365 days — April 5, 2016

365 days

Our one year anniversary of moving our family to Nepal and starting our ministry has come and gone. At that time, this post was on my heart, but internet and power issues kept me from communicating those thoughts. I’ve let them swirl around in my head and heart a little while longer…let’s see if they make any sense.

365 days. In some ways it seems like so many less and, in some ways, so many more.

365 days pouring everything we have into learning a foreign language and surviving in a place that is so drastically different from the home we had known and of not seeing the familiar faces and places that make our hearts swell and our spirits soar.

365 days of falling into bed exhausted, praising God for allowing us to just get through another day. We go to bed not knowing what the next day holds yet sleep in peace knowing He will carry us as He had the previous day.

365 days of weathering the storms that culture shock brings into our marriage and family.
Receiving the grace from His outstretched hand and summoning everything in us to extend it to each other.

365 days of being relentlessly sought after by my precious Jesus. Leaning hard into His breast, holding my breath in with the kind of trust you have to have when you’re falling from 10,000 feet.

365 days of stumbling, failing, forgiving, realizing more than anything else, I am nothing and HE IS EVERYTHING.

My prayer is to spend thousands more just like these last 365. Thousands more in this place I love but sometimes hate. Thousands more bringing my faint light into the blackest of spiritual darkness.

And I beg the One who has given me 26 years…

God, give me more days.

 

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The Nanny’s Tears — March 19, 2016

The Nanny’s Tears

I recently heard about Five Minute Friday where you set a timer and just write for 5 minutes. This was my first shot!

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I’ve seen them several times. She’s rather tender hearted.

The first time I witnessed those brown eyes brimmed was post-earthquake post-great big grateful bear hug as I thanked her for swooping up my baby in the scramble of a shaking building.

I saw them a second time as she watched my babies’ grandparents give a final squeeze and a broken whispered ‘goodbye.’ She finally realized that this cost us something, she said.

They slid down her face that day. Most other days she hides them well.

Her voice cracked as they skimmed to the surface just last week as we were hunting for a school to start our favorite girl’s educational journey. As she held in her tears, I held in my giggles but felt my heart swell with emotion all the same.

This time she was moved to tears over the fact that this girl she loved who didn’t love Nepali food was faced with a Dal bhat only menu. And I nearly broke down over how much this person who was a stranger at this time last year loves my children.

This morning, as my big girl set off for her first day of school, the nanny’s tears emerged again. Later, she told me how quiet the house was without her and how every time her brother looked for her, their Nepali momma’s heart broke again.

I have a feeling I will see them time and time again. Nothing quite makes me feel at home here like our nanny’s tears.

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Frequently Asked Friday: Adventures in Food — February 27, 2016

Frequently Asked Friday: Adventures in Food

I always thought food was something only little kids at VBS are curious about, but turns out most everyone who has inquired about my life here in Nepal has expressed interest in knowing what we eat here, how we eat it, and how we like it!

I don’t know why I’m surprised by these inquiries. Food is a big part of our lives and influences so much of our day as well as social activities. Common Nepali greetings include, “Have you eaten?” “Did you drink tea?” etc. and you can always find groups of Nepalis huddled together drinking tea or passing around a plate of snacks.

Though Nepali snacks and sweets just aren’t up to my standards, I do love me some Nepali savory foods.

Generally, Nepalis eat two large meals a day generally consisting of a combination of veggies, rice, and lentils and typically only eat meat on special occasions when it is served as a side dish (I’d like to think we Americans have the right idea of this one!). They also have tea and snacks twice a day with a small meal in between should hunger strike. If they’re anything like me that would be every day.

While I do enjoy this traditional Nepali meal, there is no way in this world I could eat it twice a day (though this will probably change)! In fact, once or twice a week is good for me.

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Dal Bhat with all kinds of fixings.

The rest of the week we enjoy meals like tacos, chili, Shepherd’s pie (not bubby’s as Jo thinks), and fried rice, to name a few family favorites. 4 nights a week, we have a young Nepali man eat dinner with us. He is getting used to our food but prefers Nepali food. I try to spice up our favorite dishes to appease him. My kids are not impressed.

Nepali milk tea which is sometimes sweet and sometimes a little spicy was definitely an acquired taste for us. But now that we’ve acquired it, there’s no going back! I imagine we will be cooking up some chiya when we are back in America just to take us back to Nepal one delicious moment at a time. Still trying to figure out why we haven’t adopted a tea time in America. I love the structure and social opportunities it brings to each day! Not to mention, it’s delicious and extremely comforting and doesn’t betray me like high-caff coffee tends to do.

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Other acquired tastes have been momos, paneer, beaten rice (which we absolutely hated and now prefer over cooked rice), and puffed rice. Beaten rice and puffed rice (basically non-crisp Rice Krispies) are often eaten with vegetable- or chicken-curry which I would have gagged over just thinking about before and now DROOL over. What in the world has happened to me? And the better question is, why am I writing this post so close to dinner time? My stomach is speaking to me. It’s saying I need to invite my neighbor over to cook dinner for us. Nope. Nope that was my lazy bones talking.

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Momos: Can you believe my mom nearly tossed her cookies after trying these? She needs her tastes buds checked STAT.

The way they season and SPICE UP food here, I really think I could eat just about anything coated in the yummy goodness (anyone up for some ostrich?). When people try to tame food to please the wimpy foreigners I am NOT a happy camper. I am not a sissy when it comes to spice. The hotter the heat the tastier the treat. That’s what I always say! Okay, I just made it up. You caught me.

 

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Thukpa, a Tibetan dish and one of my favorites!

Though with this tendency to ladle on the masala I need to adopt the habit of chasing my super heated meals with yogurt as the Nepalis do. I haven’t fallen in love with plain yogurt; however, thankfully my kids have. I’ll take sugar-drowned Yoplait any day of the week. Although, I have found plain yogurt to be a necessity in cooking our food, and I am so glad I found that out. I have finally perfected my banana bread recipe thanks to the addition of this readily available (and super cheap!) staple.

While I don’t think I will be eating rice for breakfast anytime soon, offer me some Nepali food any other time of the day, and I am good to go! Otherwise I’ll be at KFC where I enjoy spicy chicken and rizo rice. Yum!

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Even though we love Nepali food, we were delighted when KFC opened back up several months after the earthquake.

Let me know if you stumble upon any of these food items at your local import store or foreign food source. It might even be fun to have a little Nepali food or snack night with your family! (Just don’t watch Everest. Save that for a day you want to feel absolutely terrible). You may be surprised to find you enjoy some of these unfamiliar food items!

Tell me about your foreign food adventures!
I would love to hear your experiences in the comment section below!PicMonkey Sample

 

 

 

 

Earth-shaken, Fire-forged Love — February 17, 2016

Earth-shaken, Fire-forged Love

Is it too late for a mushy-gushy post? It’s my blog and I do what I want to.

Valentine’s Day has had me reflecting on the love the Lord has so generously blessed me with. First and foremost the unmatched love of Christ in my life is beyond compare to any temporal love that could be shown to me this side of heaven. That, in and of itself, is a totally and completely WORLD-ROCKING concept when I consider how abundantly full my life is in the L-O-V-E department.

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See what I mean?

The mission field has changed me. It has changed my husband. It has changed our marriage. It has changed our love. Our love may not of the Hallmark red-pink splattered fuzzy hearted type, but it is a lot of things less glamorous…but better.

Our love is shoulder-to-shoulder language learning, one of the hardest and most humbling experiences of our lives to date.

It is waking up to an earthquake and falling asleep again feeling safe in his arms.

Long walks stumbling around fallen bricks and our fears for our children growing up in this strange place.

Being led across the busy streets of Kathmandu in complete trust of the man that guides me.

It is sitting at our farmhouse table morning after morning, sipping our hot water (yeah, we quit coffee…and I don’t want to talk about it) and reading the word of God in a language that lights it all up for us.

Our love is my man sneaking out to the laundry room to start a load in the middle of the night while we are graced with power.

Snuggles that start solely for warmth. Cooking love-laced goodies on hot plates. Falling asleep on his shoulder on our millionth taxi ride. Walks with our daughter showing us her “secret places” she is unaware are public knowledge. Sharing our bed with a handsome little man who refused to sleep for the first year of his life. Rushing around in supermarket sweep style a few times a month. Squeezed-in cheesecake dates into our busting-at-the-seams schedule. Crashing into our bed at 8 o’clock after long days and waking up in groans and shared contempt for mornings.

It is joys, hardships, and countless stolen moments of peace among the crazy. The hug that chauffeurs me somewhere else. The kiss that takes away the stress if only for a moment. Romance is something I don’t remember much. But that’s not to say I don’t know love. I know it well. Maybe better than most.

  

I know our love. And I wouldn’t trade it for the love that storybooks and movies are made of. It has been forged in an on-going war to win the world. And it sure sounds romantic when you put it that way, doesn’t it?

And to think…Christ loves me MORE. And this ain’t a fairytale! It’s good and TRUE news our love weathers this place to share.

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Tell me about your earth-shaken, fire-forged love!
I would love to hear your experiences in the comment section below!

 

 

 

Frequently Asked Friday: All About My MKs — February 12, 2016

Frequently Asked Friday: All About My MKs

Seems like all anyone ever wants to talk to me about anymore is my kids! I kinda love that about growing up since I’m not too fascinating but I could talk about my sweet and crazy toddlers all day long! Pull up a seat and grab your coffee…we might be here a while!

This is Jolynn.

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This picture sums her up pretty well. She is always running around pulling stuff out, changing her identity (actual quote: “I not Jolynn… I Batman!”), and causing all kinds of trouble. She is a real firecracker but is pretty go with the flow when it comes to change (major life changes anyway- I wouldn’t suggest giving her peanut butter when she thinks she’s getting Nutella).

Life in Nepal- She settled into Nepal life well, has never made a fuss about us leaving her to go to language school, and has never seemed phased by having a nanny that only speaks Nepali to her.
Language- She understands A LOT of Nepali and follows any and all commands given to her but generally responds in English. She is starting to say phrases like, “Where is this?” “I am fine,”  “I am hungry,” etc. and the bossy gal has perfected, “Don’t do that, little brother!”
Food- She pretty much detests any food that is not PB&J or apples, so she hasn’t branched out into trying any real Nepali food. She will eat wai-wai which is a Nepali staple here similar to Ramen noodles, but she only eats them dry. She just doesn’t know how good they are the real way! YUM!
Social Life-She is not currently enrolled in school but we are exploring that option for her as she will be turning 4 in just 10 days! In our neighborhood, there aren’t any children her age and at times she seems to struggle with boredom and a lack of social interaction. We are praying for a little Nepali friend for her!

This is Shepherd. And no, he doesn’t have any sheep, but we know where to get him some. He’s kinda spoiled like that…

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He might as well be Nepali and everyone around here says as much. We moved here when he was 3 months old so I guess this is all just normal life to this little man!

Life in Nepal- He spends more time immersed in Nepali than English and, much to my dismay, often spends more time with his Nepali momma while his mommy learns this language! I sometimes think he might be surprised when he looks in the mirror and may even wonder who that little white boy is!
Language-Sometimes, when I can’t get him to obey, I say my command in Nepali and get an immediate response! Makes me feel bad for any discipline I may have given out unnecessarily! Oops! He hasn’t started talking yet, but I suspect when he does it will be a mash-up between Nepali and English…Nepalglish???
Food- He’ll pretty much eat anything that slightly resembles food but he does seem to prefer Nepali food (lentils, rice, and all kinds of veggies) and even likes it all a little on the spicy side! He enjoys carrying in the fresh-delivered milk, sweeping with the Nepali style broom, and throws a royal fit when we come in from outside, when his Nepali mommy leaves, and when his Masala Tea runs out!
Social Life- He doesn’t have one, but what one year old does? His sister drives him crazy, and he is a total momma’s boy (Nepali mommy or me…whoever is here!). He can usually be found on one of our hips trying to get a sneak of what’s cooking and will form a special bond with anyone who will sneak him some.

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I remember on the plane coming here, I looked at my sleeping babes and wept over their total oblivion to what was about to happen, to how their lives would change and not resemble many other American childrens’ lives. I worried that they wouldn’t have friends, wouldn’t eat anything, and would be scared of many things we would encounter. And that they would never feel at home anywhere.

Most of my fears have come true, but these precious babies have taught me so much about just enjoying each day and taking whatever comes. Like my husband told me, they don’t know that their life is weird…or hard!  So I try not to clue them in!

I’m so thankful for my American girl and my Nepali boy. I know that they have many challenges down the road as they grow up in a foreign land. I trust that the Lord will enable me to help them face those challenges with the grace and love that has been lavished upon me.

If I’m their Mom in America, in Nepal, or on Mars, I am truly, truly blessed!

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Tell me about your MKs- Missionary Kids and Mommy’s Kids alike!
I would love to hear your experiences in the comment section below!

 

On This Day: Facebook-Archived Memories I Might Rather Forget — February 10, 2016

On This Day: Facebook-Archived Memories I Might Rather Forget

The ever popular social network is faithful to remind me every day of the memories on this date in the past years. Most days, I scan posts between friends I am no longer even online acquaintances with. Some I even have to go look at their profile picture and think long and hard about who in the world that person is.

Most days are boring and uneventful as such is life. But some days bring back floods of memories. Some of these reminders pull warm fuzzy moments from deep within that bring a smile to my face and warmth to my heart. Others swell with waves of painful gut-wrenching grief that threaten to overwhelm me again.

Did you know that you can set dates for this Facebook application so that you can avoid painful reminders on certain days you’d rather just pretend didn’t happen? Tempting, in some cases.

This week, I’ve been receiving reminders about two major events in my life.

A pregnancy announced in February, 2013 that would end in May of the same year.

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Visa issues that resulted in a major change of plans as we were not granted access into India for church planting work and changed fields within a month of receiving this news.

Countless prayers for a healthy baby graced the ears of God. Perhaps many more did the same begging God for access to the country which He had placed in our hearts.

A due date. A departure date. Both came and went without the expected outcome.

We planned, we prayed, we hoped. We trusted God as we held our breaths in reckless obedience to His supposed will for our lives.

We were heartbroken, disappointed, and let down when our plans were derailed, our self-sculpted worlds crumbled, and our hands were forced to change. I guess the ball was never really in our court, anyway, but why was it so comforting to think that it was?

In these scenarios when everything fell apart and we were left wondering what just happened as we sat helpless in the debris, we had nothing to cling to but the Cross.

Why would the God of the universe give us an unexpected blessing in rosy cheeked flawless form just to let him rot in my womb for weeks while I dismissed my fears in attempts to fully trust the One who watched him take his last breath?

Why would God impress this needy country, these people lost without the gospel of Christ upon our hearts, allow us to see the need with our own eyes, and raise the support needed to go…only to allow the hands that held the power to grant us entrance to clench them in their unrelenting fists?

I wish I could tell you. Even now, I still wonder about these things, and on the hardest days when the memories I’d rather make sure to avoid sweep around my swimming thoughts, I ask these questions again.

But when I rise above the waves and get a nice big breath of the sweetness of the Lord to this child of His and I steal a glimpse of the grace He has extended to my family, I am in awe of the beauty He has created out of what I once thought was such a heaping mess.

Isn’t that just like him?

I have a perfectly beautiful family only an egregiously gracious God could give me. I have two constant reminders of the miraculous work He wrought inside of my Creator-crafted body to bring two more of His fearfully, wonderfully made masterpieces into this world broken by sin.

I live in a country I knew nothing of exactly a year ago. I speak a language (sort-of) I didn’t know existed. I have friends it would kill me to leave now should He relocate me again and opportunities for life-changing kingdom work on the horizon. This is mind-blowing to me!

We make plans, we move forward, and we trust once more. Knowing He can wreck them all again. But knowing He will carry us through it if He does and will bring about something so right and so beautiful. The growing hurts. There’s no getting around that. And the beautiful is usually real ugly before it is brought to the light.

I would have never chosen to make some of the memories of the past, and the Lord knows they are painful to recall.

And while some days, I wonder what life would be like with my 2 1/2 year old son bouncing around the house I imagined we would live in in New Delhi, India, most days I just bask in the admittedly weird (and inexplicably challenging) but wonderful life I lead looking forward to the memories yet to be made.

Bring on the memories of old. Don’t hold back. Don’t pour on the perfect and protect me from the pain.

And you know what, while I’m at it, I better start adding to the stockpile so I can have the precious and painful memories of a life lived for Christ to look back on in the years to come. Seeing always that He is good, faithful, and kind. And that I have never lacked a perfect gift from His hand. That His plans for me, though not in accordance with my own, are forged in unharnessed hands that work only to bring about good work in my life.

And sweet, sweet memories. Thank you, Jesus.

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Frequently Asked Friday: Getting Mail in Nepal — February 5, 2016

Frequently Asked Friday: Getting Mail in Nepal

Recently, on my Facebook page, I asked for some input about things you all are curious about and will cover as many of those responses as I can here on my blog. One of the things that came up there, as well as in many private conversations I have had, is what’s the deal with receiving mail here in Nepal? I probably won’t hit it all today, but I will just share a few things I have learned over the last several months of across-the-world-correspondence.

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First of all, we just have a PO box here. Any mail we receive requires a trip to the post office for pick up which is about 20 minutes away but very near to where we study these days. A heads up that something is coming is SUPER helpful (and gives us something to look forward to!). I know my daughter’s birthday package from my parents is about a week out, and even though she won’t be allowed to open it right away, I am just DYING to go pick it up! It may or may not hold my birthday present as well…so I have double anticipation, I suppose.

I have been surprised by how low some of the costs of things we have received here have been for the sender and shocked by how high it can be as well! Recently, after receiving some light-weight mail, I marveled at the low price, feeling a little guilty that I hadn’t sent more missionaries packages when I lived in America. Definitely going to take advantage of that on furlough.

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We put all paper mail Jo gets on this board! Since this picture was taken it has filled up a little more!

One of the first mailings we received here was a small envelope with two coloring pages, a picture of some of Jo’s little friends, and a map showing where they lived in relation to Nepal. This was such a fun little thing for Jo to open, and finding that it cost $3 to make an MK’s day was surprising to me (and a little guilt-giving…Much apologies to the tiny MK tots we love! Furlough is coming!).

We found out that anything under 5 lbs. is picked up at a window rather than the counter where it can become quite an ordeal as we open it in front of the officials. We have noticed, however, the more Nepali we speak, the more patient and understanding they are about everything. “What’s that? A food something? Yep. OK!” When really I don’t even know what it is. Every time we go it gets a little easier!

Recently, a friend from college sent a manila envelope with a bag of marshmallows and bubbles for my kids as well as their Christmas card. This package, if I remember right, cost $12 to send around the world but meant the WORLD to me and we had a blast with the kiddos in the yard making use of this thoughtful gift!

Another friend from the last church we visited on deputation sent three hand-drawn and water-colored (maybe? I’m totally clueless when it comes to art) to hang in my babies’ rooms. The postage read a $6 fee. I pay $15 for 3 frames and, wallah!, I have personalized art for my kids on my walls that makes my heart swell every time I see them!

IMG_1313.JPGTo me, that’s what it’s all about it. It’s not necessarily what’s in the envelope or package, though I am always amazed by the thoughtfulness and creativity of each one. To me, I see you standing in line at the post office, pushing your toddler in the buggy at Walmart, or your children dumping out your piggy banks to ship my babies some granola bars or coloring books.

I wonder if you look at the calendar for those three weeks, checking your inbox to see if you have received a notification about its arrival. I can’t help but smile and thank God for sweet friends as they snuggle/strangle their recently acquired stuffed animal that just arrived from a VERY LONG voyage to get to their loving arms and sticky fingers.

Just like everything else in this crazy land, receiving mail in Nepal is always an adventure!

Feeling all the Feels: Family Visits on the Foreign Field — January 21, 2016

Feeling all the Feels: Family Visits on the Foreign Field

I had and have no intentions of abandoning this blog. BUT I took a little unplanned hiatus for my in-laws visit! Can I get a whoop-whoop?! We had a wonderful Christmas celebration with them (on New Years) and an over-all fantastic time. No land-slides or major crises this time! Can I get an Amen?! You don’t have to do that…really. I’ll be happy anyway.

We did lots of things and saw lots of stuffs. There were hugs and kisses and snuggles and squeezes. Lots of laughs and countless calories consumed (Non-essential diets are NOT honored here if you visit us). Games played, gifts given, and good times had all around! Way too much love to be packed into 12 days, but we managed it somehow.

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I wanted to contrast the first day, mid-visit, and last day activities, thoughts, and feelings for anyone who might be interested in the good, bad, and ugly of this life. Missionaries are real people too, you know. And we love our families in a real big way from real far away. When we get them in close proximity, we suck all the life and love out of them and manipulate minutes into years of memories.

DAY 1: So many things to do, but all I want to do is watch the clock. I clean things I’ve already cleaned and prepare more food than can possibly be consumed. My daughter asks how long it will be until G&G get here. I tell her 12 hours (ok I lied a little..it’s more than that). She says, “That is a LOOOONG TIIIIIIIME!” Ditto, sweet baby. We eat breakfast…lunch… dinner…drink way too much coffee…go to church…watch a few movies. Hubby goes to the airport, bubby goes to bed and the little princess falls asleep on the couch at 5 minutes after 8. I keep checking my phone. Nothing but a plea to put some Diet Coke in the fridge for their arrival. I go to get it out of the pantry which might as well be the refrigerator. It’s already cold. Head back to my cocoon and check my phone repeatedly for the next hour. No word. But wait! I hear our little Maruti-Suzuki-that-could huffing and puffing up the hill to our house. I use all my best techniques to wake my drooling diva, a little worried that she will be a scared sleepy head or the grumpy bear she usually is when woken prematurely. She sleepily squeals at first sighting and jumps (ok…falls…) right into their arms. She spends the next hour showing off her things, chattering non-stop, and playing an endless game of I-Spy in which she ALWAYS tells the thing she spies before Grandma guesses. After catching up and oggling the suitcases full of Christmas presents, we reluctantly head towards the bed. It’s gonna be a great week.

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Mid-visit: How can it be half-way over all ready? Our time is going too fast. We’ve stayed home a lot. Are they bored? They seem happy. Everyone seems happy. I know I’m happy. This has certainly been a stressful year. It sure does feel nice to just relax. I cry happy tears in bed with my husband and whisper my worries that the joy I feel will leave when they do.

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The Final Day: There’s a little less chatter over our coffee cups this morning. They sit half-empty on the breakfast table. I feel a little like that coffee cup and wonder if everyone else does too. I swear I was just full to the brim last night and warm…so warm (my friends in Nepal know this is not a literal warmth). I just know it won’t last. This day will drain me. The memories will remain but will suddenly feel distant. We will fall back into our routines but we will feel that emptiness, the cold for a while. We stay in, silently packing and getting things ready to go. The silence is repeatedly broken by baby giggles and toddler banter…beautiful sounds of oblivion. I’m so thankful they don’t know how many miles it is to America and how long a year is. We pass the time with coffee, snacks, games, waiting for the inevitable. I know they have to go home. I know we have to let them. We will all be happy to get back to normal life, of course, but right now that doesn’t seem to matter. The moment comes for lingering hugs and loose lips sharing all the love we can summon. Teetering between making this a special goodbye for Jo without opening up her eyes to the painful reality of this departure. The nanny takes the baby from Grandma and I can tell she feels a little guilty for doing so. As the car pulls away, I spy a tutu-clad toddler waving and yelling the sweetest sentiments in her best outside voice (it’s the only one she has). IMG_1302

My heart hurts and my stomach does too. It’s pretty quiet on the way to the airport. We help them find their way to the departure door. We pray over a pile of suitcases with hundreds of eyes watching us. Our own fight back tears that finally cascade down my face as we give the final squeeze. I watch them walk out of sight and for the first time in a long time I think, “Why do we do this to ourselves?” My husband hugs me on the long walk back to the car and says, “You know I couldn’t do this without you,” and I remember the answer to the question I asked myself. I smile a weak smile as we begin the quiet ride home.

It had been a great week.

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Tell me about your visits with family after extended absences!
I would love to hear your experiences in the comment section below!

 

 

How Hospitality Saved my Christmas and Changed my Heart — December 28, 2015

How Hospitality Saved my Christmas and Changed my Heart

Showing up unannounced at someone’s house on Christmas…GASP!

This would be a shocking act in American culture on this holiday and, really, on any day on the calendar. Typically, we aren’t fond of visitors finding their way to our doorstep without a serious heads up.

With some hesitation, we committed this heinous crime on Christmas Day here in Nepal. We gave a friend and his daughter a ride home from church and declared that we would come in and say hello to his wife who was hindered by a headache from attending the special Christmas service that day.

From the backseat, I heard the warning call, “Paul and Amber are coming over. Put some tea on.” Or something like that. It was in my second language, ya know.

And that was it. I didn’t hear on the other end if she became frazzled and rushed, overloaded by the stress of unforetold company. I worried if we had somehow overstepped our bounds. I know she loves our kids and would want to see them but does that still stand on Christmas Day with a headache?

Thankfully, it did. I pushed my worries aside as we shoved our American-size selves into her tiny apartment. We joined her on the balcony where she was  bent over a fire, cooking sel roti, a traditional sweet snack prepared on special days, and she greeted us with HUGE hugs, smiles, and squeals. What was I worried about anyway?

She shared with us the meal (complete with meat!) that she had prepared for her little family. We felt a guilty but thankful that they would welcome us into their family on this special day. Though we were absolutely full to the brim from the feast at church, we found room somewhere for the smaller feast they offered.

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We stayed and chatted an hour without a word of English and went home satisfied on sweetness and with smiles that just wouldn’t subside. This precious family had saved my Christmas.

I so enjoyed our Christmas celebration at church and just adored how Christ-centered that week had been. Though, I would be lying if I tried to make you believe that this was the state of my heart throughout the week in its entirety.

I had a wandering eye to Christmas celebrations happening Stateside. I longed to be with my family in the house I grew up in taking in the sights sounds, and smells of familiar holiday tradition.

But while everyone was knee-deep in pre-planned Christmas festivities, I was being loved on by precious people whose language I don’t yet fluently speak and enjoying treats they had set aside for their own family…all during my spontaneous stop-over.

I had been residing in the selfish hole where I had surrounded myself with all my wishes and wants that blocked my view of the blessings around me. This family’s gracious hospitality had pulled me out, embraced me, and opened my eyes to the amazing things God has done here and the wonderful people He has put in my life.

I have a new family here. And while they don’t resemble mine in any way and their traditions are much more reserved, I realized the basis of their treatment of us has the same underlying cause of the most precious moments Stateside.

They love Jesus. They have servant-hearts. They love us and they love our kids. Not because we don’t butcher their language on the daily (we do) and not because we don’t make silly cultural offenses (we do). But because they realize the big thing that happened on Christmas, and it changed them.

They live in a culture that doesn’t see what Christ has done. They walk in a world that doesn’t give Him a thought. They realize the weight of what has been done in their lives, and they aren’t afraid to pass it along.

I have seen this family love and serve believers and unbelievers alike. They have learned hospitality from this culture where it plays a big role in daily life and relationships, but theirs has a special touch. It has a touch of Jesus. And I really believe that his open home, open door policy plus a touch of Jesus can really bring a wonderful change to this world that has long forgotten or never known the Christ who came so many years ago.

Perhaps those who wouldn’t look for Him could stumble upon Him over a cup of coffee at my table, sitting on my couch playing Uno, or sharing freshly popped popcorn on the front-porch.

Maybe after casual chit-chat about the latest movies and where I bought the kids shoes, I could tell them what brought us to this wild and wonderful place and the amazing plan we have lived out in light of the gospel.

Maybe the greatest, most life changing moments don’t ALWAYS happen at the altar. Maybe they happen in our homes. So maybe it really wouldn’t hurt to invite someone into the tornado debris and toddler tantrums. Maybe here is where they could meet Jesus.

Announced or not, I can welcome visitors in and introduce them to the greatest friend I’ve ever known.

This year, I resolve to keep my door open a little more often, linger a little longer, and tell my frazzled spazzy self to take a hike in the name of Christ-honoring hospitality. To find the heart inside that loves the people Jesus does. Which is, uh, everyone.

Christ-centered hospitality saved my Christmas. Maybe it could save someone’s life. Jesus takes our measly offerings and does pretty awesome things like that.

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What do you resolve to improve in the New Year for the sake of the gospel?
I would love to hear from you in the comment section below!

 

Christmas Where I Don’t Belong — December 22, 2015

Christmas Where I Don’t Belong

Before leaving for the field, I often wondered what my first Christmas would look like. I fantasized about what it could or should be. I dreamed of starting family traditions with my little ones and sharing our Christmas festivities with new friends, believers and unbelievers alike.

But just like many things in life, the reality just hasn’t lived up to the hype. I guess I should have known. This is not my home. At least not yet. This country doesn’t celebrate Christ’s coming. And while I would not argue that Christmas is truly a Christian holiday in its modern form, there are comforts that come in the community that shares at least a nod at the King that came to earth as a babe to save the souls of the world.

We aren’t less busy because it’s Christmas. In fact, we are even busier! Learning a language is time and thought consuming. There are very few moments in my day where my brain isn’t being racked for all the grammar and vocab knowledge crammed somewhere within. Walking to school, studying, preparing meals for my family, gift shopping, special Christmas services, making ready for guests…I don’t think my Christmas season has ever been more busy.

We’ve spent hours looking for a tree topper that was never found. Our plastic green toothpick turned Christmas tree is adorned with an elephant puppet. Because…seriously, that’s all we have.

It’s in these times I face myself. Is Jesus really the reason? Have I lost my focus? Is Christmas, to me, tree skirts and toppers, quality wrapping paper, and online shopping with ease?

Do I resent the things I am busy with that take precedence over the holiday traditions that seem so important? The things I am busy with are the important things after all. If Jesus is the reason I moved my family clear across the world, then it stands to reason He is the reason I am here now, removed from Christmas tradition and Christ reverence. The reason I am slaying myself to learn a language that doesn’t seem to want to stick. The reason I am putting myself out there to befriend difficult people, to cross cultural and language barriers to share the Christ who changed my life.

Christmas is not Christ. Christ is not for America only.Tradition and symbolism, while comforting, are not what my life is about. While nothing around me confirms the coming of the holiday season, no sounds of sleigh bells or Santa sightings, every day of my life is oozing of the grace of the once bundled babe indwelling the power of God and taking on the sins of the entire world. He is the reason for the season, the reason for my life, and the reason we’re all here stumbling around the globe trying to make sense of a life without Him.

Wherever you find yourself this holiday season, with the comforts (read: distractions) of the Christmas season, give Christ more than a casual nod. Moving forward past Christmas and into the New Year, resolve to give Him every day of the coming year and every year. His grace isn’t given on one day or in one season. He is good and giving every day. Our response should be the same every day.

Amazed reverence. Willing obedience. Joyful submission. Complete confidence. Reckless trust.

In every season. On every day. Christ is the reason. Come, let us adore Him.

oct

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:9-14)

In what ways do you center your Christmas around Christ?
I would love to hear your experiences in the comment section below!

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