and that He has redeemed me.  (1 Peter 2:9-10) He does not tell me that I am “too prideful, too sinful, too much for this culture.” I know that those lies do not come from him, because I know that in Christ, I am a new creation, He has taken the old and the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). I could go on and on; there’s a reason that Satan is called the “Father of Lies”. (John 8:44)

So I will continue to fight the lies, to speak truth over myself, knowing that truth is my greatest weapon. And i know that truth brings freedom. But the thing about true freedom is that you have to want to walk in it. And why wouldn’t I? Jesus died so that I could know freedom. Why would I keep walking in the lies? He has already won the battle. So I will continue to walk into freedom, using the truth of His word, remembering that his banner over me is LOVE. and LOVE always wins.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

6.5 months

It’s been a little over six months for us now. We had our first visa run to Thailand, explored our city of Kolkata, took a train to a beach town for my birthday, rigged a tree for Christmas and celebrated thanksgiving potluck style. We’ve had our share of overnight hospital stays. I’ve even run into a girl who I worked at a summer camp almost four years ago. A lot has happened to us in a short span of six months and it feels as though we have been here for years.

While we were back in the states preparing to come here, I didn’t think that we would have experienced so much in such a short period of time (and we still have a year and a half left). I didn’t expect some of the hardships that have come our way. I knew that moving our lives to other side of the world would be hard but I didn’t know just how hard. I never knew how much just walking out of our apartment door would be some days, or what 1.3 billion people really looks like all crammed together. There were many more moments than I’d like to admit that I didn’t know how I was going to get out of bed and deal with the chaos of India (I still have those moments now). But here I am, six months later and still standing. But it is through no strength of my own.

I’ve had to find new ways to rely on The Lord. New ways to seek Him when things are going well and when things are going so bad I just want to yell at the top of my lungs. I’ve had to pray to see the world through His eyes, because if I didn’t, I would be holed up in a deep depression seeing all the injustices on a daily basis. I’ve prayed for a softened heart to deal with the locals and all that goes into communicating cross culturally. But I’ve also prayed in thanksgiving. For an undying friendship with a wonderful wife who I have yet to grow weary of (probably the best thing ever). For the times that we teach English to the four younger boys who dart to class with the biggest smiles on their faces eager to learn. For the relationships that we have built with all of the kids here. For the friends that we have made, both ex-pat and national. God has been quick to remind us why we are here.

And looking back at the first six months with all the hardships and victories that we have gone through, knowing that God has been there in all of it, I know that as we look forward to the next six months, I can reassure myself that He will be there. He will be there for the new struggles and obstacles that come our way and that we can rejoice in Him in the goodness that he will bring in those six months as well. And I know that because He has brought me to this point, He will carry me through the next six months and beyond.

{almost} six months, ya’ll!

well, we’ve been here almost six months. this post is a little bit early because we’ll be on a visa run in Thailand next week. but i didn’t want the significance of making it to our first visa run to slide by. i wanted to both reflect and share about all the things we’ve learned in six months here and all the things we’re still learning. i’ll be honest, i’m exhausted. i’m weary in ways that i’ve never experienced before. the last six months have not been easy; but they have been deeply good. hard, so so hard, but good. this post is probably going to be all over the place because i am both tired and in that weird pre-vacation haze, but as our friends here say, “what can you do?”

in the last six months i’ve learned that toilet paper is an absolute necessity when leaving the house. i’ve learned that infections of any sort are not fun. i’ve learned that no matter how awful the bathroom you’ve just seen is — it can be/get worse. i’ve learned that no one is shy about pointing out zits on your forehead or that your face looks really fat in your passport photo. i’ve learned that it will always be awkward when someone is asking how much something cost and that i get really nervous watching my husband get his hair cut. i’ve learned that coconut oil makes my face break out, but i wouldn’t trade the little oiled hands on my face for super clear skin. i’ve learned that i actually do enjoy cooking and that does not make me less of a feminist. i’ve learned that there are baking substitutions for pretty much everything. i’ve learned that having my own cookbook with handwritten recipes is important because the internet may not be working when i’m craving banana chocolate chip muffins. i’ve learned that it is absolutely possible to make your own apple sauce and hummus from scratch, but you may end up with apple sauce and/or hummus all over your kitchen. i’ve learned that i am capable of painting my nails regularly and that nail polish covers a multitude of eating Indian food with your hands / mehendi (henna) related stains. i’ve learned that it will take 3 instances of  not being able to sleep due to a jackhammer outside my window for me to have a breakdown. i’ve learned that English gets more difficult when you’re speaking half Hindi/half English all the time. i’ve learned that sometimes I take on India like a warrior and conquer the day and sometimes, Mother India takes me on, punching me in the stomach at every turn. But it’s all good, because the next day will be better.

And i’ve learned more important lessons. I’ve learned that my husband is one of the most patient men on the planet and that we won’t get tired of each other, even though we spend roughly 23 hours a day together. I’ve learned that marriage is something you have to work at no matter what country you’re in. I’ve learned how to feed my soul in different ways. I’ve learned that life is so much easier when you’re focused on the vine. I’ve learned that God is faithful. In India, in the states, everywhere. I’ve learned that there is goodness in all of it, the hard stuff, the silly stuff, the ridiculous stuff. That is teaching us so much more than I could ever articulate in a blog post. But know this, we are surviving. We are learning to trust the Lord in ways that we haven’t had to before. We are remembering that He has already given us everything we need for life and godliness. That He gives more and more and more grace. I think I’ve asked for grace more times in the last six months, than, well ever. I’ve learned to laugh, mostly at myself, because sometimes that’s all you can do.

So here we march, into the next six months. Praying with expectancy over all that He is teaching us and all that He will continue to teach us. Knowing that He is faithful and that He is good.

“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:2-5

Nourish.

I’ve never been big on New Year’s resolutions, which is surprising considering my affinity for lists and goals. I am however, always enthralled by the New Year. It’s a  fresh start, like blank pages of a new journal. I find myself loving the newness that comes with a new year. This year, I’ve decided to take part of the One Word 365 challenge. It’s pretty much as simple as it sounds. Instead of resolutions, pick one word that you want to define 2014. It can be as simple as “yes” or “no”. You can put as much meaning into it as you want to.

As you might have guessed from the title of this blog, my word is NOURISH. 

nourish (verb) – 1. provide with the food or other substances necessary for growth, health and good condition. synonyms: feed, provide for, sustain, maintain. antonyms: starve

2. keep (a feeling or belief) in one’s mind, typically for a long time. synonyms: cherish, nurture, foster, harbor, nurse, keep in one’s mind, entertain, maintain, sustain, hold, have antonyms: repress, discourage

I chose this word after a lot of reflection on 2013 and where i am in life right now. I think it best depicts what my goals are for 2014.

I want to NOURISH my body back to good health. I want to rest and rest well and be healthy for longer than a week or two.

I want to NOURISH thoughts of the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness all year long.

I want to NOURISH our marriage. To sustain it and grow it. I want to be Preston’s greatest encourager and I want to cherish what we have together.

I want to NOURISH my soul. Feeding it, making it a priority and giving it the things it needs to be sustained throughout the year.

I want to NOURISH my mind. I want to learn new things, read lots of books and be challenged theologically and intellectually.

I want to NOURISH my relationships with my family and friends. I want to be intentional and sustain the relationships that give me community and keep me afloat.

I want to help NOURISH the kids and staff at HOL. I want to encourage them and lead by example.

and more than anything I want to NOURISH my relationship with the Lord. I want to grow deeper in my identity in Jesus and all that He is to me.

And as I focus on the word NOURISH, i am reflecting on John 15:1-17. Which isn’t a feel good verse that encourages me, but a passage that challenges me, year after year. I’m always gleaning new information and knowledge from this passage. And this is my passage for the year, so that I always remember that I cannot nourish a single part of me without Him.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:4-5

I would love to hear your One Word! Happy New Year!

2013 {according to Instagram}

in the spirit of blogging tradition and because i ❤ photos and instagram… I give you our 2013 snapshot according to instagram. 2013 was an even bigger year for us than 2012! We celebrated our first year of marriage, we traveled to Chicago on our first big trip together, we went to San Francisco with my parents, Preston came to Kolkata for a week and then we moved to India!

We are so looking forward to all that 2014 will hold!

‘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!