November 3, 2013

Wait dear one. Just wait.

Have you ever come across something beautiful that almost brings you to tears? Not the overwhelmed-with-glory sort of tears, but an aching sort of real sadness. 

The other day I went on a long walk in a glorious fall afternoon. After reveling in the flush of color and leaves alongside the trail I came to a tree bare of leaves only adorned with buds and spring flowers. It made me sigh not with joy but with sadness. 

It reminded me of this:
"I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
by the gazelles or the does of the field,
that you not stir up or awaken love
until it pleases." Song of Solomon 2:7

What will happen to these buds? They will freeze and die; not leading to any fruit because they were aroused by a unseasonably warm fall day.

I felt the sort of sadness The Lord feels when we do not wait on him and his timing, when we jump the gun, when we fill in the blanks of what he has told us, when we rush ahead on a warm day. 

Psalm 37:
"Be still before The Lord and wait patiently for him."(v 7)
"Delight yourself in The Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." (v 4)
"Wait for The Lord and keep his way and he will exhalt you to inherit the land" (v 34 a)

So what are you waiting for? 
Often this question is posed to get people energized to move, to do something, but here I am encouraging you to acknowledg what you are waiting for and keep waiting. Hold what you are waiting for out to The Lord in trust that he will always fulfill his promises and will always bring good things as you love him. 

October 4, 2013

Something is coming...

Something new is on the breeze, and I can smell it coming...

Maybe it is pumpkin spice coffee,
Or maybe it is home food made by my momma,
It could be those wet, earthy, fall smells wafting from the forest
But it is probably something more than that.

For a while I have been hearing that the Lord is wanting to do something new in my life. At first I didn't quite know what to expect. Excitement has been building, slowly, but coming on stronger now. New and different things are not always easily welcomed. Sometimes we have grown comfortable with the old and cozy things, and don't want to shed them because it is not always certain if the new things are quite to our liking. But what I know of the Lord is that he only brings good things (sometimes really hard things, but always good). I often confuse comfortable and good. They are not the same. The Lord has been whispering on the autumnal breeze, "Give up the sad tired things you are holding on to so you can have your hands open to the glorious things I have in store for you. Don't worry, my dear, the new is better. The new is better."

So that is what I am going to practice.
I am giving up and letting go, to make room, room for my Savior, and what he has for me.

A part of this is going on a social media break for the month of October. It has already been hard. There are so many times a day where I want to tell the Facebook world about what I am doing or show the Instagramers a picture of my life through a cool insta-filter. I am taking a break because I feel that for me social media has become a distraction. I spend so much empty time scrolling through snippets of everyone else's life when there are much more meaningful things I could be doing... like blogging.

I am anticipating this season to be creatively stirring, and I really hope to make blogging more of a habit, even just for my sanity. Writing is cathartic and therapeutic. I need to make more space for it in my life, and that is what I am doing.

So with all that said, I hope that you pull up my blog more often and join me with some delicious mug full of steaming goodness, as I try to experience life at a different pace this October, letting go of the old and stepping into each new day with expectancy.

May 14, 2013

Wanderings and Wonderings

Saturday in Kalimpong is market day, when the Heart Bazaar is filled with vendors: fruit, vegetable, spice, hardware, housewares, clothing, shoes... anything. As the sun rises it fills to the brim with people. The crowds flow like water through the windy streets occupying any empty place available.
Usually on Saturday mornings I hide under the covers for as long as possible and then creep out to leisurely drink coffee in my pajamas. Once I am ready to meet the world, the town and bazaar are too busy and too full to be an attraction to a western girl who sticks out like a sore thumb above the sea of dark brown heads. 

I have always disliked looking out of place. Quite vividly I remember, from the missions trips I took to New York City when I was in high school, hating to feel like people could just look at me and see that I was not a city girl. Not that I want to be a city girl, I just didn't like the feeling that I didn't belong. Though I still try to adapt to the culture and fit in here, I have resigned myself to always be an outsider. Saturdays are suppose to be restful and I don't often find being stared at and sized up by an endless number of brown-eyes (no mater how beautiful they are) very restful. 
But this Saturday was different.
Maybe it was the fact that I hadn't gotten out of the house much last week, or the fact that I am getting nostalgic as I mentally prepare to leave Kalimpong in just a month, but either way this Saturday I was drawn out from underneath my covers and down the hill to town, all before 10am.

I didn't have much of an agenda or shopping list. I just was hoping for some time to wander, think, and take photos. (I really wish that I could take photos with my eyes. Again I hate standing out as "that tourist” taking pictures of things locals would NEVER think about taking pictures of. Plus sometimes there is just not enough time to get the camera out... then that perfect moment, that exquisite image is gone.) As I meandered along the street I saw a precious sister. I have only met her once, but the love and light of our Savior emanates from every part of her. Seeing her face and bowing slightly in greeting as we passed, sparked my prayers for Kalimpong. 
I walked on and talked to the Lord about his heart for these people, his heart for this city. Then my eyes came to the other side of the road, the less crowded side, where two sons walked gently quietly with arms linked with their father in-between them. The father was quite hung over from a late night of alcohol. I imagine how the wife and sons had fretted and worried until he was found. Now they had to walk him home and get him sobered up, attempting to save as much face as possible. This scene sparked even more prayer... “Father thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

I looked up and saw it, a cross. 

Atop a dirty little shack that sells fried snacks, noodles, and chips was clearly a cross, not put there intentionally but left there somehow from old electrical poles and shrouded with tattered Buddhist prayer flags, electrical wires, and dead vines. This image shouted to me, “The Kingdom is coming! I AM is already at work here. Watch and see.”

It also spoke to me of how tradition in the church and Buddhism have constricted the free movement of what the Lord wants to do here. Like the old raiments of a beggar, neglected, stinking, full of holes, and good for nothing, the remnants of stale tradition in the church and the spiritual strong holds of Buddhism need to be torn down from this place before a fresh spirit of revival will be free to flow. 


But even still I know Christ is here and he is moving. 

May 10, 2013

The Real India: Walking Slowly

I came across this unfinished blog post from when I lived in India. I think it was written almost exactly a year ago. Even though they seem from another life, these images from India still haunt me and call me to come back to the hills. 

[March 2013, Kalimpong, West Bengal, India]
As as person from the West I tend to organize my time aiming at efficiency and productivity. I am definitely not the most productive or efficient person by a long shot, but this question is always in the back of my mind "how can I get the most out of my time and energy?"

Here in the hills of India (and probably in the hills of Nepal also) the parting phrase is "walk slowly," "bistanu janu hos." It is used as the equivalent of my family's (and maybe your family's), "drive safely." Most people in the US, beginning at sixteen years old, drive and have their own car, or at least have easy access to one. No one walks anywhere if they don't have to, even just to visit the neighbors in the next street and definitely not to go grocery shopping.

In the hills most people, especially women, walk. If you are male, then maybe you have a bike (Indian for 'motorcycle'). If you are female maybe you have a husband, brother, or son, who has a bike or a "taxi" (maruti mini van, or tata nano). But most people just walk up and down, down and up.  
Walking is the way of life.

When you go for vegetables or groceries you might get a coolie to carry them back up for you. Depending on how far you are from town, a dollar or two will get your veggies home safely without you having to haul them. But only those who buy a lot of veggies at once or those who can afford the luxury will utilize coolies.

You will never see a woman coolie. These men and boys carry everything with a rope and a basket on their back.The rope goes underneath what they carry, the load goes on their back, and the free loop of the rope (usually it has some fabric and a cusion) goes across their forehead. These men don't earn much and have to work so hard. They usually sport old but clean and tidy clothes and wear worn plastic slip-on shoes on their broad feet. Many of them are clearly and proudly Nepali, which you can tell from the round brimless fabric cap they wear.

I am sure that the families of these men would never see as much food in their homes in a month as these men can carry on their backs, up and down these hills (well maybe if it were only potatoes and rice they carried).

I am still slowly learning so much about these people of the hills. I am really coming to love these people. Learning the language has helped but I need to get out and to speak more. There is still so much I feel I will never understand.

"Bistanu janu hos," "walk slowly." The pace of life here is so different. Time is relished... not measured and forced to obey. Here people seem to experiance time like sitting on a rock by the Teesta river, watching and feeling the water move past. The Western view of time would be more like the dam that was built a few years back which controls the water flow of the river and puts it to work as it moves past. I think I would rather spend my life soaking up the sun in good conversation sitting at the bank of the Teesta.

Rest is something that seems to be reserved for the rich... at least in the West. If you don't want to be perceived as lazy, you have to seem busy. "So what are you doing now?" is the question that drives common conversations. But this is not the life we were made for. 

"And then He rested." God rested. After he created everything we know and are discovering he rested. He didn't party. He didn't plan out the rest of the existence of eternity. He rested 

As beings made in His image we need rest. We are commanded rest. All the commandments, including rest maybe especially rest, are for our good. He commands us to rest not to stroke His ego, but because we are created to rest.

This is one of the things I miss about my life in India: having rest built in to the culture; being told to walking slowly. 

April 28, 2013

A Dwelling Place

Where do I belong?

This is a question that has been creeping up in me over the past few weeks.

a view of Kalimpong

I left the states eight months ago as someone other than who I am now. Time changes you. Foreign culture changes you. Life changes you. 

If I am not the person who left the states, when I return will I still belong there? Of course my family (and bestest friends) will accept me and love me, but what about everyone else. And will I ever really belong in in passport country once I have spent so much time away? Do I even want to belong there anymore?

Since October when I arrived in hilly Kalimpong I have been trying to figure out where I belong here and make a place for myself. My place has been my cozy room, "Miss Sarah" to Manju and Jeewan Loy. It has also been "sathi/friend" "didi/older-sister" or "bhieny/younger-sister" to many people here. 

a wall in my cozy room
One thing that I look back and want to change is that I wish I could have plunged in more deeply to the culture here. There are more foreigners in this little city than I can count on all my fingers and toes. I have met pretty much all of them, and they are great people, but they are who I have spent the most time with. It has been wonderful to learn about what missionary family-life looks like, but I would like to have learned more first hand about the culture also. Now don't get me wrong. I have learned quite a lot, probably more than I realize. 

 What I would love to have is a feeling of belonging within the culture. There are two prongs that come against this desire. First: cultural/language learning would have had to the focus of my time here. Second: cultures like the Indian/Nepali culture are deeply reticent to allow anyone from outside to ever become "part of the group." If it is even possible to become "part of the group," to belong here, if would have to take years or even decades of dedication and self-sacrifice. I have been here long enough to realize that I don't belong, but not long enough to think about ever belonging. 

This is such a hard thing. Over the past few months I grown a love for these people-of-the-hills as I have lived on top of their hills. Their hills are beautiful. They are beautiful. Their faces draw me into wanting to know what is behind the brown eyes that are nestled midst the soft brown skin of their round expression.
It is a tough thing to know that I will never belong. 

Sister at a Distance

But then I remember that this earth (and its people) are not our true home. We are made for a heavenly kingdom and not any earthly one. 

Some ladies and I were talking about this issue of belonging and our concept of "home" after living in a foreign country. One of the ladies shared this verse: 

"Lord, you have been my dwelling place (home) throughout all transitions." Psalm 90:1 
this world is not our home

I am discovering the richness in not "belonging" in any particular culture. 

It is so beautifully true. The Lord is our home and his Spirit is our dwelling place, no matter how many transitions our life takes us through. 

I am not fully American, nor am I fully something else. 

No matter how much color I am smeared with I am still white.

I hope that I am becoming something more like what Sherwood Lingerfelter calls in his book "Ministering Cross-Culturally," a 150-percent person, someone who is 75-percent their passport culture (which means becoming less than 100-percent) and also becomes 75-percent their ministry target culture (which he acknowledges that you can never become 100-percent). He calls this the "incarnational model for personal relationships," and reminds us that as Jesus became incarnate, fully man to reach men, and that is how we should approach cross-cultural ministry (24). 

There is a beautiful stretching when this happens. You become less of what you were and maybe more of what God intended you to be. This is Kingdom culture. 

"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit." Ephesians 2:19-22

I will never be their beautiful brown but I want my hands to touch them like Jesus.

April 27, 2013

The Beginning of Something New

A few moths ago I didn't think it would have been possible. This month has been such a good reminder that nothing is impossible.

Last Saturday I rode down the mountain in the rain, sitting with my mother next to me in the taxi. I was dropping her at the airport after she spent four weeks with me here in India. It was a dreary day with threats of thunderstorms and landslides but by God's grace they ended up only being empty threats. This ride began Mom's 24+ hours of travel home, and began my last two and a half months in India.

When I came home in 2011 from two months in Delhi working at Asha House, Mom told me "next time I am coming too." I knew that she is a woman of her word, but I also knew that God often changes our plans, so I tried not to hope too much. When I heard in February that she wasn't going to be able to come, I was disappointed but not crushed. After just a few weeks (and a dark lonely time for me) things changed.

She originally thought she couldn't come because the family needed her too much at home. It is true that they do need her, but half of them are Boy Scouts and more than half of them are adults, so with their scouting skills and life experience combined they decided to make it work. Mom made the decision to come, got her passport, visa, plane ticket, and came in less than two months.

Some of Mom's time here was spent sight-seeing (it is nice to have had an excuse to go visit places I haven't seen yet and places I wanted to see again):
Sweet Ladies we met on the Train to Jaipur

Amber Fort- Jaipur
Mom's first monkey sighting- Jaipur

Juntar Muntar - Jaipur - ancient sundial -those Moghals were pretty brilliant

Fresh lime soda and Aloo Papadi Chat at the City Palace Cafe
This guy serenaded us over lunch - now that was an awesome mustache , but I am not sure what kind of instrument

Took a short trip to Tea Town- Darjeeling
Happy Valley Tea Estate
We got to see where they sort and process the tea. There was a green floral delicious smell that permeated the whole building.
View of Darjeeling from Happy Valley T.E.
Breakfast at Keventer's. Sausage and bacon, more meat than I have seen in months.
A stop at cozy Glenary's before we went home. Tea, quiche, tarts, and a rainy day.  
Darjeeling clock tower and a break in the clouds.
Cactus Nursery in Kalimpong - who knew there are so many species 
We dashed up to Delo Hill (the highest point in Kalimpong) on the ONLY clear day to try and catch a glimpse of  Kunchenjunga. We caught just a sliver before it hit behind the clouds again. Anyways it was a beautiful day. 
Walking Trail on Delo Hill 
Dr. Graham's Homes Church build in 1920. We wandered through Dr. Graham's Homes property on the way back from Delo. 
Dr. Graham's Homes - Boarding school founded in 1900 by Scottish missionaries for abandoned children   

Some of her time here was spent meeting my wonderful friends and encouraging them (she had seasoned homeschooling advice for me as well as the other homeschooling moms):
We spent six days at Asha House. Mom got out of the taxi when we first arrived knowing at least half of everyone's names from pictures. 
Mom with my Asha girlies- what a beautiful thing
 Making hats with friends on Jeewan Loy's Birthday

Silly Friends and Bhim Uncle
Surrounded by friends, love, and yummy treats.
Our friends from Germany treated us to barbecue chicken. They made their barbecue from a metal box and a grate... brilliant.  

Some of her time was spent doctoring me and being substitute teacher (I was quite sick for more than a week with bronchitis or something like it):
Sorry didn't take any picture of me sick in bed. This one will have to do. 
Beef Thukpa- just what the doctor ordered
Mom read "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" to the kids. Once I was better we has a "Mr. Tumnus" Tea Party including Queen Cakes.

What a pretty spread. Jeewan enjoyed the tea party, but didn't quite get the idea of using manners. Manju loved it and kept saying that this was "the best day ever."
Most of her time was spent encouraging me like only a mother can. Just a hug from the woman who knows you best can work wonders for a weary soul.

Our time together seemed like the beginning of a new era in our relationship. Mom who always knows what to do and always has a ready plan was now in new territory, a place where I had more experience and understanding than she did. Though she is a 'planner' Mom is also flexible, so this new dynamic did not set her at ill ease. Instead she thrived off of the adventure of this new country and fresh season in our relationship. Sometimes you just know when your life has hit a turning point. I think this past month was that for both Mom and me.

I am excited to see what new things the Lord has in store for us: for me as I spend another few months here, and then transition back to the states, and for Mom as she goes home and learns to integrate the things she learned here into her life at home. As I make my transition back to the states it is going to be invaluable to have someone back "home" who has gotten a glimpse of my life here.