Month: October 2012

Homesick

“Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.” – C.S. Lewis, from The Problem of Pain

I get pretty homesick here in New Delhi.

I’m not sure what triggers it, but I think it’s mainly just a craving I get for things that are familiar.

Sometimes I’ll think about Houston and all the places that I like to visit when I’m there.

Or sometimes I’ll think about my mother-in-law’s place, where it’s surrounded by nature and quiet.

Other times I’ll think about our old apartment in Kansas City, with all the bike trails nearby and how close it was to all the places we liked to eat and shop.

In my heart I’ll feel a longing for these places. I want to go back and live there again. I want to hear the familiar quiet, smell the familiar smells, and see the familiar things.

I want to be back where I’m comfortable and I know my way around. I want to be where I know all the best places to buy groceries, where I can anticipate the change in seasons, and where I know what to expect from the culture.

But during our last trip to the US, as I was enjoying being home for a little while, I couldn’t shake this thought: “No matter how much I may miss the US, the US is not my home.”

Yes, it’s true.

America is a beautiful and blessed country. And I’m thankful to have been born in such a prosperous nation. But it’s not my home.

It’s as temporary a dwelling place as India. A fleeting shadow. And I’m just as much a foreigner there as I am here in India.

I have a more secure and permanent home hidden in the person of Jesus.

And as much as I long to be “home”, Jesus is aching to find His home in me too. When He was with his disciples He told them He had no place to rest His head. (Mt. 8:20)

We’re both homesick. And we can only find our true homes in one another.

It’s just like Jesus said: if we dwell in Him, He will also dwell in us. (Jn 15:4)

So as much as I ache to be physically back in the US, what I’m really aching for is the fullness of the Kingdom to be made manifest. Because my true home, united and alive in Christ, is being continually built up for all eternity.

Singapore

Singapore Skyline
View of Singapore’s skyline from Marina Bay.

Michael and I just got back from Singapore this past Sunday.

I liked Singapore. In so many ways it’s a complete 180〫from Delhi. For it’s size and population density, there’s hardly any traffic or pollution. And the amount of greenery is amazing.

It’s really impressive to see how they’ve made the most of the limited space and resources they have.

But for all the things I liked about Singapore, I enjoyed the time we spent with a couple of our friends the most.

It made me think about the value that relationships have, and how without relationships, our lives are incredibly empty.

Dinner and dessert with some friends.

No matter whether we’re in a pristine a city like Singapore or a chaotic scramble like Delhi, life is only meaningful when it’s lived out in relationship with Jesus and those around us.

I confess, I’ve left Jesus out of a lot of my traveling experiences. So despite how much I’ve enjoyed all the places we’ve been able to visit, without Him, I’ve only been appreciating them at a superficial level.

But Jesus is more alive than any man and the only one who truly knows how to live life to the fullest. If He’s not the focus, what’s the point?

If I really want my heart to be fully alive and living in the present, I need be in relationship with the Lord and invite Him into my experiences abroad.

Thankful Thursdays: Autumn

Yellow Farmhouse Winery
Taken outside Yellow Farmhouse Winery in Defiance, MO.

The official first day of Autumn in the US was September 22nd this year.

By now, at home they’re experiencing cool, crisp evenings, the smells of apple cider, spiced nuts and fruits, and restaurants are offering pumpkin-flavored this or that.

I love it when I walk into Hobby Lobby and that country, crafty aroma hits me first thing. It’s like heaven being in their store. And the combination of cinnamon, cloves, and orange-cranberry candles is divine.

Autumn’s the beginning of baking season, which means I get to bake and eat as much pumpkin pie as I can manage.

It’s also when I get to start wearing all my favorite scarves and sweaters. Then in the evenings, when Michael and I watch movies, we’ll snuggle up with hot tea and blankets.

In September, the trees in Kansas usually start to turn colors. It may not be as pretty as other places in America, but after growing up in Houston, I always thought it was special.

Right before Michael and I moved to India, most of our things were getting boxed up for storage or for shipping. We kept our bikes out for as long as we could.

Almost every evening we took them out and rode along various bike trails or through nearby neighborhoods. It was probably the most memorable thing we did before we moved… and it’s probably the thing I miss the most.

There really isn’t a Fall season here in Delhi, so I’ll miss it again this year, but I’m thankful for it all the same.

Blaming

Several weeks ago, I had been spending quite a bit of time whining and complaining about living here in Delhi. After a few minutes of going on and on, God finally asked me: “What will you do when you don’t have India to blame anymore?”

So I quickly thought back to all the other occasions in my life where I’ve went looking for people or things to blame. Talk about an unattractive personality trait.

I started to wonder where that came from and why I always felt the need to look outwards for scapegoats.

I traced a lot of it back to a feeling of helplessness and lack of control.

In the case of being here in India, I feel completely at the mercy of the people, the places and the culture. I don’t always know where I’m at or how to communicate my needs to those around me, so I feel frustrated and defeated.

When we were in Rome, we had to figure out how to use the underground metro system to get around the city. As we were sitting on the train I thought to myself, “No one else is going to do things for you, only you can be responsible for how you live your life.”

It’s no different here in Delhi. Yes, this is a hard place to live. Yes, it’s hard to learn the language. Yes, it’s hard to know whether you’re being told the truth or not. But in the end, no one else is going to figure all that out for me. No one else is going to step in and take over responsibility for my things for me.

Michael and I deliberately chose to move to Delhi. Over the course of a year, we made decision after decision that enabled us to come and live in this place. We had even visited Delhi on 3 different occasions before we accepted the offer to come here. We knew what we were getting ourselves into. (Well, maybe we didn’t know about that one part about not touching your dishwasher after the geyser pipe bursts water all over the place. One word: Electrocution.)

I don’t want to be like the servant who intentionally chose to bury his talent in the ground, and had the audacity to blame the Master for his own actions. I can’t go on blaming India, or anyone else, for all my problems and discomforts.

If I’m not stewarding this season here well, it’s time for me to stop shifting the responsibility on others and start asking myself why.

Michelangelo’s Tragedy and the Sistine Chapel

Cappella Sistina
Entrance to the Sistine Chapel.
(No pictures were allowed inside.)

While Michael and I were on our tour of the Vatican, our guide spent some time talking about the history behind the Sistine Chapel and the famed artist, Michelangelo, who painted it.

You can read on your own a more detailed account of what happened, according to Michelangelo, but I’ll just quickly relate the story here.

It goes something like this: At the time, the Pope’s conclave was in need of some refreshing and so he asks the famed fresco painter, Raphael, who he should commission to paint the chapel.

Raphael recommends Michelangelo – who was known more for his sculpting than painting.

Raphael’s hope was that if Michelangelo botched the painting of the chapel, Raphael’s own work would achieve greater recognition, meanwhile Michelangelo’s reputation as an artist would be ruined.

The Pope listens to Raphael’s recommendation and tells Michelangelo that he wants him to paint the chapel. But Michelangelo is hesitant and declines the Pope’s initial request because he believed he was only a sculpture, and not a painter.

But the Pope is insistent, and so some 500 years later, we have Michelangelo’s famously-painted ceiling and altar wall of the Sistine Chapel.

When our tour guide was done telling this story, she asked a couple of incredibly powerful questions: “Just think, what if the whole time Michelangelo knew that he was more than just a sculptor and that he was a painter too? How many more Sistine Chapel’s would we have in existence today?”

Those questions got me thinking: How much is lost when we chain down our identities to what we believe we can or can’t do?

Then I began applying our guide’s questions a little differently to everyday life: What if I knew I was more than just a wife or a cook? What if that homeless man knew he was more than a homeless man? What if the kid who didn’t make the basketball team knew he was more than just a basketball player?

What if our identities weren’t wrapped up in our beliefs about ourselves?

What if we let ourselves be, as Mother Teresa once said, “a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world”?

Historians have since gone back and said Michelangelo’s account of how he came to paint the Sistine Chapel is probably untrue, and that there’s no external evidence to suggest that Raphael had any plans to underhand Michelangelo.

But even if the story’s not true, don’t you think it’s sad that Michelangelo wrote it down as though it was? Don’t you think it says something about how Michelangelo viewed himself?

It makes me wonder too, where was the voice of truth in Michelangelo’s life? Who did he have in his life that could have encouraged more of his talents in painting as well as sculpting?

The Pietà
The Pietà by Michelangelo, inside St. Peter’s Basilica

No one can deny that Michelangelo was genius. And whether or not he painted a million more Sistine Chapels if had he considered himself a painter, doesn’t take away from all the other masterpieces he created.

But the tragedy of Michelangelo does not lie in his accomplishments or lack of accomplishments.The tragedy of Michelangelo is that he believed a lie that his painting skills were inferior and not worth investing in.

I’m not saying either that everyone’s a Michelangelo waiting to happen. There are just some skills we stink at, and we’d be fooling ourselves not to admit that. (We’ve all seen American Idol and what happens when people don’t have an accurate perception of their abilities).

But sometimes we’re actually closing doors to greater things when we mistakingly believe we don’t posses a certain skill or quality. And that’s a tragedy.

Many of us today have been believing a lie that we don’t have anything to offer the world. But Paul says in Romans that creation is groaning, waiting for the sons of man to be fully revealed.

And not only is all of creation groaning, but Jesus is yearning for us to walk in the fullness of His design too.

Living out the fullness of who He created us to be brings joy to the world, and glory to the One who meticulously sculpted and fashioned you before the world began.

Thankful Thursdays: Stringed Instruments

Whenever I hear a cello or stringed ensemble I’m always transported. I love listening to acoustic guitars and mandolins too. I find that there is a distinct natural and spiritual sound to stringed instruments. They’re so pretty and magical.

I played the violin when I was in middle school, but I always wondered if maybe I should have picked the cello instead. I love to watch people play the cello too. It’s like the instrument transforms from a dead, funny-looking piece of wood, into something alive and apart of the musician.

Michael says he loves anything with a piano. What about you? Do you have a particular instrument or sound that speaks to your heart?

A Year of Culture Shock

“The worth of any journey can always be measured by the difficulties encountered along the way.” A.W. Tozer

Today Michael and I have officially made it one whole year in India.

Wow.

It’s still hard for me to believe that we live here. We actually live here. We’ve learned so much in the past year: everything from how to hail down a rickshaw walla to how to navigate through one of Delhi’s busy outdoor markets.

Even the mundane things like finding the best places to buy produce, hiring a garbage man, or getting DSL installed have all been huge learning experiences.

Sometimes culture shock has gotten the best of us and we’ve had a hard time processing this complex place known as India. But it’s been an incredible experience. An incredibly frustrating experience at times, but still, an experience.

We have another six months to go before Michael’s assignment is completed. While I think we’ll be ready to move on, I know that a piece of my heart will be left here in India.

When Jacob wrestled with the angel, the angel touched his hip and Jacob walked away limping for the rest of his life. He was forever impacted and changed by that moment. In the same way, we have been deeply impacted by the past year here in Delhi.

We have wrestled with India and India has touched our hips. And when we finally leave this place we’re going to walk differently than we did before we came. It’s changed our perspectives, shown us our need, and most importantly, shown us more about the nature of God.

The following videos are a presentation given to international students at Columbian Business School. Michael and I watched it over the weekend and had some good laughs. Even though this video addresses culture shock within an American university context, we could still totally relate to what this student went through.

So if you’ve ever wondered if other people experience culture shock in the U.S., or what culture shock is like, check these videos out!

Joseph and Jesus

The other night before bed, I was thinking about how much Joseph and Jesus had in common.

I thought about how Joseph’s brothers threw him into that pit and left him there to die. But then Joseph was raised up out of that pit and brought into Egypt to eventually become a respected official.

Several years down the road, when he finally met his brothers again, he said to them: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Gn 50:20)

I could clearly see Jesus in Joseph’s story:

1. Joseph was favored by his father (Gn 37:3); Jesus is favored by the Father.

2. In the same way that Joseph told his family the truth about himself by relating his prophetic dreams (Gn 37:5-9), Jesus also came bringing good news and proclaiming his true identity to His family, the Jews.

3. They were both stricken, alienated from their homes, and brought into the lowest places of servitude. Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt (Gn 37:28); Jesus came down from heaven to earth (and eventually going down into the very depths of hell) to be the servant of all men.

4. In each case, after their families led them out to be left for dead, they “rose” again for the benefit of all men: Joseph was sold into slavery but eventually became one of the most trusted officials in the Pharaoh’s palace. He saved many people of Egypt from starvation in midst of famines (Gn 39:1-5). Jesus was led away to be flogged and crucified, but now sits at the right hand of the Father and has been glorified. And He’s still saving people from all corners of the earth to this very day.

What Joseph’s brothers meant for harm, God meant for good. Not just Joseph’s good, but the good of many people. What the Jews meant for harm, God meant for good. And not just for Jesus’ good, but for the good of all people. Joseph saved lives from natural starvation and hunger. Jesus saves lives from natural AND spiritual starvation and hunger.

Unless a seed falls down to the ground and dies…

The reality is, we’re now living inside a New Covenant with the Lord. One more perfect than the Old Covenant Joseph was living in. But when we look the Old Testament, we still see that narratives point to one Man: Jesus the Christ.

Joseph’s life was recorded for us as an example of the way Jesus would come proclaiming the Kingdom, and bringing many sons into His glory. As with everything in the Old Testament, his life was a shadow of the reality to come.

I just love it when an old familiar bible story like this suddenly comes to life and reveals Jesus in a way I had never noticed before.

Thankful Thursdays: Dancing

I recently went to a birthday party where the little girl and her friends were dancing to different Bollywood songs. It was so charismatic and lively.

It reminded me of a story I once heard about a man who went to heaven in a vision. In the vision he saw King David dancing before the Lord. The angel told the man that David danced like that day and night before Jesus.

Sometimes when I’m by myself, listening to worship music, I like to dance. I imagine being like King David in that vision and dancing my heart out before Jesus.

I think in heaven there will be lots of dancing.

All the peoples and cultures of the world will dance before the Lord day and night: Irish dancing, Indian dancing, Turkish dancing, Russian dancing; there will be so much happiness and jubilation. We won’t be able to stop.

I’m thankful for times of celebration and the expressions of song and dance.

Turning over a new leaf.

After nine months without an update, I’ve decided to take things in a new direction on this blog.

Since January, I’ve had trouble blogging for a few reasons:
1. Transitioning to Delhi has required a lot of time and emotional energy, and I didn’t feel like giving a whole lot of effort to maintaining a blog.

2. I  shut down my Facebook and a lot of other social-media accounts to focus on this blog. But after we moved to India, it turned out to be easier for me to just use Facebook as a way to stay in touch with family. Facebook then slowly replaced my need for blogging.

3. And finally, I  knew I had only planned on blogging for six months when I started. I just wanted to experiment and see where things went. But after a while, I felt like I ran out of things of value to share, so I stopped writing altogether.

It wasn’t until August, that I started toying around with the idea of blogging again.

I decided to create a Tumblr account. At the time, I still didn’t feel like I had anything of value to share on a regular basis, and I didn’t want the weight of a blog to maintain, so it was a good option for me. Tumblr allowed me to write a quick, focused post once a day and move on. And that turned out to be about as much as I could write anyways.

Then in September I started journalling again. I still wasn’t ready to blog, but I felt ready to process life again through writing. Right around the same time, we were also visiting the States, and a few people randomly mentioned that I should blog as a way of passing the time living in Delhi. I took the hint.

I’m still not entirely sure what I’ll be blogging about. I’ve been asking God what He wants me to say. Should I just share what I journal about privately, the real and the raw stuff? Or should I try harder to focus on sharing the little revelations and thoughts I have throughout the day? I’ve also asked Him a couple times if I should change the name, but I haven’t heard a response.

In the meantime, I’ll be transitioning some of my posts from Tumblr over here to this blog. They’re short and they focus on things I’m thankful for.

(Just a reminder: If you haven’t already, and would like to, you can subscribe to my posts by entering your email address in the box to the right, underneath my profile.)

%d bloggers like this: