Sunday December 9, 2018

Nehemiah 8:10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Ah, Sunday. I think that Sundays will very quickly become my favorite day here on the mission. I love seeing all the kids pile into church and then singing praises to God and listening to the message of the week (in celebration of Advent, the lesson this week was Peace). It is so refreshing for my soul and I have very much missed this in my life.

The whole mission just rests on Sundays, no work is done, except cooking very simple and quick meals and cleaning the dishes. We spent the morning praising God and the rest of the day enjoying the Sabbath. We took absolutely no pictures today (sorry). We took naps, the kids watched a movie and played with the other kids, we ate breakfast and lunch together as a big mission family and then had dinner with the adults. This was truly an uneventful day, and it was totally wonderful.

I really believe this is what God had in mind for the Sabbath and in the past I have fallen short. At home, I always find something to do after church, whether it is laundry, cleaning, cooking a fancy meal, grocery shopping, etc. I rarely do what the Lord is asking me to do, rest. Seeing that this is what happens on Sundays here on the mission, I imagine that I will get some good practice over the next 6 weeks!

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Saturday December 8, 2018

Zachariah 10:1 Ask rain from the Lord in the season of the spring rain, from the Lord who makes the storm clouds, who gives showers of rain to you, the vegetation in the field to everyone.

I am not sure how to describe today, other than totally wonderful. After breakfast everyone got dressed and the kids went outside for the day. The pictures speak to how the kids have gotten along here; they have all found friends and seem to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.

There have been games of Pass the Pigs, Uno, and Sleeping Queens (all games we brought with us), as well as playing on the swing sets and playground. Today the mission kids had the day off from school and it was a lot of fun to just spend the whole day with them. We all ate breakfast and lunch together, which I really enjoy. As soon as the meals are done, the kids are back outside to play, except after lunch when the whole mission seems to shut down for rest time (not everyone naps, but that is definitely encouraged; those that don’t nap are usually watching movies in their hostel). Anjali and David both ended up watching movies with their new friends while Lucia hung out with the girls in the kitchen. They all seem to be finding new friends and it is great.

After dinner, Jeff practiced with a few others for worship tomorrow; he will now be singing on Sunday mornings. This will be his first one, but he seems to be happy singing again with a group on Sunday morning.

Anjali had asked to eat dinner with us tonight, so the kids all joined us for dinner tonight and while they were well-behaved, I must say that I would much rather them eat with the kids so Jeff and I can have some adult time. I know this may sounds selfish, but we get so little time away from our children and I have come to really enjoy this time that we have together, as adults, with the other staff. Plus putting them all three to bed at 8:30 pm is not very easy and left very little time for Jeff and I to have some down time as parents.

Friday December 7, 20181

Isaiah 11:1-6 The Peaceful Kingdom

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
   and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
    or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
    and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
    and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
    and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
    the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
    and a little child shall lead them.

Today was just a routine day. I spent the day wrapping Christmas gifts for the all of the small boys on the mission while Jeff taught our children. I can’t believe how many gifts the mission will need to purchase to provide a Christmas for all of these children. Here are some pictures of the wrapping done thus far, but there is still a lot left–this will be an on-going task until Christmas morning!

Wrapping these gifts that were hand selected by the staff for each of the children, just brought me so much joy. The gifts were selected because they knew the children would enjoy them and I can’t wait to see all these happy faces on Christmas. The Lord is blessing the place every day. This is a community who worships God with all they have and the cherish and teach these children the loving grace of our Lord, giving them hope for a better future. It is just beautiful.

Lucia helped out making chapatis again tonight and had a blast! After the kids went to bed, Jeff and I headed over to Uncle Rick’s house for a staff dinner, which they do on the first Friday of every month. This was a great opportunity to meet all of the staff and really get to know everyone. It was very casual, just a wonderful opportunity to share a meal on a cool winter night.

Thursday December 6, 2018

James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

I started wrapping gifts for the boys on the mission today. We started by organizing and separating the gifts we purchased in Bareilly. The kids all have 2 wrapped presents on Christmas, one in the morning in their hostel and then one with the whole mission as a family in the afternoon. So I spent the majority of my day today wrapping gifts with another volunteer here in a small storage room. Jeff is working with our kids on their schoolwork and they are doing pretty good. I will say that homeschooling really requires a lot of flexibility and patience.

After lunch we went into town with Aunty Peggy to get some of our Christmas shopping done. She is so sweet and walks us all over the market to get what we need and we are so grateful for her patience with us. When we got back to the mission we found Lucia in the kitchen with the older girls making “chipatis”, which is basically a tortilla without the lard, and then after dinner she helped them wash the dishes. It is wonderful to see her so engaged in life here on The Farm.

I’d love to say that my other too are getting their hands dirty with chores on The Farm, but they aren’t. What they are doing though is engaging with the kids and making friends, which is also a wonderful thing.

When I was in Bareilly on Tuesday I was able to find a small Christmas tree, along with lights, garland, and some ornaments. This was the result of my purchase. It may not be the kind of Christmas decor we are used to, but I am truly joyous that I am have this tiny little Christmas tree. It reminds me of home and of how much I love decorating our home, and yet, even here in rural India, I am still able to decorate our small apartment for Christmas! This time of year is a reminder of how difficult it is to be away from our family and friends, but we are taking solace in the wonderful family that has adopted us here on the mission. I feel very loved and am looking forward to celebrating this season with these wonderful adults and children.

Wednesday December 5, 2018

Proverbs 12:20 Deceit is in the mind of those who plan evil, but those who counsel peace have joy.

Oh what a day today was. I am sure you have had those days where you just can’t catch a break and you are faced with two choices: 1) get down on yourself and a bit depressed because you feel like the whole world is against you, or 2) laugh, and laugh hard! I chose the latter and I am so glad I did because I might have been in bed by 3:00 today otherwise. I will just say that this blog post is my gift to you today…a good laugh–enjoy it! And please don’t feel bad about laughing at my misfortunes and I swear to you, this all happened just as I will lay it out for you. I don’t think I could make something like this up! Have fun : )

I was tasked with decorating a bench for a wedding here at the mission this afternoon. The older girls started it the night before and I was to finish it with various greenery from around the mission campus. I decided to go hunting for pretty leaves and branches and saw some that would look great. I went to step over what looked like mud (but I quickly learned that it wasn’t) onto a walkway that wasn’t actually there and down I went. I wish I had a video or even a picture to capture this awful, but really funny, moment…my entire lower body was covered and caked in waste of various kinds (cow, food, etc) (go ahead, laugh, and laugh hard…I did and so did Jeff!). So I crawled myself out of this stuff, which was headed out to fertilize the crops, and walked up to the apartment to clean up (thankfully Jeff was there to help shield me with a towel as I disrobed on the stairs and carried my clothes and shoes into the shower with me.

I can’t even begin to describe the smell that permeated the bathroom and the entire apartment, so I will let your imagination do the work. I proceeded to rinse my clothes and hope that they were not ruined (they weren’t) and then wash them, over and over and over and over again. I think I washed them for about 30-45 minutes before the water started appearing less black, then I let the clothes and shoes soak in the soapy water for a while.

Now it was time for me to shower, which should be the easiest part of this whole debacle, but it wasn’t. Life on the Farm has it’s challenges. Now I really can’t be certain why, but as I turned on the shower there was no water pressure at all, the water was actually dripping from the shower head and, to top it all off, there was no hot water. I was covered in smelly, nasty sewer waste and all I had to work with is freezing cold water that I could only access from a spigot in the shower. Jeff came in to see if I needed any help and we both just started laughing, really hard. I mean what else is there to do? So I reached for two small buckets that I proceeded to fill with freezing cold water and then dump them over me, again and again. Then shower and rinse. This took forever and was probably one of the most unpleasant showers of my life, but I got clean and no longer smelled of sewer waste.

After cleaning myself up and washing my clothes one more time through and leaving them to soak, again, I realized that my ankle was not feeling great and that I must have twisted it during my fall. So here is a recap…while trying to decorate a wedding bench I fell into sewer waste and then had to wash myself by pouring freezer cold water over my body with small buckets, only to notice that I twisted my ankle. But there is no rest for the weary, that bench needed to be finished. So I went back to work finding leaves, but this time I just avoided that whole area; I learned my lesson. I finished the bench with some help with some wonderful ladies here and it turned out really pretty. We received an invitation to the wedding, and our family got to experience an Indian Christian wedding. It was a lot of fun and was the highlight of my day.

One would think this would have been enough for one day, but it wasn’t. Thankfully the final thing wasn’t that bad. As I was laying in bed at the end of the day writing my blog I accidentally hit delete right as I as about to publish it. This normally would not have been a big issue, except I had forgotten to save it as a draft and I lost the entire blog that I wrote. After trying to recover the lost blog to no avail, I just sighed and closed my tablet, resigned to the fact that I just needed to rest. So I curled up to my husband, who again was laughing with me (or maybe at me) to watch something on Netflix before falling asleep.

This was quite a day. I truly felt beat down and could see how very easily it would have been to just cower in my room and wait for the day to end, but I didn’t. I managed, with the help of my husband and my own sense of humor, to find joy (laughter is synonymous with joy for today) in all of it and I will tell you that it was much easier to get through the rest of the day. Even on a day like today, there is no question in my heart and mind that we are where we are supposed to be. I am meant to be here (though I think I could have done without the fall in sewer waste) and I have never felt more alive. I knew there were going to be challenging days, actually we have already had our fair share, I just didn’t know they would like this! But if you can find the humor in these moments they pass much quicker and they make for fun stories and memories.

My reflection for today, find joy in everything and you will find peace. I know this is backwards from the scripture, but it is going to have to work for today…this is the best I can do : )

Tuesday December 4, 2018

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher,
    vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What do people gain from all the toil
    at which they toil under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun goes down,
    and hurries to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south,
    and goes around to the north;
round and round goes the wind,
    and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
    but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
    there they continue to flow.
All things are wearisome;
    more than one can express;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
    or the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
    “See, this is new”?
It has already been,
    in the ages before us.
The people of long ago are not remembered,
    nor will there be any remembrance
of people yet to come
    by those who come after them.

I have to be honest, I had to read a bit of history to gain some perspective and understanding of this scripture passage. I found out that King Solomon wrote this scripture verse as a reminder that when we pursue things outside of God, meaning the worldly possessions that bombard us everyday, the satisfaction and joy will not last; we can have everything and yet if we do not love the Lord first, we have nothing. A life without the Lord is no life at all.

I don’t know if I truly ever had a relationship with God until having Anjali. I knew of God, but I didn’t really love Him and though I had been taught all about His work and the work of Jesus, for whatever reason it just did not settle with me. As I look back on my early years as an adult I can see how lost I actually was, drifting through life with no real purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I had plenty of ambitions and goals, and I achieved most of them with hard work and dedication, but I never felt fulfilled–I always needed more of something but I did not know what. I guess I was not able to explain a higher being, or maybe I was frightened by the idea that someone else had influence in my life and that my destiny was not always up to me. I did not understand it, so I was afraid of it.

After having my first child I began to see the church as a community that could be a support system to my family, as well as a great way to teach humility and morality to my children. Again, my draw to the church was not a relationship with God, but rather the ways the church could benefit me. If this was God’s way of bringing me closer to him, I will never know and that’s okay. This path has lead me to where I am now and I am so grateful.

This year we are living with only what we can carry on our back, leaving behind all of our possessions and serving those in need around the world. This plan was put into our hearts by God, I am sure of that, and He has taken us on a journey that I could never have planned myself; He opened doors I did not even know existed. I continue to see how, at His hands, we are experiencing God’s love in people that live on the other side of the world. We are living our lives with God at the center, which is a complete change from 15 years ago, and I have never felt more alive, even with so little. I not only feel a stronger connection to God, but also a much deeper connection to the world as a whole. The world is so much smaller than I had previously believed and I feel like I am starting to see the world as one big family. We may live in different ways and in different parts of the world, but we all face the same challenges in our life (blessings, hardships, sin, grace, joy, grief, etc). This journey has taught me that we all are more similar than we appear and that we really are just one big family with God as our father.

Today I went to Bareilly with Katie and Anish to do the Christmas shopping for the boys on the mission. We hired a driver for the 2-3 hour commute and of course we had to stop for tea half way there (I had my tea in a cup made from a mud–for as behind India is with trash collection they are quite advanced with the ‘green’ movement–a totally biodegradable cup).

Once we got to Bareilly I realized how small Banbasa actually was; it has felt so big and so busy, but I guess I had no comparison. Bareilly is nothing like Banbasa. It is loud, busy, and filled with people. I am not sure that the pictures can capture the number of people there, but its the best I can do!

Driving through the city to the car park
Walking through the streets of Bareilly looking for the right shop
A view from outside the toy shop

This was such a great experience, one that I was not prepared for but thoroughly enjoyed (well sort of). It was great that I was able to help Katie and Anish with the shopping and to get some done for our family. But as I was getting ready this morning I switched out my purse for my backpack (much more practical) and I forgot to put my migraine medication in it. A simple oversight that made the day quite interesting. With all of the noise and pollution, I found myself fighting off a migraine for most of the day. It left me feeling nauseous, which is not very pleasant around people that I don’t know in a city where I am completely out of place. I did my best to hide how horrible I was feeling but it finally got the best of me. As we were leaving the sports store where we purchased a ton of items for the older boys on the mission, I could not hold back any longer and the nausea won. I turned to Katie to ask her where I could go because I was going to get sick. She very casually turned to me and pointed to the ground and said, “they are already staring at you, just give them something to stare at!” I could not help but laugh inside as I got sick on the streets of Bareilly with people staring at me. There was nothing I could do. I am in a place with no garbage cans, no public bathrooms nearby, and definitely no bathrooms in the shops…It was a horrible feeling, but Katie’s statement was so true and funny that it made the whole situation much more bearable. These wonderful people I was with took great care of me. It just so happened that we were right next a pharmacy and Anish ran in to get me some anti-nausea tablets and some water, which was just what I needed. As usual, after getting sick, my migraine seems to subside enough and thankfully we were pretty much done shopping anyway. We ended up going for dinner at a shopping mall. I was able to eat a little bit before we drove home. We got home at 11:00 at night and after unloading all of the gifts I got into PJs and finally felt well enough to eat some of the food I brought home. It was definitely an eventful day and even with feeling as awful as I did, I had a really good time and am so glad I went.

Monday December 3, 2018

Romans 8:28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Today marked our first day back to reality. We have found that with all of the traveling, schoolwork is next to impossible when we change stations. Everyone is tired and the kids are not mentally prepared to learn, and we are not up for teaching. But we are back to the same old routine today and it seems to be working out nicely. We get up for breakfast and when the mission kids go to school at 8:00, so do our kids. We are still trying to figure out the best place to do the school work, but that just comes with trial and error. Jeff and I decided that while the mission kids are in school, ours our too, unless there is work to be done on the mission that we need all hands on deck. The kids are done at 2:30 when the mission kids get home from school and then are free until tutoring time from 4:30-5:30 when they can finish any remaining work.

Today while Jeff managed the kids’ schoolwork and teaching I began the task of wrapping Christmas presents for the kids. Katie is in charge of organizing all of the gifts and then myself and another staff member wrapped them. We were able to get all of the nursery kids’ gifts wrapped and ready to go, as well as make a list of gifts still needed for the boys on the mission. Tomorrow I will join Katie and Anish to Bareilly for a Christmas shopping adventure. I am not sure what to expect. I have been told that Bareilly is really big city about 2-3 hours away. I am going with them to be an extra hand with their baby and to get as much Christmas shopping done as I can for our kids. Gifts ready to be sorted and then wrapped!

Jeff and I have made a list of gifts we would like to get for our kids, but we are very limited in what we have access to. Amazon.In does not have quite the selection as back in the states nor do all sellers deliver to us here in Banbasa. We will do the best we can and I am sure that our kids, just like the kids on the mission will have a wonderful Christmas.

I am loving the atmosphere here at the mission. This is one big family who support and love each other unconditionally. This place is full of real people with sins, blessings, faults, and gifts, and God knows all of them. What I find so beautiful here is how all these things, the positive and the negative, are used to make this place what it is; a place of acceptance and love. It is like a sanctuary amongst the chaos. Listening to the wonderful sounds of kids playing and crying, and then knowing that right outside these gates is India. India has trash on the streets and in the canals, cars zooming by as they zig-zag around and through traffic, horns honking, etc. It is loud and crazy outside, but here is peaceful. It is a wonderful community of people dedicated to support and care for those pushed aside by their family’s and the community. God is truly at work here and while it is not perfect (no place is), they are constantly striving to make the best of what they have so they can be the best family for these children. God is using everyone to make this place work.