Wednesday January 9, 2019

Isaiah 41:10 do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

This scripture gives me so much comfort, especially when I start to feel anxious or uneasy about the journey we are on right now. I fall back to this passage often when I begin to question what we have done and what we are doing, and it is then that I feel God’s arms wrap around me and I feel safe. Even in the beginning of this journey God has strengthened both Jeff and me at different times. He continually shows me that He will strengthen and help me through the difficult times and the times that I feel unsure. Time and time again He has carried us and paved the way for us, even changing the plans we made, to complete the work that He has for us.

Still our biggest struggle is homeschooling. It is not that I don’t like teaching my children, it is that they are not wanting me (or Jeff) to teach them and, to be honest, I don’t think they want to work. They are having difficulty remembering that this year is not a vacation or holiday from school, but rather school is incorporated into our service. We assign them work to do for the day and when they complete it they are done, but they take no ownership of their work and then complain when they don’t finish it because they were messing around all day. We usually end up with one who does a great job working and accomplishing their assignments for the day, but there is usually one who wants to throw a wrench into the situation and we then have tantrums all day.

Jeff commented today that he is beginning to question whether he can continue to do this for another 6 months, not the service or the traveling, but the teaching. I really think this is our biggest challenge and it made me wonder if this is one of those moments where God’s blessings are in disguise. Maybe this is what our family needs and His divine plan will bring our family closer together. In my opinion our kids need to learn a bit more obedience and respect for Jeff and me, so maybe this is how God plans to achieve this.

As I am typing this up, I am remembering an old song by Garth Brook (yes, a country song!) called Unanswered Prayers in which he sings:

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers; remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs; that just because He doesn’t answer doesnt’ mean He don’t care; some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

I love this song because it is a reminder that I may pray for something, but that just because I don’t get what I want I need to have faith that He will give me what I need.

While I may not know why things are so difficult, stressful, and frustrating, He knows and His divine plan is way better than any of mine. I guess this is one of those things that I need to hand over to God so He can help guide and direct me through this. He can help my children see that being obedient and respectful will actually benefit everyone and allow them more freedom and independence from us. Anjali is constantly fighting with us for more autonomy, but she is failing to show us the obedience and discipline to warrant it. I keep telling her ‘if you don’t listen to me when you are right in front of me, how can I trust that you will be obedient when you are on your own’.

Starting today I will make this a daily prayer and will hand this over to God and be happy and content in His way. I know that He will be there for me and will provide for my family, just as He always has.

A total side note, here is a picture that Jeff took of the bloom of fire that was the result of massive amounts of garbage being tossed into the pit to burn. This is a taste of what the air quality is like here.

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Tuesday January 8, 2019

Matthew 6:9-15 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgotten our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Today was another day helping the girls make breakfast and doing dishes. I think they really enjoy having Jeff in the kitchen. He is breaking their cultural norms, plus he can be really goofy in the morning (actually all day!) and the girls get a total kick out of it. I am a bit nervous about cooking on Sunday, so I think we will be coming to help breakfast as much as we can manage this week, plus it is a lot of fun (and quiet) in the morning with these girls.

I love this prayer that Jesus taught to his disciples and I am really missing reciting this prayer in church every Sunday. Reflecting on this prayer for today makes me a bit homesick for our church back in Madison. I have loved worshiping with the family on the mission here in India, just as I did with the wonderful people we met in Germany, but it is not the same as back home. I miss the organ, the hymns we used to sing, and the prayers we recited together as a congregation. I miss the structured worship service and the fellowship that followed. Even though I am missing this aspect of home, I am so happy to be where I am now. God has placed us here for a reason and we have loved every minute of His plan. He has guided us to this time and place, just as He did for Germany and Thailand, and He has never failed us or let us down. We continue to learn from Him and from those around us.

This has been a go-to prayer for me since we left the US. “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” This verse reminds me that God is in charge, not me. God has control and will always be there for me. He will comfort me when I am down; He will pick me up and dust me off when I fall. And no matter how much I try, my plans are not mine, but they are His and He is in control, hence the phrase, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.’ We don’t need to worry or fear the future, we just need to trust in His and have faith in His plans for us.

Monday January 7, 2019

Ephesians 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

I love that even with the ever changing activities that make up our days here, the schedule of the mission still provides a routine–7:30 breakfast, 10:00 tea, 12:00 lunch, 4:00 tea, 6:00 dinner for kids and 7:00 dinner for the staff and volunteers. For us, we have been regularly helping the girls with dishes after breakfast until about 8:30 and then we move on to our laundry which we finish around 9:15, leaving just enough time to clean up and head to morning tea.

Jeff and I are planning to make breakfast for the mission on Sunday morning so we need to learn how to make the Chai (Chai is a very important part of breakfast and we don’t want to screw it up) and how to do all the little things required for breakfast. So we headed to the kitchen at 6:00 in the morning to learn how to do all of that is necessary to prepare and serve the first meal of the day. While we didn’t actually do much today, we just watched these girls make breakfast for 80 people in just under 90 minutes.

Right after lunch I helped the big boys move some furniture from the old school to the new school; I think I really shocked them when I showed up to help. One even told me that this is man’s work and that Indian women don’t do this kind of work, to which I replied, that “I am not an Indian woman”. They seemed to get a kick out of this and we were able to move all 5 cabinets and a couple tables in two truck loads over to the school. I absolutely loved getting my hands dirty and doing something a little more physical than cooking, dishes, and laundry! I also got to drive the truck, which is really fun because it is a manual transmission, but everything is on the opposite side for me. It felt so weird to sit where the passenger would sit and to have the stick on the left, instead of the right, but I didn’t even stall once! Again, I don’t think they expected that and I just get a total kick out of surprising these boys and making them laugh.

Anjali was super excited to receive a package from her best friend today; she had no idea it was coming and was totally surprised. Thank you Nadia!

As I was hanging out in the Strong House this evening I attempted to video one of the nursery girls laughing. She has the best laugh I have ever heard and I just want a video of it so anytime I am feeling down I can capture it forever. However, her laugh tonight was not the real thing, so this will have to wait until I can capture it!

I was able to help Priscilla and the girls make dinner tonight and I took a photo so I can try to figure out how to make this when we get home because it is absolutely wonderful. This subji is made with potatoes, peas, and cauliflower and served alongside chipati and spicy chutney.

As Jeff and I walked back to our apartment we ran into these two beautiful girls. They are so amazing inside and out, and I feel so blessed to have met them and to get to know them.

Sunday January 6, 2019

Luke 21:29-32 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you this generation will not pass away until all has taken place.”

Thank heavens for the celebration of the Sabbath here on the mission. After all that driving and traveling yesterday, our whole family is exhausted. I did however do laundry, and a lot of it. I ended up having three buckets full of wash and that is no task for the weary, but with Jeff’s help we were done in a little over an hour. We had bought some thermals to wear Friday evening in the mountains, but that also meant that on top of our 2 days’ worth of clothes we had the new ones and all of our sweatshirts. And even though this job is quite exhausting, it is also very rewarding. It feels so good to accomplish this task in a way that I have never done prior to coming here. And while I really do miss our washing machine, I am better able to scrub dirt and stains out of our clothing and I think that the hand-washing is much better for our clothes and probably helping them to last longer. So, for another 3 weeks I will be enjoying the duty of washing clothes in buckets while having a much bigger appreciation for our washing machine at home. And with all that being said, I can definitely see myself doing a bit more hand-washing and scrubbing of some clothes and not relying on our washing machine to get stains and dirt out of them.

There was a bit of excitement on the mission today. Prior to Christmas they had received several boxes of pre-wrapped gifts from a donor in Canada, but not all of her lot had arrived; today it did! The kids here on the mission were all very excited to open another Christmas gift, filled with books, journals, coloring books, activity books, etc. On top of that, another donor had arranged for a snack cart to come to the mission for the children. It was like a mini-Christmas celebration in January.

Saturday January 5, 2019

Ephesians 1:18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints

As I look back on our day today I can definitely feel God’s hand in making days like today happen. Never in a million years would I ever have imagined standing on a mountain, gazing into the hazy skies, knowing that beyond the haze were the Himalayan Mountains. Or standing on a busy road through the District of Champawat overlooking the houses of the people who call this place home.

Early this morning we got up for a tour of the Abbey, a beautiful building on the top of the mountain with a 120 degree view of the Himalayas (on a clear day, but not today). The peaceful serenity of this place could only be achieved at God’s hand.

This is another picture of the church, but this time in the morning light.

 

Our drive home was so much fun (even amidst the fighting and the drama of our girls). Poor Anjali is really missing American food and today it resulted in a refusal to eat the breakfast available because she wanted waffles and I am 100% certain there were no waffles to be found in Champawat, India. The drive down the mountain was no different from the drive up, full of road blocks while we waited for the construction workers to allow us to pass. Oh, and a few monkeys who were nice enough to pose for us.

God has brought us to the most amazing places during the last six months. He has surrounded us with people who welcomed us with open arms and who continue to teach us about their culture, their lifestyle, their faith, and show us how the Lord has worked in their life. These wonderful people have shown us a different way to live and a respect for the differences and similarities we have. I have learned a bigger appreciation for things that I previously took for granted and continue to know the things that are truly important in this life here on earth. I don’t need all of the “stuff” that we left behind in Madison–the closet full of clothes, the various appliances in my kitchen, or the stacks and stacks of movies. I am beginning to recognize that I do need that connection with my family and my friends, a few pieces of clothing and a couple pairs of shoes, a roof over my head and a bed to sleep (and let’s be honest, a washing machine–I can definitely live without it, but I really don’t want to!)

This scripture is so beautiful and so true. Life’s real riches are not with material things, but rather witnessing and experiencing God’s beauty that is all around us. We don’t have to travel to the other side of the world, we can just take a moment in our busy life to take in the grandeur of His amazing works.

Friday January 4, 2019

John 16:22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Shortly after breakfast about 13 people piled into two taxis (along with 4 bikers) for the drive up to Abbot Mount in the mountains of India. We were told that the 80 km drive would take about 4-5 hours, but the beautiful drive into the Himalayan Mountains took over 9 hours because of the crazy construction on the mountain roads. Once we made it into the mountains we quickly realized that the entirety of the road was under construction. Apparently they are widening the one lane road, but instead of doing it in sections they tore the whole road apart at once. Here are some of our pictures during the long drive up and the several construction road blocks we encountered. Hopefully they give a little taste as to what we experienced driving today.

We sat for about an hour waiting for the construction crew to break apart a huge boulder on the

The one-way road that somehow fits 2 cars going in the opposite direction.
District Champawat

We were only planning on spending the day at Abbot Mount, but because the drive took so long it was decided that we would stay the night and then drive home in the morning. And since we were staying the night we needed to get items to make dinner, so we were tasked with stopping to pick up the chicken for dinner.  Our driver, Gary, happily stopped at the best chicken shop in Champawat and proceeded to pick out the chicken for dinner tonight.

We didn’t look behind the blankets, but we all knew what was happening.

We later drove straight past the house at which we were staying and directly to the property that the Shipway family and the mission owns. Clifton showed us the old church, his family home where his sisters grew up (he was quite young when they left), and the boathouse where they host their GSAM Summer Games each year. This whole property is absolutely breathtaking (it is about 6600 ft above sea level–so breathtaking is meant very literally). The sky was not perfectly clear, but we were still able to see the snow capped Himalayas in the distance.

The church at Abbot Mount

The next few pictures you can see the snow capped Himalayas in the distance.

As we were walking around the Shipway property girls were climbing trees to collect the bark that is then sold to folks in the village who will turn it into henna.

We were able to stay at the guest house of a friend of the Shipway and George families. Once we got settled at the house at about 6:00 I joined the women at the main residence to cook the dinner for our group and the family that welcomed us so warmly into their home. As I watched them start the fire that will cook our food, I sat on a small stool and started to peel and chop onions on the small plate with no more than a dull knifeand a curious puppy who insisted on nudging her noise in whenever possible. (I later discovered that Priscilla was going to be bringing the puppy back to the mission tomorrow, which was definitely not planned, but I think both she and Clifton were excited.) I watched these women cook this entire meal, for about 20 people, in one large pot over a small fire in a little more than an hour. While I helped Priscilla prepare the subji, which is a mixture of vegetables with curry seasonings, Philly was busy making chapati for the whole group, which is a lot of chipati. Dinner was amazing. We all huddled in the small area where the meal was cooked and as I looked around I realized how different these nice people lived.  They were secluded up in the mountains of India, with no hot water and very few amenities. Their kitchen consisted of a small room and a double burning gas stove. No refrigerator or freezer, no oven, and only a few pots and pans. Dinner appeared to be regularly cooked over an open fire by the women, who sat on tiny wood stools so they didn’t have to sit on the cold concrete.  This whole situation was amazing to experience. These women were making dinner for 20 people in such a primitive way, that it left me in awe. The process of preparing, cooking, and then eating was so intimate and peaceful. There was conversation and laughter, granted much of it was in Hindi, but I was able experience the moment with them, and it was beautiful.

As I worked alongside these women I became acutely aware of the incredible challenges they face, especially as it relates to water. This generous and kind family lived a very different life than I do back home and this realization made me admire them for their kind and loving heart even more. I experienced nothing but warm smiles from these people, who spoke no English, who allowed us to invade their guest house. I am so grateful to Clifton and Priscilla for taking us to this place. The peaceful serenity I feel while I am here helps me to feel very close to God. I can feel his presence way up in the mountains without the distractions of life in the city. I took as many opportunities as I could to just record these moments into my memory. I never want to forget the feeling of sharing these 2 days up in the Himalayas with those around me.

Thursday January 3, 2019

Psalm 27:4-7

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy. I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me!

Today was like a rollercoaster, but as I look back on it (yes, I am writing this blog 5 days later) I realize that God was with me during the difficult times. We are really struggling with disobedience and disrespectful behavior from the kids and I keep searching for creative ways to work through it. I feel like I have tried everything and none of it works, but I have faith that God will help us through this time and help me to find ways to make a difference with my kids. I pray for His guidance and patience every day.

My biggest struggle is with patience and it is where I need the most help from God. As with most children, mine are making the same mistakes and errors over and over again; it is straining my ability to be patient. I know this is an area that I need to work on and I will continue to pray that God will help me to find some reserves! Today He came through for me.

Despite the meltdowns throughout the day, I was able to convince myself to make some long-desired cookies with Anjali. She has been wanting to make these cookies since before Christmas, but we have been unable to find the time to make it happen; today we made the time. I think she really enjoyed it, I know that I did. We made some delicious sugar cookies with frosting and then I made some banana bread for our adventure to the mountains tomorrow. I didn’t get a photo of the cookies or the banana bread, but I had some left over batter and made little banana bread donuts that were amazing!

Spending the time with Anjali today was such a blessing and I am so grateful for the positive interaction with her, I have really missed it. God answered my prayers today and gave me the needed patience. I need to continue to work on this for the days to come, but I will take solace in knowing that He will always be a shelter in times of trouble and I am forever grateful.