Saturday, December 10, 2011

Life in a Day.

I just got through watching a film called Life in a Day [watch it here], 90 minutes of the most inspiring and simplistically beautiful footage I have ever seen. Yes, that is quite a dramatic claim, but I have to attempt to convey just how much this cinematic masterpiece moved me. It's a documentary with a very straightforward and even provincial goal: to portray a single day lived out all over the world. The day was July 24, 2010, making a full moon just about the only significant and notable feature about it. The film moves roughly in chronological order throughout that given day, jumping from location to location and culture to culture, making it a positively absorbing experience. What struck me most about the film, which I guarantee will make you laugh, cry, smile, and stare in horror, is that the things that connect us as humans are the same throughout every country and culture...and are so simple.

Ok, I realize that sounds like the philosophical (albeit sophomoric) realization of an eighth grader, but as someone who has spent a little time living cross-culturally, I know how easy it is to forget the heart of what truly connects us all. When you take away common language, traditions, and food, and sprinkle in simple, yet hard-to-comprehend cultural nuances, you easily find yourself in denial that you were born on the same planet as the people you are facing daily...forgetting that you are both human and both have needs, desires, and emotions...everything just feels foreign and unrelatable.

Though I know it's unrealistic, I wish everyone was required to spend some time living within another culture; I believe there are few experiences as eye-opening. Coming to acknowledge and appreciate the common threads woven between us as people, as pieces of the same Creation, is truly mind-blowing. To finally put your finger on the human condition, on the things that we are all afraid of (loneliness and death), somehow, in a crazy and unexpected way, empowers us to relate to one another through all of our day-to-day differences. The world at large is dauntingly complex and full of a million cultures, languages, and lifestyles that might always puzzle me, but something beyond myself drives me to want to touch it, experience it, feel the pain, loss, love, joy, and intensity of other people. I guess it's safe to say that's a large part of the reason I desire to live in India again, because there is something about intangible human connectedness that draws me outside myself and closer to the all-powerful God who set this universe into motion. In our basic form, what we all desire is God and what we all fear most is a lack of God. If we as Christ-followers can begin to reframe our view of the world and see others as extensions of ourselves in God's creation and image, IMAGINE the ways in which we could experience life and love others. I shudder to think I may spend another moment of my time on earth living outside of the incredible existence that is ours to take hold of.

So with that I humbly ask you, what are YOU waiting for?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Geranium Leaf.

I have been back from India for 10 weeks and have been experiencing some of the normal side effects of the always emotional "reentry phase."  I have felt an overwhelming dose of God's grace during this time of my reverse culture shock, and I can say with confidence that this year's transition is a lot easier to cope with than last year's.

One aspect that has yet completely knocked me on my tush has been the lack of a physical place to call my own.  As humans, we are natural nesters and it seems the rare occurance to find someone who is a true (and permanent) nomad and loves it...sure, it's GREAT for a period of time...I myself love the idea of wandering from adventure to adventure with only the belongings that I carry, and, needless to say, have done quite a bit of that in the past 18 months.  However, I finally reached the end of myself in loving my nomadic ways since upon my return from India I have been homeless.  I must clarify that I am using the term "homeless" very loosely, so forgive the crude comparison, I just mean to say that I have not had a place to call my own where my bags were unpacked and I wasn't constantly living out of a carry-on sized suitcase and 2 Rubbermaid bins.  I was graciously cared for by multiple people who opened up their homes to me and took great care of me while I was in flux.  I have always had a roof over my head and thank the Lord for that.  Coming into that from 3 months in India where everything is in flux constantly was not ideal but I am growing stronger with every moment that my comforts are stripped away and I realize that I am still just fine, thriving even.

However, I am excited to announce that after 10 weeks of feeling unsettled whist staying with some great friends, I have culminated my time of nomadic wandering with moving into a place with roommates that is all my own.  I am nearly finished unpacking and setting up (it doesn't take me long as I travel light-ish these days) and I cannot express the joy I feel in being set up and organized again.  For those of you who don't know what kind of household I prefer, let's just say this girl loves color-sorted closets and perfectly organized drawers and shelves, everything in its place.  This is a testament to the completely contradictory dichotomy of me: I love to wander nomadically in search of adventure with only a backpack on my back...yet I relish having a place to nest that becomes my personal sanctuary where I can recharge and let go.

So, surrounded by my freshly painted Geranium Leaf green walls, I can't help but feel a deep contentment in the moment knowing that I have once again been given a season to rest and rejuvinate after many months of intense cross-cultural ministry...and I am thankful.

I realize this account begs the question, "so how long will you be sticking around?" and I wish I had a concrete answer for you, but alas, I do not.  As much as a blueprint for life would make things somewhat easier, it sure would take the adventure and the flexibility out of things, making us all predictable and irritatingly calm with a lack of passion for the unknown.  I believe God has called us ALL into His story, not into creating stories of our own.  When you agree to play an integral part in someone else's story, it seems inevitable that you will remain unsure of what's to come...because what's to come is not being determined by you, by your personality, or by your eagerness to are merely along for the ride.  Now, the true beauty in this is that God DOES mind our desires and our passion and He DOES use us accordingly based on who He created us to be...which means that in our adventure of the unknown, we can be guaranteed that we will fit in seamlessly, as long as we are remaining submissive to God's leading...remember, it's HIS story we are characters in, not our own.  For good measure (and as a reminder to myself), I must point out that fitting seamlessly into God's story isn't about it being easy, because, we can be certain, it won't be.  Herein lies the crux of a relationship with is difficult at times but that is where we find the most growth and fruit.

I can loosely sum up my coming future by saying that I don't feel that I am done with India and I most definitely feel I will be back there at some point, possibly sooner than later.  What I know is that I was created for this season of life in which I feel an unbridled passion for the work that God is doing in India and I am honored to be a part of it.  As a player in a masterpiece that I have not authored, I cannot say for sure when I will be where, but what I know is that I am not on a break from the performance of life and participating in God's story...I am merely playing a different scene for the time being, though I would be remiss to leave out that I am waiting expectantly for the green light to go back...

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Quintessential India: Vasintha.
Just over 2 weeks back in the US and already I am swimming in resumes, job postings, and overall blindness when it comes to my near future.  Surprisingly, it's a great place to be...even though I whine about it at times.  If there is one shred of truth for me in life, it's that God's love for me is tangible daily and it's only by His grace that I am provided for.

I really miss India.  Strangely, my Indian life feels simple in my mind compared with my Western life.  I felt something yesterday I hadn't felt in a long time...stress.  Though India is chaotic and unending in dizzying color and confusion, ultimately things slow down there and a way of life that is simple and even provincial sets in.  Even though it's a big adjustment to settle into that lifestyle, once I am in it, there is so much more room to breathe, to reflect, to grow, and to just be.  Even though I have lots of free time in my now jobless, Western life, the culture here is a swift current that is already sweeping me away...and I feel pressure to earn, to do, to connect.
In the midst of the unknown I am grateful that I actually feel in a pretty good place, especially compared with the transition I faced last year upon returning to the States, which was definitely tumultuous.  The reverse culture shock is much less for me now, at least in the dramatic and tangible sense, but I do think it's hitting me at a deeper soul level this go around.  I feel at a crossroads in life, though I'm not sure that I actually have to choose anything just yet.  I feel as though some "other" person or "greater" force is pushing me to decide if I am going to lay down roots or commit to a missionary lifestyle, when in reality, a missionary lifestyle is already what I've chosen and is undoubtedly what I'm called to.  Now it's just a matter of figuring out what that looks like for me (even if that means remaining Stateside for the time being) and silencing the world around me telling me how I should be living my life. Following Jesus is a seriously counter-culture move, which often means going against the grain of popular culture and thinking.  So, in short, I am a bit of a weirdo...and I am ok with that.

It's good for me to live in the midst of uncertainty for the time being because that ensures that I am constantly seeking God on what's next and remaining interruptable and ready for anything.  As I take much needed time to reflect on the last several months and reconnect with myself (since I have had no alone time in 4 months), I look forward to finding who I am again, the simplicity of Me in a culture that wants me to feel complex and busy.  I believe with my whole heart that I will at some point return to India (how could I not?) but I have no idea how soon that will be or in what capacity it will pan out.

I would LOVE prayer for finding a job and place to live since income and housing are 2 staples of normal life here.  Even if I only settle for a couple months...or a couple years, I want to make sure my time here is rich with blessing others as I continue to grow personally and come into my calling as a Christ-follower.

Here's to bringing a piece of India home with loving others, to serving the Church, and to remaining flexible.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The birthday miracle.

I am finally posting a blog.  For whatever number of reasons I have sucked at posting blogs about my time in mostly has to do with the fact that I have been personally responsible for posting most of our team blogs coupled with the fact that our internet is somewhat spastic and decides to quit working far too often.  Enough excuses though, 3 is a sad number of posts in blogland considering I have been in India for coming up on 9 weeks now.  Without further adieu, I bring you India-blog-post-number-four...

Today is my birthday. Today I have ended my 26th year of life and have begun to embark on my 27th.  I remember when I was a kid and my grandpa pointed that fact out to me, that when you have a birthday, you are ending the year that actually corresponds with the age you are turning...a simple bit of logic but one that my young brain had never before digested.  It made me feel so wise and mature to be able to brag that I was headed into my next year of life, since naturally it made me sound older and I wanted nothing more than to be just that: older.  It is safe to say that my mentality has changed a lot since I was a kid and all I wanted to be was another year older so I could gain more freedoms and try new things.  Though turning a year older still holds some excitement for me, it also has begun to hold weight; one year older means one year closer to actually feeling "old," one year less to live, one more year without a steady career, money in the bank, and a husband...all the things the world seems to be telling me I need to be stable.  It is significant for me to be in India on my birthday for the second year in a row because India has been so much of my life lately. God has been showing me so much of myself here (at moments that can be a scary thing) and I feel myself becoming who I am supposed to be in doing what I love doing: living cross-culturally and serving others.  Though I have insecure moments where I question if I would be better off pursuing a "real" career, I know that nothing can satisfy like doing what you feel called to be doing.  I therefore find myself completely content on the eve of my 27th year of life because I know that being here is crucial to being who I am today.

March in India marks the end of the extremely short winter here which follows the torrential downpours of monsoon season.  The joke among Indians is that the seasons go directly from winter to summer...and they couldn't be more serious.  Even though winter isn't exactly cold (at all), summer is BLAZING hot and the temperature has already climbed to the mid-90s, which feels over 100 degrees with the humidity.  Today, we visited a village church where we know the pastor and his wife.  The painstaking 3 hour service would have been awesome and enjoyable had it not been for the temperature inside the tiny concrete room.  We guesstimated that the temperature inside the room was over 100 degrees considering that when we walked back outside after 3 hours, the 90-some-odd-degree day literally felt cool.  We were all so hot and sweaty that two of us nearly fainted while sitting in chairs inside the hot oven of a room.  Suffice it to say, it was a very challenging and uncomfortable 3 hours which will help you to understand that why, a couple of weeks back when it was raining, we were beyond excited.  The first day it rained here I spent a long time outside just letting the drops hit my skin.  I got soaked but it was completely worth it, I love the rain. That very day I actually (and quite earnestly) prayed and asked God if he would bring me rain on my birthday.  This morning when I woke up the sky was clear and it was obvious that it was going to be hot and sunny. I thought about my prayer and laughed to myself thinking, "how cool would it be if it rained," and I again prayed that God would bring the rain, even though I didn't think it was at all possible considering I was doubtful God would answer such a silly prayer. Oh me of little faith... This afternoon after enduring the hottest 3 hour church service ever, a bunch of us were sitting chatting in my room and got on the subject of my prayer for rain on my birthday.  We all laughed it off and moved on to talking about something else. Less than 5 minutes later I was gazing out the window (at the very SUNNY day) and all of sudden I heard rain drops and saw wet spots multiplying on the ground.  I was so shocked that I completely interrupted Bethany and yelled, "IT'S RAINING!!!!!!!!!!"  We all ran outside and were jumping around like idiots.  The day was still bright and sunny and we all looked up into the sky asking, "where is this even coming from?!"  There was one small dark-ish cloud directly above our house (no exaggeration) and it was raining JUST on and immediately around our house!  Across the street, not 30 feet from where we were standing, the ground was completely dry and there was no rain!  I thanked God so much for the wonderful gift of joy he granted me on my birthday.  It seemed like such a silly thing but God knew that it would bring me joy as well as stand as such an amazing testament to his faithfulness because he DOES answer our prayers, even small ones!

Every day spent in India comes complete with new lessons and little glimpses into the real-ness of God.  Being here is like staring him in the face sometimes, that is how tangible Spirituality is here.  Even though I am far away from many of my friends and my whole family on my birthday, I am comforted that I am where I am supposed to be, and God is a God of miracles, JUST when we need them.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A shameless plug.

I am busy formulating something profound to write on my blog to update all of you on the status of life here...but until then, please enjoy my shameless plug comprised of pictures of myself in my new and prized sari.  I have wanted an awesome silk one forever and I finally was able to shop and buy just the one I wanted...for only 10 bucks!  Isn't India amazing?  Love you and miss you all!