house cleaning and sacrifice (an ode to my girlfriends in south asia).

It is truly impossible to explain what day-to-day life was like in our particular corner of South Asia.   I might as well be a million miles away rather than several thousand, for all the difference between that world and my life here.  I look around my American surroundings and search for similes to give inquiring friends, but find none.

So often, for lack of good descriptive words, my entire eighteen-month “South Asia life” is pushed to that same-titled compartment in my memory, and days go by in which whole swaths of my life there are un-talked about, un-thought of.  The gap is too wide and my brain hurts from trying to bridge it.

This has become more apparent than ever to me now that I have my own house again.  Week by week we’re settling into our rented 1,400-square-foot brick bungalow, making it our own, taming the backyard, taking on some furniture-painting projects, and, of course, house cleaning.

I’ve always dreamed of living with a houseful of hard wood floors, but it’s astonishing how quickly dirt accumulates on them.  I suppose some forms of vinyl and carpet are more forgiving, but somehow every speck shows up on our sleek dark wood.  So I’ve determined to sweep the entire house twice a week.  I feel like that’s a reach-able goal.

But say things get a little crazy here and I forget.  Or say I remember and would just rather sit on the futon and read blogs during naptime than sweep the floors; say the house only gets swept once a week.  Well, the dust and dirt that I sweep in my entire house from one whole week is about equal to what gets swept in our South Asian flat in one day.

You think I’m exaggerating.

How about I put it this way: some of you know that by the end of our time overseas we had a full-time house helper/cook/nanny extraordinaire who did virtually all of our cooking and cleaning for us.  When I mention this fact to people here, I sometimes hear the response: Wow, must be nice...

I get that.  It sounds a little extravagant.

But, I’m here to tell you from very recent experience that it’s way, way, way easier in my house in Columbia to do all my own housework and cooking and laundry and dishes (no dishwasher here sadly), than to have full-time help and deal with the daily cleaning situation there in South Asia.

It’s way easier to load my kids in the car and drive downtown to do a week’s worth of grocery shopping at Publix, than to have a supermarket delivery service and a vegetable cart parked outside the front gate and an ironing man and a gardener.

It’s not just the dirt or the burning trash or the typhoid-infested water or the blankets of black dust or the cows nosing through the garbage or the roaming dogs or the cat-sized rats (okay, I only saw a cat-sized rat once . . . but I saw many, many smaller rats) or the exhaust fumes or the heat or the daily power outages or the open stares or the poverty or the throngs of people pressing against you where ever you go or the traffic or the noise level at all hours of the day and night.

It’s not just one thing–it’s everything, all mixed together, all day, every day.  And add a couple of preschoolers to the mix (or three, or four, if you’re some of my friends), a house helper who speaks little-to-no English, and you get a typical day in South Asia.

Looking back, I guess I didn’t blog about these realities all that often, because it just sort of felt like complaining.  Even scrolling back through the hundreds of photos on my laptop, I’m struck with how charming our life looked.  Parts of it were charming.  But lots of it are left out.  Not intentionally of course, but no-one wants to take pictures of raw sewage.  And, in time, all of this starts to become your new normal.  You forget what life used to be like and you move on with what you have.  That’s a good thing, I think.

But now that I’m out of it, I can admit that it was really, really hard.  Hard for anyone, but especially hard for a mom and a housewife.

Our country was truly a wondrous one.  She’ll always live in my heart as a place of vivid colors and sing-song voices and beautiful skin shades and so many warm, generous hearts.  But even South Asians themselves will tell you: day-to-day life there is not easy.  Those who’d lived in the U.S. and even some who hadn’t, constantly asked us, “You have everything.  Why would you ever leave America to come here?”

(And in all honesty, some days you think to yourself: I don’t know; why the heck did I?“)

If you have friends living overseas as missionaries–especially if they are moms with young kids–give them all the prayer and encouragement and love you can.  Every day is hard.  God gives grace, yes He does, but it’s still hard.  Exhausting.  Thankless. Lonely.  Incredibly, un-heroically mundane.

Don’t put them up on pedestals.  They are serving Jesus in the dust-coated laundry and the stares and the crawling traffic of their everyday, and they do not feel like saints.  They know they’re more sinful than ever, and they need to be reminded that God loves them right now, in their mess, and that you do too.  They cherish every email, every care package, every hand-written note and Vonage phone call.

To all of you who loved me from afar when I was there in the mess: Thank you.

To my friends who are still there in the mess, who have stayed: Thank you.  You’re in my heart and in my prayers when I’m here sweeping my floors and when I’m loading armfuls of wet laundry into the dryer and when I open my door to the quiet, clean air.  I miss you.



we need prayer.

The past two days were a little nightmarish.

David got sick Friday morning, and I followed on Friday afternoon.  Not sure how it happened that we both got so sick almost simultaneously with differing things.  But by Friday night we were each laying on a sofa, shivering with fevers, nauseated, and achey.

Throughout Friday night I was rushing to the bathroom and blacking out almost every time I got up.  We talked on the Vonage phone with company doctors, and they urged me to get to the hospital.  I can’t describe the dread I have of South Asian hospitals right now (no, they are not all bad; yes, I’m probably just not in an emotional frame of mind to deal with them).

So Saturday morning our dear friends-and-nurses, John and Alison, rescued us.  They brought antibiotics.  Providentially, they have four interns staying with them right now, one of whom is an ER nurse in Memphis.  So she and John brought fluids and supplies and hooked me up to an IV right in my own bed.  They hung the bag from our laundry rack.

While I slept throughout the day, Jonathan came and took David to the hospital for tests.  He has some sort of bacterial infection.  It took most of the day to stand in lines and wait for the tests he needed; when he got home at 5 pm, he was so sick and utterly exhausted.

By that time I’d had three bags of fluids and felt remarkably better, though still couldn’t keep much food down.

There are several bright spots in this story:

1.  I feel so deeply, words-cannot-express grateful for our friends here, who, once again took care of us.  This has happened many, many times over the last year-and-a-half with all my sickness, and they never complain.  They have never once made me or our family feel like a burden.

2. Keira the intern, my cheerful, blond angel, who happened to be here to help turn our bedroom into a hospital room.  The other two interns and Kendra who helped take care of our kids.

3. Alison took Judah and Amie to her house for the whole day.  Neither David or I could even budge from bed to feed them breakfast, so Alison came and picked them up, then came back to sit with me throughout the afternoon while David was at the hospital.  She brought me Gatorade with ice cubes and changed my IV bags and helped me talk through what we need to pack so I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed.

The kids ate pancakes and pizza, watched movies, played with Joshua and Caleb, had baths.  Judah told Alison, “This is such a fun day!”  Amie told everyone, “My mommy is getting a shot!”  They came home at bed-time, smiling and happy, bearing get-well gifts for David and me: leaves and a stone from Judah, and a flower from Ams.

It was a gift that Judah and Amie got one more unexpected day with their friends, who all left this morning for a public health class in another state.  We won’t be seeing them for a long time, so I’m so grateful they have such a sweet memory.

[Another note: Alison said as Judah and Joshua were saying their good-bye last night, Judah said, “You wanna Skype on me?” Joshua said “Yep! But I’m going away first, so I’ll Skype on you, then you can Skype on me.”]

4.  Many other friends called, texted, offered to come help, prayed, and will start visiting us today.

So.  Today is a brand new day.

David and I feel better with our antibiotics starting to kick in.  We’re both up and showered this morning and the first load of laundry is in.

My heart is aching with our good-byes, and many more to come in the next three days.

Will you pray for us?

Please pray that we will heal and grow stronger for the plane trip on Tuesday, that the kids will stay healthy.  Please pray that we’ll see our friends and have sweet last moments and that I’ll be able to hold it together.  I feel right now that if I start crying I may never stop.

This isn’t the way I wanted this story to happen.



when life is heavy and hard to take.

Last night was our last city church Bible Study before we leave.

I know one of the big questions in your mind is probably: What about the city church?

Well, it’s one of our big questions too.  Just one of the questions, believe me.

And about that, I’ll stop and say:

I had an epiphany today.  It is that, if I am going to survive these last 9 days–and maybe even the month or two after this–I have to live in the little moments.  It’s the big picture, the big, big questions of our life right now, that drive me to panic or to depression.  Or both.

But if I just focus on right now, on reading a book to my kids or watching Season Two of Downton Abbey or spending time with friends, I am okay.  I really am.

So if you pray one thing for us this week, this would be it: to leave the future to God, and to live in the now (it’s so much easier said than done, right?).

Also, I will say, in all honesty, that it’s difficult to communicate to friends here why we’re leaving so suddenly.  Many people know that I get sick a lot.  But with the exception of the people closest to us–our team, Neetu, Priya–most don’t know how often or how long this has gone on.

So these days David and I are getting a lot of, “Why can’t you see doctors here?” Or, “I have another specialist for you to try.”

And in these situations, I must say it’s a blessed relief that our company made the final suggestion that we come home for awhile.  It’s nice to have that answer ready, and to know people will still misunderstand, and that’s okay.  They just want to help.

But all this is still hard, any way you slice it.

It’s hard saying good-bye.  It’s hard not knowing for how long.  It’s hard leaving in the middle of so much–the church plant, the Business Development Center, new friendships.  I had been invited to join the editorial staff of the Overseas Women’s Club monthly magazine, and I was so excited to write my first article this month.  It’s hard to leave our newly arranged homeschooling room weeks into our first year of school.  It’s hard leaving before Maggie’s birthday and Lily’s birthday and Amie’s third birthday Princess party on the terrace, and our first team retreat.

It’s hard to know what to pack and what not to pack.

It’s just . . . hard.

When life is heavy and hard to take,
go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
Wait for hope to appear.
Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
The ‘worst’ is never the worst.

Why? Because the Master won’t ever
walk out and fail to return.
If he works severely, he also works tenderly.
His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.
He takes no pleasure in making life hard,
in throwing road-blocks in the way.

– from Lamentations 3, The Message



mother’s day, take two.

“What more could a mom ask for?”

A mom could ask to be able to take her son to swim lessons each morning.

A mom could ask to come home and open the books and teach from the homeschool curriculum she’s so excited about.

A mom could ask to not set her kids up at the breakfast table with cereal and then crawl back into bed.

A mom could ask to wait on and pamper their daddy after his surgery.

A mom could ask to play hide and seek and have a tea party and read books.

A mom could ask to be the ones to take her kids to the park instead of letting the nanny do it.

A mom could ask to cook dinner for her family . . . a full spread with the meat and starch and two veggies.

A mom could ask not to have to cancel the week’s play dates because she just doesn’t have the energy.

A mom could ask to not put her hands over her eyes when her kids shout and joke and climb on her because her head just hurts so bad.

It isn’t all necessary, she knows.

But she can ask.

It’s the best Mother’s Day, and the hardest Mother’s Day.



monday.

The boys are home safe and sound, and we hit the ground running today:

1.  We started school!

David and I sat down last night to have a look at Week One (there is really almost zero prep work . . . everything is planned out for you), then this morning, after swim class, we gathered in the school room for our first day.

It was brief and simple and involved mostly reading books aloud, and my heart just melted watching David cuddled in the Reading Corner with our kids.

2.  Priya came back to us after a week off, and boy, am I ever happy!

3.  David had his consultation this morning for tomorrow’s knee surgery (for a torn meniscus), so we took a family trip to the hospital to keep him company.  The kids love going because there’s a Cafe Coffee Day in the hospital, where they get to pick out a treat.

They also loved the fact that it was Daddy who had to get a “shot” today, and not them.

4.  I was going to take David to the hospital at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow, but, I am sick with a sinus infection.

I am more thankful than I can express for our friends, who offered to drop everything and take care of us this week.

So, Jonathan will take David for his surgery, Priya will take the kids to play at her house for the day, and I will . . . rest.

The operation is out-patient and should be simple, but David has to have general anesthesia, which as you know will make the day more difficult.  Hopefully it will be quick and he’ll be home by the afternoon.

5.  I found out about another ENT specialist in our city, who is U.S.-trained, so I am hoping to get in for an appointment with him this week.  You can pray that God will help us know what to do next for my health.

6.  It’s only Monday afternoon, and it’s already been quite a week!



april first.

It is the first day of April, and I am sick.

You know what?  On the first day of March, I was sick.

My sinus infections still pop up monthly, more regular than PMS it seems.  So here I am, at the start of another month, trying to hold off until the last possible minute to buy the Dreaded Antibiotics.

This is a difficult place to be in.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have taken antibiotics almost every single one of the seventeen months I’ve lived in South Asia.  And, on top of that, I pick up a random GI virus almost as often.  You’d think, with this much sickness, I’d be used to it by now.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s getting better.  On the whole it’s much, much better.  Maybe I just accidently eat gluten, because I’ll be feeling great, charging full-steam ahead, then suddenly, within a day, laid out and miserable.  It could be gluten.  It could be my dust allergies.

Whatever the cause, I’m not getting used to it.  I will never get used to it.  It always comes as a surprise, throws off our family rhythm, interrupts our schedule.  It sends me (and I am sure my husband) plunging into a fog of discouragement.

Also, my pride is hurt.  I hate being “the sick one.”  The one on our team who is most likely to miss events, to cancel outings, to postpone plans, because I’m sick.  Again.  I hate that, on Friday, Priya asked, “Madam, is there something wrong with you?  You are too thin.  You get sick too much.”  After just two months in our home, is that how she sees me?

I hate the way my sickness—minor though it is—lays me low with fatigue and headaches, makes me grouchy and hyper-sensitive and selfish.

I hate how it steals my joy.

Yesterday was a morning of tears.  Of laying in my bed while David and the kids went to a pool party with our friends.  Of feeling sorry for myself and feeling angry at God.

What on earth good does it do anyone for me to get sick all the time?  How is that sanctifying in any way?  All it does is slow us down, make David and I prone to fight more, keep me on the couch instead of at the park with my kids, interrupt my running plan.

I have a new friend.  She is just a little older than I am, and she got polio at age two because a doctor gave an accidental overdose of the polio vaccine.  Her legs are in braces and she walks with crutches.  She has a wonderful husband and a five-year-old daughter who is too cute for words.  And I wonder if she ever feels this way.  If she ever asks God, “What on earth good does it do anyone for my legs to be in braces?”

I am thinking of her a lot this weekend.  Of her smile and her quiet, friendly spirit, and how, even with a demanding full-time job and a husband and a child, she invited me—a foreigner—over to her house this week for dinner and treated me like family.  I’m thinking about how special it made me feel to be noticed, to have someone make time for me.  I’m thinking about how, somehow, in the tragedy of her story God did not make a mistake.

And he is not making a mistake in my story.

What if my illnesses aren’t an interruption to life?  What if viewing them in that way just perpetuates my frustration and anxiety?  What if I accept that, as long as I live in South Asia, regular sickness might be part of my story?

What if I humbly receive my family’s gifts of love: Judah and Amie covering me with hugs and kisses and praying for me when I’m crying on the bedroom floor, saying, “Jesus will help you, Mommy.”  My husband bringing me breakfast in bed when he should be feeding the kids and writing a Bible Study lesson and showering for church.  Priya’s constant schemes to sauté veggies and organize cupboards and cook dinner to help lighten my load.

Yesterday, laying, striving, on my bed, I suddenly had a thought: being sick is not my fault.  And it is not an accident—an oversight by a busy, distracted Father who forgets to take care of me so that I can be productive for him.  Jesus is right here with me in it.  He and I, we’re keeping company with my sinus infections, and we’ll find joy together, even here.

Do you ever find yourself thinking that small trials don’t count for good, that they’re not part of the “Consider it all joy” James talked about?  I certainly do.  I think, If I had cancer or if I had polio, now that’s a trial God could receive glory from.  But all I have are sinus infections and stomach viruses (all I have are kids with the flu, a stressful job, a strained relationship with a family member . . . ), so he can’t possibly bring good out of it, and I’m going to complain.

So.  I’m praying for grace to stop complaining.  I’m praying to start considering it all joy, knowing that the testing of my faith produces endurance.  I’m praying that God will use minor illnesses to make me more like Jesus to my husband, to my children, to my friends, to strangers.

It’s funny what I define as failure.  To me, I am failing my family when I’m laid up sick and can’t get dinner on the table.  But it occurred to me: Do my kids really care if I keep house and ministry in impeccable order but have a restless, distant heart?

Or instead, what if they could look back on their childhood and say, “My mom was sick a lot and had to stay in bed a few days every month, but she was so much fun.  She spent time with us, and was full of laughter and joy and faith in God’s goodness to her.”

That is what I’m praying for this month.



15 months.


I’m celebrating 15 months with my faithful companion.  And with a blog post, of course.

It’s moving on towards the end of February, and, in true South Asia-fashion, it’s getting hot.

I can say things like, “in true South Asia-fashion,” because this is the second February I’ve spent in this country.  That’s long enough to experience a full year of seasons in a place. To begin to wrap my head around the unfamiliar rhythms of a April-May summer vacation, the need to eat as many mangoes as possible in May and June while they’re at their peak, and what “monsoon season” means in our part of the country.

I can remember back to this time last year, thinking, Wait: it’s hot already!?  Winter’s still in full-swing in Pennsylvania.  And mostly in full-swing in South Carolina.

But not here.  The sun bears down on my shoulders, and makes my jeans hot to the touch as I walk the mile home from my friends’ flat–and Hindi class–each afternoon at 1:30.  This heat is dry, and the dust coats my toes and catches in my throat, and I make my way across the big road between our apartment complexes, weaving through throngs of midday traffic.

Some days I take the back way home, looping around the park, past our family’s two most-frequented supermarkets, up Wellington St and over through the maze of close Muslim streets surrounding the mosque.  This way is vastly more peaceful and charming than the noisy, dusty main road, but I hate the way people stop and stare at me, like I’m an intruder in their day.

Fifteen months here in South Asia, and I still haven’t learned to shrug off the stares.

Fifteen months here and I still feel like an outsider a lot of the time.

Learning my way around town helps.  Finding the supermarkets and produce stands and coffee shops I like helps.  And now, beginning to learn the national language helps.

But I just want to be the confidant one.  To be the one giving advice and recipes and directions.

I want to blend in.

That’s what’s still hard, here at 15 months.

The good part that’s on my mind tonight is this:  All of this time, all of these months here, mean something.

The older I get, the more I’m realizing that the things that matter in life take time.

Nothing really comes fast, does it?

Relationships.  The raising of children.  Sanctification.  The healing of wounds.  Learning a language.  Turning a place into a home.  Growing wise.  Growing humble.  Being comfortable in my own skin.

A pastor-friend said to David and me, around this time last year: “I know, you hate this.  But there is just no way to bypass the culture-shock process.  The only thing that helps is time.  And time does help.”

So that’s what I’m learning at 15 months in: Time does help.

Sometimes I feel like an outsider–but not as often as I did a year ago.  I take a walk and notice the green leaves and the bright, year-long sunshine–not just the dust and the heat.  I’m discovering new hobbies.  I’ve made real friends, friends I’m growing a history with.  I’m learning that it’s good for me to have to ask for advice and recipes and directions.

I’m finding that living in this place has challenged prejudices and changed values.  It’s made my world wider.

And I’m discovering that I’ve only just scratched the surface of all there is to learn and enjoy here.

Yes, time does help.

But it can’t just be time.  Time alone can make a person grow bitter and closed-up-tight inside.  But time and an open heart, that can change a person, no matter where you live.   It can change a whole life.

Tonight, I’m asking God to help me keep company with time.  To be a person at peace with the months that roll by, even if they don’t bring earth-shattering victories or quantifiable ministry successes.  To give people space to change when God wants them to.  To be much-learning, much-hoping and much-rejoicing every day.  To know that God won’t stop working on me.

To remember that, in the words of my college professor, “God isn’t in a hurry.  He grows things.”

I’m grateful for 15 months here.  I don’t take them for granted.



the wrestling.

The kids and I walked the half-mile to our neighborhood park this morning.  It was a perfect day: not a cloud in the sky.  Warm in the sun, chilly in the shade.

Judah and Amie love to roam in the park.  They usually by-pass the paint-chipped playground in favor of the walking path, where they can explore gnarled banyan trees and trash heaps and point out squirrels, birds and rats of all sizes.  They pick up sticks and ruffle through the leaves and make themselves busy.

And I like to find a bench in a patch of sun and just sit and be.  Today I breathe deep and look around and pronounce the morning “good.”

At the wall just over Judah’s shoulder, a face appears.  A man, gaunt and shabbily dressed, “ppsst’s” me to get my attention, then rubs his thumb and fingers together to indicate he wants money.  I wordlessly shake my head and turn the other way.  I feel my blood-pressure rise though, as he lingers at the wall, openly staring at the kids and me.

I’m not sure whether I feel worse about being hassled and stared at, or about the knowledge that if this homeless man climbed the wall and entered the park, he’d immediately be chased out by the stick-bearing guard.

We walk leisurely home, stopping at roadside carts to pick out bananas and a kilo of bold, red Roma tomatoes.  I give thanks that we now live in part of town that has mostly-intact sidewalks the half-mile home, so that Judah and Ams can skip and walk to their heart’s content.

When we reach the main thoroughfare that we live off, I keep a close eye on the kids running ahead.  And a little girl of about six runs up to me holding out her hand and rubbing her fingers together.  “Please, Aunty.  Hungry.”  She has a runny-nosed baby on her hip, and I smile at the two and reach into my purse to pull out a couple of bananas for them.

Out of nowhere, I am mobbed by street children.  Pressing against me, tugging my clothes, reaching, grabbing, into my purse.  I’m separated from my kids at the edge of a crowded street, traffic careening by.

“No!  Go!”  I shout at the kids sternly.  They instantly stop, sheepish.  They know better.

I grab Judah and Amie’s hands and march away, while the crowd of them stand back and watch.  Tears sting my eyes.

I have just yelled at a group of children.

And I only gave bananas to three of them.  Will they get anything else to eat today?

Later on, at home, I am cooking dinner when the doorbell rings.  David and I get there at the same time, and find our ironing-man’s wife.

Here you don’t iron your own clothes.  You pay someone else to do it.  It provides a job for people who need it, so we have always handed over our ironing to the “dhobi” who stops by once a week (usually one dhobi will service a whole apartment complex or a whole street).

Today the dhobi’s wife didn’t want to collect our ironing; she wanted to ask us for a loan of 300 rupees (about 6 dollars).  My heart sinks.  We hired this dhobi just two weeks ago, and this is the third time he and/or his wife have come to us asking for money.  A hundred dollars.  Twenty dollars.  Six dollars.  We finally give in.

The first month we lived in this apartment, our house-helper asked me for money every single day she came to work.  She told me (and any of my friends who happened to be visiting) over and over and over about her destitution, her seven children and their needs, her exorbitant debts from her husband’s illness, until I got a stomach-ache every time she came to work and couldn’t sleep at night for worrying about her.

And David told her, “Please stop this.  You may not talk to my wife about money any more.  If you need money, come talk to me.”  Lilly is a fighter, so they had a heated argument for awhile.  But finally she agreed.  And since that conversation, she has not spoken to me about money.

That is a relief.  But even then, there is not one single day in this country that someone—often many someones—don’t ask us for money.  Not one.  Even our home isn’t a retreat from the barrage.

And here is the worst part:  these people all need money.  Some of them very badly.

I know the right answers.

I know not to give money to street children because they usually work for handlers who force them to beg.  I know giving money to beggars can “enable a lifestyle,” while others are working hard for their wages.  I know all of these people just ask of us because we are foreign and they know we’ll give them money, and that our South Asian friends continually tell us, “Don’t do it.”

I know the best plan is to pay employees fair wages, to find specific people to help, specific kids to send to school or to help friends with medical bills, give out bags of rice to beggars instead of cash.

I know that to most of the world I am incredibly, unimaginably rich, and that I have plenty to share.

And I known that as a follower of Jesus, I am to be generous with what I have and to help the poor.

And all this knowledge swirling in my head makes me feel confused and sad and helpless.

For two reasons:

1.  There are impoverished people all around me every single day.  They have legitimate needs.  Many of them are doing their best with an honest job and just cannot make ends meet.  When you look into their eyes and hear their stories, it is just devastating.

2.  I am so, so tired of being asked for money.  I hate it.  I hate that my skin color makes me an instant target.  As if that’s all I am to them.  A source of cash.

I think it is easy for people back home in the States to glorify our family because we work with the poor.  I know I thought that about others living in the developing world when I lived in the suburbs of America.  And it is easy for me to say certain things and leave out certain facts to boost this perception.

So, because of that, this is a post in which I am brutally honest:

Having the poor all around me does not make me a better person.  It can touch my heart with compassion and generosity.  It also brings my sin to the surface.  Strange how those things can sometimes be intermingled in one encounter, in one day.

Sometimes I am harsh with beggars.  When they refuse to take “no” for an answer and keep pressing me and tugging my clothes, I yell at them to go away.  Sometimes, I get so angry when people ask me for money.  I hate when, last Christmas, the maintenance workers at our apartment complex came to our door multiple times, demanding a Christmas bonus (which they did not do to South Asians; just to the foreigners).  I hate when I’m treated like I owe them something.  I hate the times we are generous with people, and we barely get a ‘thank-you;’ just a request for more money later on.

I hate that we will never, ever be on equal terms with people of a desperate economic bracket here–whether in our job or in our personal life.  We can be friendly with each other and spend time together, but in the end, we are the wealthy, the source of money.  And they are in need.

I hate that this is an issue David and I have to wrestle through every day.  I hate having to think about it while I’m cooking dinner for my family.

I hate that I sound like a self-righteous brat right now, with my full belly and my three-bedroom flat.

There.

Now you see my heart, as it really is.

I want to be generous.  And I want the credit for it.  I want people to be grateful and to give us privacy and “be well” without constantly bugging me.  Mostly, I am tired of the wrestling and the guilt and the horrible things I see–not in a National Geographic special, but in my real life–and the wondering if I should have given to that person who asked.

I don’t have any answers.  Other than please pray for me.  The last thing I want is to get cynical, to expect the worst from people.  To stop treating people as real human beings whom God made and loves.

We live in a city of 8 million people, and with the rampant poverty in our country, the fact that hundreds more people don’t ask for money every day is remarkable.  There are so many needs everywhere around us.

So I guess I’m just writing to try to give you a picture of our reality.  And I’m asking for you to pray that I’ll keep wrestling.



my grandfather.

Yesterday my mom’s dad, whom we affectionately call Granddaddy, went home to be with Jesus.

Today I am thankful that he died peacefully, with his family around him singing hymns.

I’m thankful that he is no longer in pain.

I am thankful for our amazing family, who has cared for him so well in these last weeks, taking off work, traveling from near and far to sit and keep watch with him in his last days.

I am thankful for the sweet, gentle spirit that he’s had my whole life, and that up to the end he regularly thanked and was a delight to his care-takers in the assisted living center.

I am thankful for his funny, corny sense of humor that always made us laugh and groan.

I am thankful that he prayed every day for his 6 children, 6 children-in-law, 17 grandchildren, 6 grandchildren-in-law, and 10 great-grandchildren.

I am amazed and thankful that even with such a huge family, whenever he heard my voice on the phone he immediately said, “Hi Jules!!!”

I am thankful that though my grandma is left alone in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s disease, she is at peace and has wonderful care-givers there.

I’m thankful for the internet and for our Vonage phone, which enabled me, from across oceans, to say good-bye and to hear his voice one more time.

I’m thankful for his heart for missions, and that he was thrilled that God brought David and the kids and I to South Asia.

I’m thankful for a rich heritage of faith and ministry and generosity.

I am thankful.

But.

I am sad.

I wish I could be with my momma right now, because her daddy just died.

I wish I could be in Florida for the memorial service.

I wish I could hug and cry with my aunts and uncles and cousins.

I wish I weren’t so very far away from home.



one year.

I realized with a start today that our one year anniversary came and went without notice.

November 21st marked the end of our first year of living here in South Asia.

Can you believe it?

I have to be honest with you: there were a couple of moments in these twelve months where I thought we might not last a whole year.

But God is faithful.  And here we are.

Many people told us, “The first year is the worst.”  And so, even though there are good memories too, I am very relieved to have it behind me, like the closed chapter of a book.

Now, I think I’m coming up for air.  For the first time in a year, I wake up in the morning and I feel like me again.  I get out of bed, and greet my family.  I don’t dread the day in front of me.  I play with my kids and unload the dish drain and plan what we’ll have for dinner.

I think about the future.

The hard things are still here.

I miss our family.  I miss our churches.  I miss friends that I have history with.

I miss fiery-colored fall leaves and hot apple cider and Starbucks pumpkin bread.

And then there’s South Asia.  Waiting for the third week for internet in our new apartment.  Or sitting, yesterday, in an auto rickshaw with Alison, and having a cross-dresser smack me in the leg for refusing to give him money.  Or wondering why a morning of errands leaves my kids filthy from head to toe.  Or laying in bed at night and longing with my entire being for five minutes of complete silence.

But the stress isn’t so crushing now.

The things I like are starting to outweigh the things I don’t.

And here’s the other thing: yes, this has been, hands down, the hardest year of my life.  But in it, I have met God in a way I wouldn’t have if things were going great.  I know that, without a doubt.  Because when things are easy, I tend not to feel like I need him as much.  I tend to coast along in my little world and not really pay attention.

Well, this year I’ve had to pay attention.  And I’ve learned that God is more faithful, not less, than I thought.  I do not know his plans.  I don’t know what tomorrow holds, or next year.  I have no idea how long we’ll live here in South Asia.

But I know he is taking care of me and of my family.  I know he will not ever, ever desert us.  I know that even in the darkest moment of my life, he is working for my good and his glory.  I know he’s changing me and setting me free from things I thought would hold me chained up forever.  Fear.  Control.  Greed.  Resentment.  Jealousy.  Discontent.

I know that every single good thing I have is a gift.  It is not a coincidence.  It is not owed to me because I’m a decent person.  It is given by a Father who loves me and whom I belong to forever.

And there are people all around me he loves too.  People he wants me to love and to sit with in suffering and to give a hot meal to and to tell, over and over, the stories of his goodness.

I know that if he says he can use someone as weak and sinful and broken as I am, then he means it.

I give him all the glory.