Category: Life Updates

What we’ve learned from owning a cleaning business for the past year


Our house cleaning service here in Kansas City has been open for nearly a year now!

We are by no means experts, but here are just a few of the things Michael and I have learned in the short time that Sunflower Maids has been open:

1. You can’t short-cut growth.

We all want to be an expert right away. But being an expert requires gaining experience, and gaining experience can only come from actually “doing the stuff”, as John Wimber used to say.

You have to actively get your feet wet, make mistakes, learn, and then try again to grow.

Remember that painfully awkward time in all of our lives, commonly known as being a “teenager”? Well, it was a necessary part of you becoming an adult. Unless you’re Tom Hanks and were lucky enough to wish yourself straight into adulthood, the rest of us (and our blessed parents) had to agonize through the hormonal puberty hell that is adolescence in order to become adult human beings.

It’s no different when you’re running a business. You will look like a complete idiot sometimes, and you will make really poor life choices. You will have to read ALL THE BOOKS and listen to ALL THE LECTURES. You will make several pathetic attempts at trying to be “cool” and marketing yourself. You will think you finally know it all and thoroughly annoy the other business owners who have been at it longer than you. You will get really passionate about certain pointless things and be “that” obnoxious guy at networking brunches… and then (thank God) you will grow out of it.

That’s the nature of growth and there’s no way around it. Don’t fight it. Nothing is going to be perfect right away, so don’t bother with trying to take short cuts. Embrace the growing pains, the hideous website designs, and the amateur copywriting.

You’re learning, and learning = growing. You’ll find yourself and eventually move on from the awkward business-adolescent stage into business-adulthood. Which brings me to my next point….

2. Get used to making mistakes. And learn to make them quickly.

As the adage goes, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” You will make costly and embarrassing mistakes. Some of those mistakes will end up costing you a lot of money, while plenty others will cost you precious time and customers.

What you do have control over is choosing whether to recognize and fix those mistakes quickly, or to drag them out unnecessarily. Learn to read the signs when something isn’t working out, and CUT. THE. ROPE.

Shortly after starting Sunflower Maids, Michael and I made a mistake that wound up costing us several thousand dollars. Yup, we were off to a textbook-definition rookie start. We were “baby” business owners with no experience in operating an actual cleaning company (and still are!) and realized too late that it wasn’t going to be cost-effective for us to hire our own cleaning teams and continually furnish them with the necessary supplies. Thankfully we recognized our flub-up quickly, cut our losses, and were able to make back what we lost after deciding to work with self-employed contractors.

But if we had continued pouring all of our resources into hiring our own employees and attempting to maintain all of the supplies, we would have been well on our way to not just loosing our new business, but eventually our life’s savings.

No matter how successful you may get, making mistakes will be the ever-present equalizer in your business, keeping you in check. Just don’t wallow in self-pity or continue to waste precious resources waiting for things to change on their own. Fix them quickly and keep moving on. Further up and further in, friends!

3. Running a business is not for everybody, and there’s no shame in that. So do what’s right for you.

Everyone thinks the grass is greener on the entrepreneur side of the fence. It sure sounds nice to be your own boss, doesn’t it? But just like going to college, running a business isn’t for everybody.

And that’s totes okay.

We know of several other people who have also tried starting online cleaning services, but didn’t like it or felt like it wasn’t quite what they wanted to do. Some folks have been at it for a long time or have tried multiple different online businesses before finally throwing in the towel. In the end, they just decided they didn’t like owning an online business and preferred doing what they were before.

There’s no shame in trying to start your own business and discovering that it it isn’t right for you.

I mean, how many times does a college student change their major before they graduate (IF they even graduate at all)? I think, officially, approximately a million times.

It can take a while and a lot of trial and error to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life. Actually, if anyone is completely sure of what they want to do with the rest of their life, please call me “ASAP, as possible”.

For the rest of yous, give yourself a little grace and shake it off.

If after all you’ve tried, you still come to the conclusion that working as a cashier at Micky D’s makes you happy, then keep doing what you’re doing. The world needs more people who are at peace with life and enjoy what they’re doing for a living.

And if you still think running a business is for you but haven’t found your niche yet, keep looking! Your dream company may not be what the world calls “successful”, but if it makes you feel good, go for it!**

**(Except like if you’re a hitman for the mafia or a human trafficker. Even if those jobs could make you feel legitimately good, you shouldn’t do them! Duh!)

4. It helps to have both a manager personality AND an entrepreneur personality at the helm.

Let’s talk for a moment about the differences between managers (structure-oriented, planners) and entrepreneurs (risk-takers, visionaries).

Managers get a bad wrap, don’t they? Always whipping everyone into shape with their rules and structure! Never letting anyone have any of that out-of-control, dangerous fun! They’re obsessed with silly things like budgeting, alphabetizing alphabets, and highlighters. It’s almost  intolerable.

I know and can say all those things because I mostly wear the manager pants in my marriage.

Michael on the other hand, has the imagination of a 6 year old on steroids. He is a true entrepreneur through in through.

And his enthusiasm is infectious. If he believed the earth was flat, twenty minutes in the same room with him would convince you to burn all your science books and set off on a fantastic voyage in search of the edge of the world.


So when he brought up his idea for Sunflower Maids, each of our personalities responded accordingly. My foot immediately wanted to slam the breaks and talk business plans. He was already doing wheelies and leaving skid marks down the street.

But there is a book Michael read recently called, The E-Myth Revisited, that explains how a business actually requires both managers AND entrepreneurs (along with an additional personality type) to be successful:

  1. The Entrepreneur: The author, Michael E. Gerber, describes the Entrepreneur as one who lives in the future. They inspire and have big vision. They are dreamers and always full of ideas. (Or if you like, Church folks can think of Entrepreneurs as apostles or “vision casters”)
  2. The Manager: The Manager creates method where there is madness. The Entrepreneur focuses on the future, the Manager thinks about past. Managers are interested in planning, strategizing and making the abstract into a practical reality.
  3. The Technician: The Technician doesn’t want control and he doesn’t want to lead. But he DOES want to focus on the hands-on aspect of a business. Technicians excel at task-oriented activities and are happy to run the day-to-day operations.

According to Gerber:

“Defining the business is entrepreneurial work, doing the hands-on work is technical work, and the managerial work is the bridge between the two. Creating and maintaining a successful business requires the contributions of all three roles.”

It’s truly unfortunate that we paint managers in such a negative light, when their role in a business is just as crucial as the entrepreneur’s or the technician’s role.

In all honesty, I’ve found that I’m kind of a blend of the manager/technician and Michael is a blend of the entrepreneur and manager. Which is just about perfect for running the type of business that we have.

In any case, it’s been interesting to see each of our personalities operate within the context of running a business as well as our marriage. And it explains so much. Like, guys srsly. SO MUCH.

5. Don’t be threatened by another person’s success. Instead, cheer them on and find ways to learn from them.

A mindset of power and security isn’t threatened by another person’s success. A mindset of fear and poverty, on the other hand, will always find ways to cheapen the success of others or blacken their character.

Your first instinct when you meet a competitor is to feel threatened by them. Your self-preservation kicks in and tells you they’re the enemy.

But the better way is to seek their benefit and encourage them on the road ahead. I mean, I honestly cannot think of a good reason to NOT be generous in supporting your fellow business owners. If there is anything that can be a hinderance to your success, it’s jealousy.

The bottom line is we’re all learning and figuring out this stuff together and everyone benefits when we share our experiences. Be transparent. Spill the beans on your screw ups. Talk about what’s working for you and what isn’t. Encourage and support your peers and competitors. You never know when you might need their help someday.

I’m a firm believer that you can only keep what you give away. So give away what you’ve learned.

Pass along the knowledge that was given to you. Help all the other young bucks out there, because you were a young buck too once (and we’re those young bucks now). And don’t worry that it’s somehow putting you at a disadvantage.


So there you have it. Just a few of the many things Michael and I have learned about ourselves and our business over the past year.

Wanna Get Away? I can get on board with that!

#HousewifeInsights |

Michael and I just got back from an early-anniversary cruise.

I like cruises because they’re almost like going on a technology and internet detox.

The second day we were at sea I ran over to the gift shop onboard and ended up buying one of those grocery list note pads with magnets on the back to journal (it was all they had and I forgot my own journal). Then we spent the day outside, watching the ocean, reading, talking, and journaling.

It was good to just have some intentionally restful time. And it made me realize I need to be better about placing myself in environments of quiet and in nature on a regular basis.

On our Alaskan cruise last year, there was an onboard naturalist who acted almost like a tour guide, narrating over the ship’s intercom at various times. During one of his lectures he said studies have found that the further man gets away from nature, the more prone he is to psychological disorder. I don’t know if that’s actually been scientifically proven, but there is something about riding my bike through a wooded trail, or walking barefoot through the grass, or sitting quietly on a boat in the middle of the ocean that completely restores my soul.

The first stop was in Roatan. I booked an excursion separately from the cruise beforehand to spend the day on a privately owned island named, Little French Key. We we’re picked up outside the port gate along with another sweet, older couple who were also spending the day on the island. They were actually American expats living in Saudi Arabia. Being expats at one time ourselves, we had LOTS and LOTS to talk about on the car ride there. For the rest of the cruise, anytime we ran into them they’d say, “How are our kids doing?” Hah, so sweet.

Little French Key was perfect. The beaches were pretty and quiet, hammocks were everywhere, and they had a small petting zoo with jaguars, monkeys, and tropical birds. You could ride horses around the island, snorkel or just hang out at the bar all day.

The coral reef nearby is part of the second largest reef barrier system in the world. I bought this waterproof case for our camera so I could take pictures underwater while were snorkeling: DicaPac WP410 (10.5×16.0cm) Small Zoom Alfa Waterproof Digital Camera Case with Optical Lens (Clear). Best thing ever. Worked great while we were under the water.

Our second stop was in Cozumel. Six years ago, we spent our honeymoon in Rivera Maya and Playa Del Carmen. Cozumel is about a 45 minute ferry ride from Playa Del Carmen. We didn’t visit the island during our honeymoon though, so this was actually our first time there. Through the ship we booked an excursion to swim with dolphins and manatees!

Ok, so I’m a happy cryer. I get weepy during all those little special life moments or when I see things that are really beautiful. Like when Michael and I got married, I cried. When I saw my niece for the first time on the ultra-sound monitor, I cried. When I finally saw the Taj Mahal in person, I cried. When I saw dolphins bouncing around through the water literally right in front of me, I totally freaking cried. Like Hootie-And-The-Blowfish-“even-dolphins-make-me-cry” cry.

These are such amazing animals. We worked with a trainer and an eight year old dolphin named, Luke. Luke pushed us from behind our feet on a boogie board, pulled us through the water doing a belly swim, played patty-cake, gave kisses and did a ton of other tricks.

Ok really ya’ll… I know I’m an animal freak, but in heaven, I’m totally going to have dolphins at my place. Such, such beautiful animals. I just love them! <3 <3 <3

We had really awesome table mates during the evenings [that I failed to get pictures of]. There was one couple from Puerto Rico, a son and a mother from Switzerland, and another gentleman who escaped communist Czechoslovakia on foot with his three year old son back in the eighties. That’s one of my favorite parts about traveling, you get to meet so many incredible people and hear so many incredible stories.

Sadly, vacation ended pretty abruptly after we returned. We got a call from Charlotte’s boarding kennel the morning we arrived back in Ft. Lauderdale. She had a bit of a nasty run in with an older, grouchier dog. They took her to the vet and put on antibiotics for the two wounds she received during the scuffle. Not happy about that at all… Actually, it’s the exact reason why I dread taking her to a kennel in the first place, but the facility has continued to handle it well. Just feel guilty for putting Charlotte in a situation where she was hurt 🙁

So we’re back now and I’m re-learning that rest IS DEFINITELY intentional and I can’t just veg out if I want to really, really process what’s going on in my heart. Still do not have all my health stuff figured out at the moment and I have more appointments scheduled in the following weeks, but I did get some perspective and feel hopeful I’m headed in the right direction. More on that later 🙂

**Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which is the blogging equivalent of me playing guitar on a busy sidewalk while strangers pass by and throw spare change into my tip jar. If you like what you “hear”, making purchases through the links in this post will support my talents and maybe allow me to buy a sandwich. Not beer or cigarettes. But maybe wine. Actually probably definitely wine.

Home and lovin’ every minute of it!

IMG_0944 I can’t believe we’ve been home since April. Most days I don’t even stop to think that we just came back from spending the past year and a half in Delhi.

I’m not sure what to think about that… Is it okay for me not to really think about India? If we’re hanging out with other people I’ll process things out-loud for the sake of conversation, but when I’m alone or with Michael it hardly crosses my mind.

I really haven’t thought about traveling period. I mainly just want to nest. I mean, I keep getting those little travel deal alerts in my inbox and I’ll check them out occasionally. But for the most part, I want to be fully here. I want to be settled, comfortable and home.

I have noticed that I have a really strong desire to be creative. It’s like I can breathe again, both figuratively and literally, and I want to express that through art, projects, my wardrobe, and decorating. I want to try new things or do things that I didn’t really want to before we moved to India.

For instance, Michael and I are eating healthier. We’ve pretty much cut out all sugar from our diets and he’s starting to eat vegetables. We’ve been drinking red wine in the evenings. He’s growing a beard. I’m growing herbs. He’s wearing jeans. I’m NOT wearing kurtas. We’re both in the middle of learning new skills: he’s learning to program, and I’m learning how to not waste half the day away on Pinterest… just to name a few of the awesome changes happening in our lives. Oh, and we’re getting a dog. (Surprise!)

I find myself appreciating so many little things all the time now. Things like, watching doves coo and groom each other. It’s so sweet to me. Or being able to sit out on my back patio and read while birds are chirping and the wind is blowing through the trees. I love getting to ride my bike or going for a walk in the evenings. I feel confident when I cook again, partly because I’m using familiar ingredients and partly because I can be relatively sure what I’m cooking with is safe to eat.

I love being closer to family and friends. I love being in the same time-zone. When I flew into Houston to surprise everyone, I was amazed at how brief the flight was. Two hours. That was it. Not FIFTEEN hours.

We’re busy, but it’s still sooo good. I feel like I’m actually contributing to our marriage and life again and not just “dead weight”. (I know that I wasn’t actually “dead weight”, but I felt pretty useless most of the time in India). It works for us when I take care of the house chores and various errands/maintenance things while Michael is at work. So if a check needs to be deposited at the bank, or we need to renew our car’s paperwork at the DMV, I take care of it.

But in India a woman can’t even own a bank account in her own name. If I wanted to simply goto the grocery store, my driver took me. If I wanted to shop in said grocery store, I was shadowed by man who would hold my basket – not because I wanted the help, but because Indians expect that you don’t know what you’re doing since you’re a “videsi” (a foreigner). And you’re white, so that automatically means your wealthy and/or important. And if you’re wealthy and/or important, you’re “higher up” in the system, and if you’re “higher up” in the system, like other higher-caste Indians, you actually do expect people to wait on you hand-and-foot. (And yeah, that sooo did not jive with my American I’ll-do-it-myself-thank-you-very-much sensibilities.)

Cell phones? The company was in charge of that. Finding furniture for the apartment? The company was in charge of that. Getting propane for our stove on the black market? The company was in charge of that. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Bills? The company was in charge of that. Something broken in the apartment? The company was in charge of that. Not saying they managed any of those things particularly well, which was it’s own frustration, but the fact was I did not feel like a strong, independently contributing teammate in our marriage pretty much the whole time we lived in Delhi. Obviously that’s all changed since we’ve been back home and it’s super awesome.

Dishes Stahp

Dishes were another story. Normally I enjoy doing dishes. If I’m at a get-together and I don’t know what else to do, I’ll volunteer to do dishes. I’ve even brought gloves with me to places where I know I might be helping to clean dishes. I swear.

But in India, I hated it. Hated it, as in, I cried on multiple different occasions simply because I was at my wits-end and doing dishes was the last thing I felt like doing.

We had a dishwasher but it didn’t work, so everything was washed by hand. Not a big deal right? But in order to have hot water, you had to turn on the geyser at least thirty minutes before you needed it (this is assuming we had water in the first place, which was the case about 70% of the time thank goodness).  After washing the dishes, you had to make sure they were completely dry, because all it took was one drop of water and you could have a parasite. (Oh, and just one minor detail… if you forgot to turn off the geyser after you were done, or you left it on too long before washing the dishes, the heat and pressure would build up inside and cause a pipe to burst from the wall, spewing scalding hot water all over the microwave and everything else in the kitchen. So going to turn off the water without being electrocuted was a skill we quickly developed. And this happened to be an extra special reoccurring experience in our apartment, thanks to our neighbors upstairs who installed a pressure device on the building’s water tank just so they could have nice hot, high-pressured showers. Never mind the fact that everyone else’s pipes, toilets, geysers and sinks leaked incessantly.) *FACE PALM*

So I usually just waited until there were enough dishes to make it worth my while to clean, set out to dry, and then put away. Which mean I usually had dishes spilling over onto non-dirty-dish-designated-areas. NOT how I like to keep my kitchen. I know most expats had their maid do their dishes, but I opted not to train mine because with the communication barrier, I wouldn’t be able to assume she’d just “know” how to properly clean them, even if she watched me do it.

And naturally, after prepping and cooking a meal that also took me about three times longer to make than usual and pretty much NEVER tasted good, I usually didn’t feel like doing dishes. Just looking at them pile up made me feel helpless. It was like my experience of India could be summed up in that black hole of a kitchen sink.

But it’s so easy washing dishes now… I turn on my faucet, move the handle to the left, and like magic, there is hot water. If I don’t want to hand wash my dishes, magic, there is a dishwasher that WORKS. There is no geyser I have to babysit. If I miss a little droplet of water on a cup, I do not have to worry I will get worms. It’s really amazing.

Being home in general is amazing. We live in a really beautiful place. A very easy-to-live kind of place. I’m not sure I really understood how good we have it here in America until I lived in India. I know we have problems, and some of them are really serious and sad, but sometimes you just need to look at the good and be thankful for it.

I enjoy traveling, and there are lots of other places I would love to VISIT, but my HOME is in the good ole U-S-of-A. And man, it’s good to be back.

Going Home

In December Michael and I made the official decision to come back to the US in April. We both had a lot of thoughts and feelings making the decision, and the closer we get to April, more and more of our conversations circle around what the future has in store.

And the more the reality sets in: We’re going home. Not just for a month, but for good.

I have moments when I think about that and I feel so ready to just be done. I’m so tired of how crappy my diet has been and how out of control my life feels. I’m sick of not being able to go for walks or ride a bike by myself because it’s not “safe”. I’m tired of hand washing dishes because our dishwasher doesn’t work or drying our clothes on our poster bed because our dryer doesn’t actually dry anything.

I’m tired of dealing with being “shadowed” everywhere I shop and stared at everywhere I go. I’m tried of pulling teeth to get people to just answer my questions. I’m tired of sitting in traffic for an hour everywhere I go, no matter what time of day it is. I’m tired of dealing with all the power outages and the sickening smell of gasoline that fills our apartment every time our generators kick on. I’m tired of nothing working and nobody knowing or caring how to do a quality job and fix it right the first time. And I’m tired of being so far from home and being treated like a foreigner in culture that I’ll never understand.

I told Michael the other day that this period of time, the waiting before we finally go home, reminds me of the waiting before we got married. It seemed like the wedding day was an eternity away and it would never arrive. I remember it was hard to imagine that one day we wouldn’t be married but then suddenly the next we would be for the rest of our lives. It was exciting and the anticipation was almost unbearable. But the day did finally arrive and married life is our present reality. The waiting is a distant memory.

In some ways, it’s been the same with moving back home in April. One day we’ll look back on this time in India and reflect on how badly we wanted to come home. We’ll remember how hard it was those last 3 months and how it seemed like an eternity waiting until April. But then, suddenly, the day will arrive when we make that last drive to the airport, we’ll step on-board an airplane and as we take off, I’ll take what will likely be my last look on India. Living in America will be our present reality again and India will become a memory. Just like that.

And when I reflect on that, a much different set of feelings and thoughts arise.

Doubt. Anxiety. Fear. What if…

What if we gave up too soon? It was only a year and a half after all, and we were able to come home at least once every 6 months. That wasn’t so bad, was it? Maybe I should have tried getting out more? We never did go to any Indian weddings or birthday parties (even though we heard them loud and clear throughout our entire apartment at 3am in the morning on a few different occasions). Who did we really impact while we were here? What experiences did we have that were truly and uniquely “Indian”? What more could I have done to live in the present and invite God into my experiences here in India?

And what about being back home? What’s that going to be like? Won’t I be bored after the daily “excitement” I’m used to dealing with here? What will I do with all my newly regained free time? Won’t I feel restless not having my days filled with stuff breaking and having simple errands turning into half-day goose-chases? Won’t it be weird knowing my way around town and shopping in all the same stores I shopped in before? Won’t it be difficult to be back around everything that’s externally familiar, while I’ve internally changed?

How can I do “normal” again after head-bobbiling, weird smells, people transporting rebar on bicycles and… well, “India” have been my life for the past year and a half?

I’ve drawn the parallel that being in India has done to me what Joshua wrestling with the Angel did to him. In the same way that Joshua carried a limp after the Angel touched his hip, India has touched my “hip” and I’m going to walk away from this place differently. I know that confidently, even if I don’t know or understand all the ways that I’ve changed.

I have a whole year and half’s worth of experiences that haven’t touched the people or places I’m returning to, and I find myself thinking of Frodo before he boards the ship to sail to the Grey Havens when he eventually explains to his friends that the Shire “has been saved.. but not for me.”

Will I feel that way too after we go home? Will I be able to resettle or will I feel like a foreigner again except this time in my own country?

During our very first trip to India I was actually reading Lord of The Rings and since then I’ve connected it in lots of ways with this “odyssey” of ours in India. In another scene from the movie where Frodo, broken and wearied from the weight of the ring, nearly gives in to temptation after being taken prisoner into the citadel of Osgiliath.

Right before the witch king swoops in to snatch Frodo up, his ever-faithful friend, Sam, leaps on top of him and pulls his hand away from the ring. After they tumbled down the stairs and Frodo regains his senses, he laments: “I can’t do this, Sam.” To which Sam replies:

“I know it’s all wrong. By rights, we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo — the ones that really matter — full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now.. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding onto something.”

“What are we holding onto Sam?”

“That there’s some good in this world Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fightin’ for!”

Sam asks the question that everyone at this point in the story is asking: How can things go back to the way they were before when so much has happened and so much has changed not just in Middle Earth, but inside these characters as well?

But he continues and answers the question by saying that the world will go on, just like it always has, because darkness is just a fleeting shadow. But the light, it’s always there, and when the shadow finally passes, you’ll actually see things even clearer than you did before. And the time you spent in the shadow was just a blip. It becomes a memory and life in the light becomes the new reality.

Maybe one day, that’s how I’ll look back our time in India.

Life will go on, but as it does, I’ll see things from a better perspective than I could before. And my experiences in India won’t take away from feeling at home as much as they’ll add clarity and breathe a new life into it.

An Update & A Video

So three weeks and twenty-five apartments later (yes, we actually looked at twenty-five apartments), we think we finally have a new place to call home.

As of this morning, Michael’s company notified us that the two additional apartments we submitted were accepted and approved. Still not clear on a move-in date, but we anticipate within a month we will be able to move into the apartment we put down as our first choice. (Pictures and/or video to follow soon).

Michael also received an email update on our ocean shipment of personal belongings. So, if like us, you want to know where in the world our stuff is, click here to track the progress of our cargo vessel, the OOCL Atlanta!

The estimated date of our crate’s arrival in Mumbai is December 14th. So, that’s cutting it a bit close to Christmas, which means we may be waiting until the absolute last minute to make definite plans for coming home.

For now, I’ll leave you with a video that will totally rock your day… Never forget you are a representative of the living God to the glory of His Son, Jesus the Christ:

(You can find more of Pete’s videos here and follow his blog by clicking this link.)

Are we there yet?

The moving van parked outside our apartment.

The movers came Tuesday and, just like that, all of our stuff is packed and ready for long-term storage or India. Michael recorded the some of the process  on video in case we want to share it with family and friends (or kids) someday.

Before the movers were scheduled to come out we had to complete what’s called a “Valued Inventory” of our belongings. So for the past month we’ve been hammering away on this massive inventory list for the moving company and insurance. 

If you have ever done one of these before, you know how big of a headache they can be. If you haven’t, I’d liken it to one of those papers your professor assigns at the beginning of the semester, but since it isn’t due until the end you put it off. You know, the kind where you’re supposed to pace yourself but instead you only do a little research here and there. After a while you think, “Hey, this isn’t so bad after all” and you might even start to wonder why everyone else is so stressed about it. But then you really dig in and suddenly you realize how much work you’re going to have to do to get this paper done.

And I wouldn’t say that we have a lot of stuff. In fact, I’d say we’re pretty bare bones. But we didn’t realize how much stuff we actually owned until we had to list it out, piece by individual piece, then ascribe a monetary value to it. We decided to look at more than just the cost of replacement, but whether or not a particular item held any present usefulness. So it didn’t matter how much something was worth, if we knew it wouldn’t work for us in India, it stayed behind or went to a donation center.

Our visas are still pending approval, so we’ll be staying in a hotel until those arrive (hopefully within the next week or so.) October through February is the best time to visit Delhi, but October in particular is a holiday month for most Indians. Because of this, our visas could possibly take much longer than usual.
Are you sure all that came from inside our place?

Michael and I are still in disbelief. Is this really happening? I mean… really? Are we actually moving to India – and are we actually going to be living there? For a year? Or more? It makes you ask other questions like: “Why us? What made us so special? Why were we given this opportunity and not someone else?”

September 25th came and went this year, but on that day in 2008 God was doing a lot of amazing things in my life. I was experiencing incredible deliverance and healing. His Holy Spirit was ministering to my heart and He was sharing his heart with me. On one occasion we were talking and Jesus told me three times: “I have great things in store for you. I have great things in store for you. I have great things in store for you.”

I look back on that conversation and remember all the adventures Michael and I have been on together. Then I think.. Wow. God is so amazing. He’s so good. He knew about India when He told me that. The God of the universe – He’s so big – shared His heart with me. Like a Father teasing his little girl with a big surprise, God let me in on a little bit of His plans for me.

You can call me wishy-washy, but I think dates have meanings. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, began at sunset September 28th. Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement, begins at sunset October 7th (tomorrow). Michael and I are entering a new season, a new adventure. In India, what will God have in store for us in the Jewish year of 5772?

Does God communicate to you through special dates or observances in your life? What are some significant seasons you cherish in the time you’ve known Jesus?

Thank You

My grandma Clarine
Nov. 8th, 1932 – Sep.  6th, 2011

My grandma Clarine passed away on September 6th.

Her twin sister, my Aunt Charlene, died three weeks earlier.
It’s been a time of grief and sorrow for my family. A time for reflection and mourning. A time for comfort and tenderness. And during seasons like this, it can be difficult to find a reason to be thankful.

But we can still make the choice.

There’s a lot I could say, but I think the most important fact is my Grandma knew Jesus. When her health began to decline several years ago, I had many opportunities to pray for and with her. Sometimes I’d pray with her in person when I was in town, sometimes over the phone, and other times I would write a prayer in a card and mail it to her. I’m thankful for the times I could listen to her and offer her my support through prayer.

It’s hard being sick all the time. Where the hours go for someone in pain no one knows, but I do know that Jesus counts them all. I know that His skin was torn into with shards of metal, nail and bone for our healing. His body was beaten and scourged so that our bodies could be made whole. Jesus died for our eternal salvation – yes – but he died for our temporal well-being too. We can partake in His victory during our time here on earth just as much as His victory after death in heaven.

My grandma out with family at the pool.

My grandma told me that some days she would just tell the Devil, “Get out of here!” She knew it wasn’t God making her sick. God doesn’t make people sick; the devil does. He’s a liar, thief and murderer. But Jesus said he saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven and told his disciples that they had been given all authority to tread on Satan and all his minions.

We still have that authority today, and that alone is something to be thankful for.

I don’t understand why some people get healed and some people don’t. It makes me sad that out of all the times I prayed for my grandma, she wasn’t healed of all her pain. I confess to even experiencing guilt for not praying enough or harder or fasting more, or something, anything… But God’s grace is made perfect in our weakness.  More importantly, I know that my experiences do not define the truth. And I’m so thankful for the reality that God’s grace is sufficient and it’s His good pleasure to give us healing.

My sister, mom, grandma and me.

During our trip to Houston in August, I was able to have some private time with my grandma in her bedroom. We joked a little, she wished us the best in India and she told me that she and grandpa knew how much I loved them. Then she held my hand and simply said, “Ashley, I can feel it.” And I knew she was telling me goodbye for the last time here on earth. I nodded and all I could think to say was, “Okay grandma.”

Sometimes a lot more is said in someone eyes than words can express. I knew she was tired. She was ready. I’m thankful I was given the opportunity to look her in the eye, tell her I loved her and say goodbye.

I don’t know this for sure, but I think sometimes God bypasses our emotions with his grace to enable us to complete a task. At my grandma’s memorial, I sat behind my grandpa, my mom, and her three brothers. I could only see their backs, but my heart was filled with compassion and sadness for them. My heart ached terribly watching my grandpa’s sagging shoulders or the seeing the tissue raised to my mom’s face. In John 11:35 it says that Jesus literally burst into tears at the sight of Lazarus’ family weeping. I thank God for the closure I received before my grandma’s passing if it meant there was some way I could be a comfort to my family.

Michael and I leave for India soon and I am thankful I was able to see my family one last time at my grandma’s funeral. I have a lot to be thankful for… my friends, my family, my husband, and my Savior. I’m thankful that when I prayed for my family to come to know Jesus, God opened his heart to me in sharing that burden. He loves them more than I could ever imagine. He is near to the brokenhearted and He is a God who is moved by our heart.

Thank you for my grandma, Lord. Thank you for Jesus and all the answered prayers found in Him. And thank you for the image of my grandmother walking beside you in your Holy Kingdom. You are so good.

India-Induced Insomnia

IndiaInsomniaCan’t sleep, so why not blog about India?

It seems like it’s been a tug-of-war since we were first introduced to this incredible place. We were warned before going that we’d either love it or we’d hate it. We loved it.

Well, actually, at first we hated it.

I mean, it’s unorganized, inefficient, people bobble their heads when they talk, cows lay freely in the street, “yes” doesn’t always mean “yes”, poverty is unbelievable, the smells are unforgettable, traffic will give you a headache, trash is everywhere, and the attitude of “chalta hai” makes life a general frustration for any true American. It’s no wonder we were once asked one of those typical pragmatic questions by a family member, “Is there any redeeming value to India?”

I admit I still have trouble answering that question. To an American, India is your worst nightmare. Actually, to just about any Westerner, India would be your worst nightmare. If you’re looking for kept front lawns, clean lines, punctual meetings or any sort of efficiency whatsoever – better go enjoy a walk around your own neighborhood and forget about India.

But almost as if to prove the old saying, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder”, Michael and I found ourselves missing it. I think it took coming back to the U.S. to see the charm and character of India. For all it’s negatives, there was something that tugged at us a little.
On our return home, we landed in Chicago and from there flew home to Kansas City. I remember the first time I looked outside the window just before landing and being fascinated by the clean lines of the fields below. Then as we drove home I couldn’t stop noticing the clean grass without litter or people sleeping on it. No circus horns or trucks decorated with garland. No naked children running up to the car for money. No stinky smells waiting outside. No motorcycles with families of five crammed onto one vehicle. No tuk-tuks. It was like… Wow, on a scale of one to ten, one being no character at all and ten being India, America was boring! Of course I was dealing with “reverse” culture-shock from coming back to the U.S., so it didn’t take long to readjust. And there were more trips back and forth that eventually made the contrasts less difficult to process.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since the last time we were in India. On the afternoon of our last day there, it rained heavily and unusually late for that time of the year. Most of the monsoon rains are done by late July or early August, but this year had a longer season than normal. Michael got back to our room from work and told me to grab the camera – there was a rainbow outside. We took the elevator to the top floor and I snapped a few pictures.

Isn’t that just like God? In my heart I felt Him saying with a smile: “I’ve heard your prayers, you’ll be back.”After so much laboring in prayer to be able to return to India, God was sealing the deal with one of his most popular promise signatures. So naturally, we expected Michael’s long-term assignment would be approved without a hitch and we’d be back before we knew it.

We learned however, that God’s time-table was obviously different than ours.

Since September we’ve been through ups and downs, moves and marriages, friendships and funerals. There have been times we were sooo certain we would be sent back to India, but for whatever reason things just didn’t work out. I’ve lost count of how many meetings, talks, proposals, ifs, whens, whats, whos have been discussed about Michael returning to India. Not one of the plans have come through and each felt like a tease. We began to consider what other ways we could go back. Would it be much later in life than we were expecting? All the rules seemed to have changed.

I remember being at church one morning feeling so discouraged and bummed. Everyone’s worshipping but my heart was so broken because we were just informed no more assignments to India would be offered. There was some legal trouble between Michael’s company and India so no one else was allowed back. I remember thinking, “What now God? What does this mean? Why does this keep happening? What are your plans for us?” I couldn’t help crying. The whole situation was so disappointing. We were sure that this time everything would work out. In that moment all God said to me was: “You will go back, but it will be under different circumstances.” I tried pressing in for more, but that was all I got. So I wrote it down in my little pink journal and we waited, and waited… and we waited some more.

And then, again out of the blue, another proposal. Another long-term assignment. And not six months, or even a year, but a year-and-a-half. Eighteen months in India? We couldn’t believe it. Is this really happening?

Sometimes I go from being excited to being completely overwhelmed. Here we are in Albuquerque, New Mexico and they want Michael to leave for India by the first of September. It’s hard not to feel anxious and swallowed up by everything that needs to get done. Visas, and packing, and doctor check-ups, and legal documents, and selling our vehicles, and finding a new place to live, and, and, and, and…

Of course, to-do list queen here already has two separate five-columned lists of preparations and tasks to be done before the time of departure. And we’re hoping Michael will be allowed to come home early to give him the time necessary to get ready.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about this and in the middle of the swings between excitement and dread, I notice another very difficult emotion: sadness. There is a cost to everything, and this is no exception. I don’t think we’ll fully understand the cost this will bring to our loved ones and that’s a heavy truth to accept. For some reason when I think about leaving my little sister, it affects me the most. Not that I don’t love everyone, but I think older siblings never get over the worry of abandoning their younger brothers or sisters. And a lot can happen in a year-and-a-half. Things change, people change, and life goes on. I know that the full weight of that has not hit me entirely yet, and it kind of scares me.

I’ve been asking God, “Are we doing this for you? Is this what you want?” And the old verse from C.T. Studd’s poem keeps coming to mind: “Only one life ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” In the book of Galatians Paul says that fourteen years after receiving the Gospel from Jesus, he went back to check with the elders in the church to make sure he wasn’t “[running] the race in vain”. Now that it seems we’re finally going to India, in some ways I feel like Paul. If I’m not doing this for God, it’s not worth it. And if we are doing this for God, how can we be the most intentional and bear the most fruit for Him while we’re there?

Jesus said there was a cost to following Him. Is he worth it? Is Jesus worth my family, my home, my time, my possessions, my life? And the question He asks in return is: Are the lost in India worth it? I’ve already given my life over to Him, and Jesus is not divided. He is both King and Redeemer at once. To live is Christ and that is my only option. “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mat 10:38-39)

The cost of following him is great, but he also promised to all “who [have] left houses or brothers or sisters or fathers or mother or children or lands, for [his] name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” (Mat. 19:29) Jesus is the ultimate reward. And the One who calls me away from my family and home is the one who loves them more and will care for them better than I ever could.

In the Gospel of Luke Jesus proclaimed: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Lk 12:32) “Fear not”… The same words a woman at church received and shared at the beginning of the year. “Fear not” … The same words God said to Joshua before he took possession of the Promised Land.

So the rainbow stands, like all of God’s promises. Whether we goto India tomorrow or 10 years from now, His Word will never pass away: “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” (1 Cor 1:20)

%d bloggers like this: