Monday, November 24, 2014

#GivingTuesday

Thanksgiving is approaching rapidly.  E-mails proclaiming Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials fill my inbox.  Slips about Small Business Saturday are on the counters at local shops.  The frenzy is building for feasts of food and sprees of shopping.

A time to be grateful manifesting itself in...Indulgence.

Though I love pumpkin pie as much as the next person, I can't help but remember by brothers and sisters in India and around the world who do not have the luxury of second helpings of stuffing or dropping a couple hundred bucks on a widescreen TV.

If you read my blog regularly, you have heard the stories of many in India who have little, but give much.

Why don't we who have much give even a little?

Instead of focusing only on Thursday, Friday, and Monday, it's time to spare some dimes for Tuesday.  

#GivingTuesday is a day to express true gratitude by giving back.  

Though there are many worthy causes and organizations to support, let's think about who in our lives we are most grateful for.  No doubt, many of us would say our mothers.

Mothers are a special breed.  They dedicate their hearts, minds, bodies, and souls to the raising of their precious little ones.  They face many challenges along the way and give up so much.

For mothers living in poverty, the sacrifices can be too much to bear.  At the end of the day, there is nothing left to give.

Bharati holding her baby girl
You can change that reality by donating to Compassion International on #GivingTuesday.

This year, all #GivingTuesday donations will be directed towards establishing a Child Survival Program for mothers and their babies in the village of Gujarat, India.  The women in Gujarat have few resources and your gifts will mean the difference between a healthy life and tragic death for their little ones.  As the picture below asks, "Who can resist giving a baby a healthy start?"


Help Compassion raise $25,000 for these mothers and babies.  

Click the image below to give.  

Giving Tuesday - Mom and Baby

Spread the word and invite others to give using hashtag #GivingTuesday and the image above.

Thank you for putting the "giving" back into "Thanksgiving."


Friday, November 14, 2014

Compose, Compare, Compute!

Good Afternoon Folks!

How is it going?

I write to you from my chilly room on a day when there is a slight dusting of snow on the ground in shady areas.  The combination of this and the Christmas decorations at my friend's house have birthed in me an eager anticipation for the Christmas season.

First though, I look forward to spending Thanksgiving in San Diego with my sister and brother-in-law, as well as my parents.  Perhaps that burst of sunshine and warm weather will quell the desire for winter.  Perhaps it will feed it.

Anyways, today I wanted to share with you a simple and easy "game" I've been using to help my tutoring client with addition and subtraction.  Though the general idea is pretty common, I made some new rules for it that have worked out well.  They also allow her to practice place value and comparing numbers.

Compose, Compare, Compute (CCC)

To play the game you need a deck of cards and either a paper and pencil or a white board and marker.

Directions:

1. Draw 2 or more cards (based on how many digits you want in the number)
2. Use the cards to make the greatest number possible.  (Students rearrange the numbers in each place value spot.  For example, the greatest number that 2, 7, and 5 makes is 752.)
3. Repeat the above steps to make a new number.  Arrange the number below the first one.

4. Compare the numbers to decide which is greater.
5. Decide if you should add or subtract.  If the greater number is on top, you can add or subtract.  If the greater number is on the bottom, you must subtract.
6. Solve the problem.  

Super simple concept.  Lots of practice.  My particular student is in second grade, so she makes 3-digit numbers.  I love that she gets to reinforce her understanding of place value, comparing numbers, and addition and subtraction both with and without regrouping.  Her mind stays engaged because there are some many different steps.  Using the cards is more fun that doing a worksheet.  It's a total success for both of us.

Now, it's time for your favorite part of the post.  At least it's mine.  Hehe.  Another entry from my India journal awaits...


8-21-14
Farm Trip Day 1

            Morning came early and got busy quickly: breakfast, loading luggage, picking cars for the drive.  K, H, and I chose to ride in the back of P’s little red car, so that H could braid our hair as we road.  Also, we wanted to protect my toe, which refused to let me wear sneakers.  Therefore, S had splinted and taped it with popsicle sticks from the craft supplies.  God has such a sense of humor for making me wear only flip flops when I said, “no flip flops” to everyone else.
            Once everyone was squished in, we set off for the farm.  It was supposed to be a 2 hour drive, but I knew it would be longer.  Just as I thought, it got longer even before we left the city.  Shortly after leaving, we stopped outside of M and P’s home to pick up their children.  Both our driver and the van driver left their vehicles, leaving 14 Americans sitting conspicuously on the street.  A few minutes later, a truck driver needed to back his truck through the space in between our vehicles.  Finding that he did not have enough room, he decided to get out and to try to get into our van.  K, H, and I were freaking out as we watched the man climb into the driver’s side.  We had no idea what was about to happen.  Fortunately, we did not have to wait to find out.  P, M, and the van driver came back just in time and “rescued” the van.  The driver quickly moved out of the truck’s way and all was well.
            On our way again, I decided it was time to prompt M to share her and P’s story.  It’s such a tale of surrendering to God’s plan and coming together to serve.  I knew the girls would love hearing it.  Sure enough, they did.
            By now, we were outside Hyderabad and stopping on the side of desolate roads to let P's son puke.  Poor kid was horribly car sick.  Further along, we stopped to pick up supplies and were surprised when M treated us with chips.  Greasy, crispy goodness.
            Closer to the farm, rocky mountains appeared alongside palm trees.  Huge boulders jutted out of the sandy landscape prompting K to ask, “How do rocks get that big?”  Hehe.

            Though laughing on the outside, inwardly, I was nervous.  I feared I wouldn’t remember the kids.  My “second trip advantage” would be drowned out by the sheer number of kids.  I only bonded with a few last year and many of the 50 were likely to be new faces.
            Turns out, like most of my trip anxieties, this one came true.  The very first moment at the farm involved me rolling down my window and a lanky, teenage boy with a chai-colored complexion asking, “Sister, what’s my name?”

            Blank brain.

            Nothing.

            Vague memory of the face, but no name to speak of.

            I apologized and he graciously reminded me that it was “G.”  Still feeling a bit foolish, I proceeded to call Mh, Rh.  Fail.
            Fortunately, the boys were all forgiving and our mutual excitement at seeing each other allowed us to move on quickly.  My nerves disappeared when V appeared!  Upon seeing me, his face lit up just as I felt mine do the same. 
            Before really engaging with the kids, those of us from the small car joined those from the van where they were meeting the pastors.  Pastor S puts together many training programs for pastors all over the city.  The pastors smiled big as we greeted them and were thankful to have us pray.
            Then, it was time to unleash the children.  Picking out rooms interrupting the initial greetings, but did not take long.  As each teammate mingled with the throngs, I paired up with V.  Of course, he began reciting Telugu and quizzing me on it.  Last year, he had been my personal Telugu teacher and it appeared that he would be this year as well.
            Little hands reached out for big hands and little feet began leading big feet out to the fields for a tour.  Though my toe hurt, I was determined to go.  There is nothing like the wide open sky, the mountain speckled landscape, and the wet green rice paddies.  The place exudes peace and quiet, even with 50 children milling about. 

            The walk got eventful when a bull decided to charge me and then chase T.  V had to run it off with a stick.  P asked me why I did not listen when he said to run.  To be honest, I had not heard him at all because of listening to V.  Guess I shouldn’t have worn red.

            Back at the main area, lunch was set up.  It was not truly Indian, but really good meat and cabbage with rice.  I opted for some of the spicy curry and for a cup of Thumb’s Up.  So weird how I never drink soda in the U.S., but in India, I love it.  Sweet and fizzy cuts through spicy and dense.
            The team headed over to Father’s Farm for playtime.  The courtyard between the homes was sweltering in the direct sunlight. 
            Cricket bats and balls came out.  The guys immediately started hitting, throwing, and running as they learned the game.  I tried briefly and actually hit the ball twice!  The bounces on the pitches helped a lot.  Unfortunately, R caught the second hit and got me out.

            Over in the shade of an under-construction home, I talked with P, Vi’s new wife.  He is 24.  She is 19.  Together they care for the orphan girls on the farm.  Hard to believe just last year, he was still living with his father and finishing his degree.  Though both of them are so young, they have already stepped up to care for orphans.  No need to sew wild oats first.
            For the rest of the time, I tried to play and talk with V and some other kids.  This year just doesn’t feel the same at all.  I am not a singer, a dancer, or athlete.  Others are better at crafts and good at skits.  K and Ki are recording names.  T and Ki have photography covered.  

What’s my role?

            I know I am a team leader, but I also want to be a team member.  I don’t feel like a strong leader and all my sweets spots from last year are taken and better filled by others.  The time is too short to know new kids and to hear stories.

    Why are we here?

            To play with kids is fun and special to them, but what are we leaving behind? 

            Stuff.  A few memories.
            
   What else?

            I trust the Lord has His purposes, perhaps to spark a beautiful long term investment through church partnership.  At least that is my hope and prayer.

            As evening neared, P needed help with the barbecue.  He sent me ahead though because of my toe.  Others carried long poles of wood for the bonfire, while I snapped photos.  It felt good to be behind the camera for a bit.  A chance to escape.
            Before dinner, some of us sat and chatted in the dusky light.  We also applied the natural mosquito cream that M so generously provided.  Darkness kicked in and with no power in the buildings, it was pitch black.  T and I used my flashlight and camera to create light paintings.  Cool.
         Soon, the grills were covered in small chunks of freshly killed chicken and turkey.  Rice, green beans, and chicken soup were served.  Though the meat was stiff and bony, it had good flavor.  Later, the team marveled at how different modified American meat and bananas look from real, fresh food.
            After dinner we attempted One Word Stories at my suggestion.  When they did not work so well, someone suggested Telephone and Broken Telephone.  Funny.
            We moved over to the tall bonfire, but N and I had to change spots immediately because the wind was blowing sparks straight towards us.  Then, we all ended up moving back tons more to escape the sweltering heat.

            Though initially impressive, the fire soon collapse.  Meanwhile, I went over plans with M before announcing them to the group.  Some went to bed, but others stayed out for a while.  
            I talked with four boys about the gospel, prayer, and memory verses.  They recited some for me in Telugu.  Talking to them about the Lord helped lift my mood a bit.  Then, K, N, and I headed to the bed in the new guest house.
            Though new, the guest house is anything but luxurious.  Cement floors.  Western toilet (nice), but bucket flush only.  Loud fan.  Mosquito nets.  Bugs.  Lizards.  Etc.  


            Home sweet, Indian home.

            I slept like the dead.
           
           

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Currently Giving Up Ice Cream and Orphan Boys' Home

November 5th.  How did you get here?  

Seriously though, I can't believe it's November.  I have finally stopped saying, "earlier this summer."  It took all of September and October for me to reconcile that school is going on without me.  

For the first time in 20 years, I did not enter a classroom this fall.  Insane.

Anyways, I am still tutoring though, so the teacher in me is somewhat satisfied.  Actually, I am quite enjoying it.  I only have one client, but she is one of my former students.  She needed a lot of support last year, but with 21 other kids, I always felt stretched to meet her needs.  Now, I get an hour a week to spend just with her.  She is doing very well.  I plan to share a fun game I played with her soon.  Just want to get some pictures of it first.

Now, I know it's the 5th, which means I am probably the 1,534th person to join the Currently.  However, I still felt like joining.


Listening

After a friend announced that she starting listening to Christmas music last week, I decided that it was time for me to do the same.  November is right before December, so though it is still early, I find it acceptable to begin enjoying the Michael Buble Christmas Station on Pandora.

Loving

Last post I rued the fact that my trusty laptop died.  In the time since then, I ordered a new one.  Tried the new one.  Discovered it was possessed by aliens.  Spent over 4 hours on the phone trying to return the evil thing (still have not finished that process).  Found an amazing deal on an even better laptop from Staples.  Purchased it.  Am amazed by how awesome it is.

It was definitely a stressful and annoying process.  However, God used an old memory of watching All I Ever Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten to remind me that not having a working laptop is an "inconvenience" not a "problem."  Still, I am beyond thankful to now have my Toshiba Satellite that runs smoothly, quickly, and quietly.  

Thinking

For those of you who know me or have read my other blog posts, you know that I have one strong sweet tooth.  Dessert is not an optional course.  It is an essential part of both lunch and dinner.
Lately, though I have been visiting a nutritionist who is attempting to tame my stubborn sweet tooth.  She encouraged me to do a cleanse for two weeks.  The cleanse is really not too bad considering I either never or almost never eat/drink most of the things on the "Do Not Eat" list. 

Give up red meat?  Already did that.
No caffeine?  No problem.  
Cut out the eggs?  Only have 'em once a month or so anyway.

No sugar?  WAIT!!!  WHAT???  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  THAT'S INHUMANE.

Though I knew I needed to cut back on the sweet treats, I did not want to go cold turkey.  Still, I decided to go for it and surprisingly it's working.

The combination of drinking lemon water in the morning to balance my body's acidity, the focus on hearty meals comprised mainly of vegetables and protein, and the occasional apple have all helped me go 10 days without chocolate, ice cream, cake, cookies, or anything of that nature.  

Now, I know 10 days does not sound like a lot, and the goal is only 14, I think the bigger victory is that I do not crazy sweets anymore.  I have been around them and do not find them magnetic.  The compulsion to eat and overeat sweets is waning.  I think perhaps my palate is changing and my resistance is strengthening.  I hope that it will remain even when I have sweets again.  I want them to be treats, not irresistible temptations.

Wanting

Right now, I am in the process of raising support for my new job with World Orphans.  You can read more about that here.  Today, I calculated that through people's generous one-time and monthly gifts, I have reached 29.6% of my monthly salary goal.  That is exciting, but now I really want to make it to 33%.  It would be great to be a third of the way done.  Here's my progress graph.



Needing

It's been two weeks since I've been to my prayer/Bible study group.  I need and want to see my best buds and to spend some time in the Word with them tonight.  Can't wait.

Reading


I just finished reading, Radical by David Platt and have begun the companion, Radical Together.  Boy are both convicting.  I think I will dedicate a future blog post to sharing some of the many thought-provoking quotes and lessons from both books.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Now, for another entry from my Mission2India journal.  I know it's been over two months since I got back, but I am still planning to finish sharing these.  Only a few days left.

8-20-14

Boys' Home

            I awoke today knowing I needed a word from the Lord.  The combination of my toe injury, the stress of being a team leader, and jet lag merged into a blanket of weariness.  Fortunately, at breakfast, R and K noticed I needed some encouragement, so they came up to my room to pray with me.
            With new joy, I limped downstairs to the van.  During the ride, to the boys' home, I felt slightly disengaged.  I didn’t feel like laughing or joking, but at least I felt peace.
            We arrived at the home, all nestled between the huge, pink apartment buildings.  M informed me that people should be moving into them by December.  Then, the pastor’s vision of being a light in the community will spread even further.
            The minute we got out of the van, the pastor’s son, A, immediately grabbed my hands and said, “Beck Beck!  Beck Beck!”  His daughter, S, and one of the orphan boys, P, were also excited to see me.
            At the site, kids swarmed us and led us into the tiny church.  Though we expected 15 children, there were at least 25 plus many older girls and women.  I tried to store the new names and faces in my drained brain, but was less than successful.  I found myself gravitating towards A, S, and P.  I knew them.  They knew me.  Internally, I disliked myself for taking the easy way out, but I felt incapable of doing much else.
            Without fail, singing, dancing, and drumming began.  D, P, and a few more boys threw down their intense moves.  They invited us to join the fun.  Soon, the whole team was jumping around, flailing their arms, and dying of laughter.  In order to protect my toe, I stuck to hopping. 
            Next was cake for our host P’s birthday.  His wife, M, got away with smearing cake and frosting all over his face.  Hahaha.
For the rest of the morning, everyone hung out with the kids playing soccer, learning hand-clapping games etc.
            By everyone, I mean everyone, but myself and my co-leader.  He was relaxing, talking to the pastor and M, so I decided to rest my foot and join them.  I also just felt checked out.  The number of kids I wouldn’t be able to get to know overwhelmed and paralyzed me from even trying.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed listening to M talk more about the neighborhood etc.  It just felt weird not to fully engage.
            I did get excited though when the pastor’s sister, Sh, and her friend, J, arrived.  Last year, the three of us had talked a lot.  Sh is very spunky and likes to tease, J.  She is also working to become a police officer.  Very hardcore.
            Lunch was a delicious buffet of potatoes, curry, rice, beans, chapatti, and sweets.  Ki was served seconds, but too full to eat, so I helped her get them taken away, so she didn’t offend anyone by not eating.  Earlier I had helped K throw away her piece of cake.  One of the orphan boys took me out of the church yard, pointed to a pile of trash, and waited. 

Cue culture shock dilemma. 

Do I add the wrapper to the heaps of trash scattered about the yard? 

Do I refuse the offered opportunity to dispose of it and risk confusing or offending the boy?

I ended up leaving it.

            After lunch, we began our program with the story of the Prodigal Son.
  It was the first and only time I read a narrative during the trip.  Next, we began the mobile craft.  H quickly realized that we had too few prepared due to the extra kids, since we had only planned on 15.  My immediate fear was, “these kids can’t share.”  Too aggressive.  Too competitive.   The blame for this falls on the government’s declaration that boys and girls cannot live in the same homes.  15 boys living together is not an ideal situation. 
            Sharing definitely was a challenge.  I sat down with a new boy, Si, P, and A.  A and P were set up to share, but A quickly changed that.  He moved so that he could “share” with me, meaning he got the craft to himself in the end.  Still, I was pleasantly surprised by how he took turns, asked me for help, and worked carefully on the project.  Thankfully, Si and P shared well.  Looking back later, I realized how cool it was that God put the boys and us in a situation where sharing was the only option.  He knew they needed practice and we needed to trust Him when plans changed.
            Though the room was excruciatingly hot, we stayed inside and listened to the pastor share his story.  Al led the conversation with P as a translator.  Halfway through, the room hushed.  Children divided to make an aisle.  Everyone sat up straight.  A key political leader in the area had arrived.  He has been very supportive of the pastor and the home.  It also happened to be his birthday.  We sang and had another cake.
            As soon as he left, the tension melted.  We continued listening to the pastor tell of how God told Him to be a light to the community.  He built his church in tiny space surrounded by a bustling neighborhood with soon-to-be-filled apartment buildings looming all around.
When he finished sharing several of us prayed over him and his wife.  Then, it was time for a group picture and goodbyes.


            Dehydrated and exhausted from sweating buckets and trying to manage rowdy boys, I slept the whole bus ride home.
            Back at the hotel, we freshened up and regrouped before going out for biryani.  The restaurant could have been a five minute walk, but we drove instead.  Safety reasons, I guess. 
Dinner was AMAZING spicy mutton kebabs that lit my tongue on fire, chicken biryani, and naan.  There was also a gray paste-like mutton dish that paired well with the rice.
            Back at the hotel, we debriefed, packed up tons of supplies for the farm, and discussed how to use the evangelism cubes we brought.  By the time the bags were packed, I was EXHAUSTED. 

       I jumped in the shower so I would be fresh for the farm and packed my overnight bag.  Then, I could no longer ignore my bed calling to me, so I hit the sack.  It had been a crazy, hot day of mixed emotions.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sisters in India

Happy Thursday!

The humidity has reared it's ugly, sweaty head here in New Jersey.  Just when I was embracing fall, it feels like sticky summer again.  Yuck.

I write to you today from a borrowed Microsoft Surface with a not quite normal keyboard.  This is due to the fact that my trusty (or so I thought) laptop burned out.  Literally.  CPU dead.  Revival, not worth it.

As much my computer dying upset and stressed me, I can't say I was totally surprised.  The poor thing had been running too hard and too hot for months since I refused to replace the battery, kept it plugged into 90% of the time, and multi-tasked like crazy.

What's ironic is that I had just been telling people how I felt total peace about the support raising process.  I was trusting God to provide and not worried about money.

Cue, computer death.

"Are you really trusting me Becky?"  -God.

"Yes... kind of... maybe... sort of... why did this happen?  I can't afford this."

That's how the thoughts flowed. 

Fortunately, God prompted me to ask for help instead of stubbornly trying to fix everything right away.  My awesome friends have prayed for me, loaned me a spare piece of technology (making this post possible), referred me to a nice computer repairman who recovered my data, and helped me pick out a new machine.

It's amazing how God does provide when you humble yourself and ask for help.

Anyway, now I am awaiting my new HP, which will hopefully last more than 4 years, which seems to be my limit with laptops.

Okay, enough rambling about my laptop troubles.  I promise this post has a purpose.

I am excited to share with you another journal entry from India.  This day was full of both delight and pain.  You'll see why.

8-19-14

Day 3: Sisters and Swelling
 
 
Today began with the eager expectation of seeing the teenage orphan girls from S's home, my Indian sisters.

It was an unusual and important day in Hyderabad because of the government census.  The state of Andrha Pradesh recently split into two states.  One retrained the name Andhra Pradesh.  The other was called Telangana.  As a result of the split, people were registering for government aid in both states.  The goal of the census was to resolve this problem by determining how many people there were in each state and where they could legally register for aid.
 
The impact of the census on us was that we could not leave the hotel until the evening, after the census.  This was the case for most of the people of Hyderabad.  No one was out on the streets.  Businesses were shut down.  Very few horn honks.  Eerie. 
 
Despite the restrictions, M had still planned an enjoyable day for us.  She promised to send some of girls over to the hotel around 10:00 a.m., when the census workers were done visiting their home.
 
10:00 came after a breakfast of dosas, daal, hard-boiled eggs, and decent quality chai.  Eager to see the girls, we all trooped out to meet them in front of the hotel.  It wasn't long though before the heat drove us back to the hotel lobby.  Not much cooler.
 
Half an hour passed and still no girls.  I began to wonder what was going on, but did not have an easy way to communicate with M and P.  Fortunately, one girl on our team volunteered her phone, which was equipped with T-Mobile international service.  I called P and found out that the census workers were late.  The girls were stuck home.
 
Disappointment.

New plan. 

Prayer time. 
 
M sent me a list of very serious requested and the team gathered in room 310.  Before we got down to business, there was some card playing and signing of photos.  I wrestled with when to begin because I wanted to give people time to chill, but not miss out on praying deeply.  My time concern came true as we were only able to pray for a few requests that morning.
 
I really couldn't complain about running out of time though because the prayers were POWERFUL.  IB is prayer warrior like none I've every heard before.  She claimed God's truth boldly and sent chills down my spine.  We later found out that a sick girl she had been praying for walked and ate for the first time in days!  Praise the Lord!
 
 Unexpectedly, a new prayer request arose in the midst of our prayer time.
 
At one point, I needed to leave the room to check on something.  On the way back, feet flying and eyes glued to a phone, I met a couch.
 
BAM!!!!
 
Toe meet couch.
 
Knee meet couch.
 
Pain meet Becky.
 
Sharp pain.  Breath caught.  Imminent collapse 

Adrenaline driven hopping.

Arrival in the room.

Collapse.
 
Of course, the team was immediately concerned, but I laughed it off saying that I had just made friends with a couch and would be fine.
 
We continued praying for M's concerns.  All the while, my toe was doubling in size.  Nothing to worry about.  :-)
 
When the girls arrived, the size of my toe was quickly forgotten.
 
P brought U, V, M, and H up to the room and then he and the boys snuck out to do manly things while the rest of us got covered in henna and girl-talked.  For me, it was great to catch up with the sisters, especially U who I had gotten close to last year.  As she decorated my forearms with intricate Arabic and Indian style designs, we talked about school, camp, life in America etc.
 



Phone call.  Time for lunch.  Urgent scramble to flake the dried henna off in the bathroom.
 
Arms red from scraping, but smiles wide, we begged the girls to eat with us.  Our pleas were met with hesitation.  Serving us is all they know.  Still, we insisted, declaring that if we are truly sisters, they should eat with us.
 
Nervously, they joined us at the buffet and immediately took their places at the back of the line.  I refused to accept this and sent them ahead.  I told them I needed their advice about the food.  They informed me about the spiciest foods and warned me not put the dessert sweets on my plate.  A separate bowl was required to allow for ice cream on top!  YUM!!!
 
Back in the room, we transitioned to painting the girls' nails and giving them glitter tattoos.  I also began to pay attention to my toe, which I had been hobbling around on all morning.  Upon seeing that there was no space left between my big toe and second toe, I freaked out a bit until S, a dancer and expert in foot injuries, took over.  She carefully taped my big toe to the rest of my foot and arranged some towels for elevation.  Many team members asked the hotel for ice, but returned empty handed.
 
 

 
Soon the girls had to leave, so we had some downtime before going to see them at the pastor's house later.  I took the time to journal and rest.
 
Soon, it was time to leave.  Half of us crammed into the little van and left the rest behind for a second trip.  Apparently taking the big van would have been too conspicuous on a day like today.
 
At the pastor's house, we began with ice breakers since all 15 of the girls were there and we had not met them all yet.  The rest of the evening was spent with singing, dancing, and laughing.  We ate delicious curry and sweet bananas. 




While "icing" my foot with a bag of milk, I talked with U, M, V, and one of the new girls.  V, U's sister shared that before I came last year, U spent her time alone, rather than engaging with the group.  After meeting me, she connects with everyone.  Not sure how I affected that, but then, she, herself, told me "When you a re here, I never feel alone." 

Tears and concern welled up.  I was beyond touched that I mean that much to her.  However, I fear that she is too connected to someone who cannot be with her more than once a year at most.  I love her to death and pray for her daily.  I just hope that she can continue to connect with her sisters in India and her amazing mother and father figures, S and V.  I am so thankful that she has a family with a mother and father who show Christ's love, provide for her needs, and equip her for the future.   I am so thankful that all the girls and the orphans at the other homes have this as well.

Under the light of hope and love, U is studying to become a nurse.  Her goal is to offer free services to those in need because her mother died of a heart condition when no one could afford her treatment.  The transformation of ashes into beauty.  The heart of orphan work.

 



Thursday, October 2, 2014

October Currently, India, and a Giveaway


It's Thursday!  October 2nd.  Crazy.

My days have all blended together now that I am no longer teaching.  It's been weird to realize that school is going on without me and that I don't even think about it that much.  I miss my students and colleagues a lot, but teaching seems like it happened a lifetime ago.  I am living a totally different life now, so I do not even focus on missing the classroom very often.

That does not mean though that I do not think of other teachers and pray for them.  I know that the beginning of the year is super stressful, so I pray that all is going as smoothly as possible.

Though I am not still teaching I still want to link up with Farley's Currently.  I hope that's allowed.  After that, stay tuned for a brief entry from my India journal.


Listening

Over the past year, I have begun to learn the power of silence.  Well, not always total silence, but less noise.  Instead of turning on music or the TV right away in the morning, I take sometime to enjoy the relative quiet of the morning.  A lawn mower.  A plane flying overhead.  Birds chirping.  Crickets finishing up their nightly chirping.

Loving

I know I'm way behind the times, but I finally discovered the amazingness that is farmers' markets!  I never felt the motivation or had the time to go to them before.  Now, however, I am a farmers' market maven.  I went to a new one the other day and stocked up on tons of great local produce including: collard greens, kale, romaine, cucumbers, squash, potatoes, apples, local honey etc.  I was in heaven!  Now, I just have to make sure to cook/use all of it before it goes bad!

Thinking

Part of my motivation to go to the farmers' market came from my nutritionist.  I signed up for a few meetings with the one at my gym because I wanted to be sure that my attempts to eat healthily were actually right for my body and activity level.  Turns out, I was not too wildly far off, but there are some things to tweak.  Lemon water every morning to help tame my sweet tooth.  TONS and TONS of leafy greens with every meal, not just once a day.  Limiting intake of grains. 

All good stuff so far.  I like that the adjustments are not too extreme and that they are prompting me to try new foods and to add variety to my diet.  I already ate some leafy greens like spinach and romaine.  Now, I have become a kale-addict.  Yes, I am one of those people.  Plus, the farmers' market inspired me to try collard greens.
Any recipes ideas for healthy collard greens?  

I don't think Paula Deen's bacon infused ones will do the trick.

Wanting

Pinterest is all about pumpkin!!!  I drool every time I scroll through my home page.  Pumpkin Coffee Cake, Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls, Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars, Pumpkin Granola.  Pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin!!!

Pumpkin Cheesecake BarsPumpkin Pie Crumb Bars - these are always a hit!

For all my drooling and pinning, I have yet to make anything pumpkin this season!  It's a disgrace.

I must make something pumpkin and soon.  How I will choose which recipe to try?  I have no idea.

Needing

Oh, the art of budgeting.  One I have yet to master or even try.  I need to learn to be more careful in limiting my spending, especially because I don't currently have a salary.  I am in the process of raising support for my new job and only have one tutoring client once a week, so my savings is taking a hit.  I am considering getting a part time job, but even with that, I need to be more careful about budgeting. 

Fortunately, a good friend of mine is a Dave Ramesy pro, so she is teaching me the tricks of the trade.

Treat

Here's my treat for you.  I just heard about an exciting school-related giveaway that you can enter.

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Big Event Fundraising is giving away $1,000 worth of student prizes!!  "These incentives are perfect for school stores, academic awards, fairs, carnivals, or special school events. Prizes include an assortment of handheld games, travel ping pong sets, Frisbees, magic trick kits, plastic inflatable chairs and much more!"

Enter by clicking the picture above.  That will take you to the Rafflecopter, where you can earn up to 20 entries!

That's a fun treat!


8-18-14
Day 3: Girls’ Home

Morning came with the sounds of horns honking and motors zooming.  K. and I dressed quickly before going down to breakfast.  As soon as we arrived, we discovered that she and T. were dressed as twins!  Teal shirts and black skirts.  Exactly the same.  Very funny.  I got some bad chai at the hotel and was disappointed again..  Hopefully there will be better later.
We met to catch the bus at 10:00, took a few extra trips upstairs for missing items, signed photos for the kids, and loaded up supplies.  I chatted with my co-leader, A., about what I should say to the whole groups when asked to speak and introduce the team.  He explained that both he and Pastor S. wanted to give me the chance to shine.  Very humbling.  He also gave me some ideas for what to say.
When the vans arrived, I opted for the smaller one to be with P.  What actually happened was that P. went in the big van and a university student named S. came with us. No one in our van knew the way, so the 45 minute drive became an hour and a half of frustrating and fun adventures.  I felt irritated that I would miss out on greeting the kids first.  Still, I felt like God might have been answering my prayer about getting out of the way, so the team could connect.  I will admit that it was fun to see Ch. react to the scenes of Hyderabad.  Both Aa. and I had been there before, so we were not surprised by the naked man, the cows, people urinating in public, and crazy driving.  Ch., on the other hand, was very amused, shocked, and perhaps slightly traumatized. 



When we did arrive at the church/orphan home, a birthday celebration for a little girl in a green dress was going on.  She had cotton in her ears and a buzzed haircut.  I don’t know why.  Still, she was beautiful.  Her smile revealed how delighted she was to be the center of attention. 
Cake and chocolates were passed out and enjoyed.  Then, the girls got up to sing and dance.  M., D., H., V. and S. were all there.  They smiled when I called them by name, pleased to be remembered. 
It was strange to see only girls at the site and to realize that siblings had been separated.  This is due to the new government regulation that says that boys and girls must live separately.  It made me realize that these families may not be as permanent as I thought.  Also, it makes a stronger case for home-based care, so that siblings can stay together. 
After the singing and dancing came a full day of indoor and outdoor fun:
  •          Hot Potato- You had to dance in the middle if you got caught with the ball.  

  •          Lion, David, Governor Game- A biblical version of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
  •          S. told the story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den..
  •          Everyone made lion masks.
  •          Spicy curry!!!!  Though others struggled with it, I loved the burn!
  •          Listening to the pastor’s testimony and prayer needs for his church, children, and community.
  •          S. dancing to “Beautiful Things” by Gungor.  The pastor's wife cried.
  •          Time talking with J., the pastor’s daughter, about her accounting work.

Eventually the day wrapped up and it was time to head out.  I told the pastor about the gifts we had for the kids and gave the signed pictures to J. to pass out after we left.  Goodbyes took a long time as usual with lots of photos.  Finally, we were off. 
It was hard to leave, but not like last year when I felt like it was totally not okay to leave.  One day is sad, but it makes it easier to say goodbye.
Dinner was a bucket of KFC split between Ki., M., and myself.  Yummy and spicy.  Lots of tasty dipping sauces.
Back at the hostel, we debriefed and then had chill time.  I had a tough heart to heart with T.  She told me that I am saying too much about last year and that I need to let this year be different.  I understood mostly, but it still hurt to hear.  I tried to take the truth and leave the rest.
The blessing was that S. came and joined the conversation.  She told me that if being too excited is my biggest problem, I am in good shape.  Then, she gave me a back massage, which felt amazing.  The three of us continued to hang out for a while and then I went up to my room. 
My roomie, K., and I spent the next 2.5 hours (2:00 a.m.-4:30 a.m.) talking about learning to give ourselves grace and realizing that God can work through our failures.  Once the seriousness was finished, we disintegrated into hilarium. 

Though things were challenging earlier, God blessed me with the three sisters with the three words I needed.  Praise Him.



Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mission2India Day 2: Main Church

Another lovely Saturday and another chance to blog.

Today, I enjoyed the sunny, slightly too hot, yet still beautiful weather by taking a hike with a friend.  Then, we watched Oceans 11, which I had never seen all the way through before.  Great cast.  Intriguing movie.

After some other random errands, I came home to eat some leafy greens (trying to get more of those into my diet) and to relax for a bit.  I meant to do laundry today, but I just didn't have the motivation.  Oh well, that's what Sunday afternoon is for I guess.

Tonight, I am excited to share my second blog entry from India.  It contains lots of uncontainable excitement as I reunited with loved ones from my previous trip.  Hope you enjoy!

Please note, that I have decided to abbreviate names with first initials to respect everyone's privacy.

8-17-14
Day Two: Second Flight, Arrival, and Main Church

          A bit of sleep.  An almost finished movie (Million Dollar Arm).  One final meal.  Hyderabad.  Contained explosion of excitement.  Confusing customs forms.  28 pieces of luggage.  Customs.  M!!!!!!!!!!!!!  One joyful hug!  Garlands of flowers.  Group photo.  Totally happy.


          After all that, we walked out through the rich darkness to the vans.  It took several guys ten minutes to puzzle piece the luggage together in and on the vans.  I enjoyed watching and listening to the team’s “oohs,” “ahhs,” and laughs etc. as we sped into the city.  They were all especially excited by the fish building as I had been last year.  All I could think though was, “you ain’t seen nothing yet.”  When we arrived at the hotel, I helped assign rooms and then gave instructions for the next day based on what the pastor and I had discussed.
          After most people dispersed for naps, M, H, K, T, and I prepared crafts for the predicted 115 Sunday School children.  My initial reaction when the pastor said that number was: “crap!”  I had forgotten to consider Sunday school kids when we made our supply list for crafts. 
          Fortunately, H is amazing and had more than enough “Jesus Calms the Storm” materials.  As the others cut streamers, T helped me prepare what to tell the team at breakfast.  I am so thankful to have a “cabinet” to run things by.  As much as I act like I know what I am doing, I am figuring out a lot as I go along.  Not a comfortable feeling. 
          We wrapped up around 6:00 a.m. and headed upstairs to sleep in our “way too nice” hotel rooms.  Upon seeing the room, I was impressed by the comfort of the beds and the overall cleanliness.  Not what people would expect for a mission trip.  However, I was relieved to see the bucket shower and to realize that the power cut in and out. 
          My roommate, K, and I settled in and then passed out to sleep for an hour.  Unfortunately, we thought it was one hour later than it was, so we woke up at 7:30, not 8:30.  I was fully dressed before I realized my error and called H to confirm.  Oops.  We laughed and went back to sleep.
          After our interrupted nap, it was finally time for the day to begin.  Breakfast for me was dosas with daal and a hard-boiled egg on the side, eaten with my right hand only of course.  My taste buds rejoiced to discover they were back in India.  Major disappointment occurred though when I tasted what I thought was chai and discovered it was milky coffee.  Sad day. 
At breakfast, I successfully made my announcement and sent everyone to finish getting ready.  10:00 a.m. bus loading. 
As we drove to church, it was fun watching the team react to the sights and the traffic.  It was still relatively calm out, but busier than it had been at 4:00 a.m. 
Partway through the drive, I announced that soon we would make a right turn into an alleyway and then we would arrive at church.  Sure enough, a minute later we did exactly that.  I was ecstatic that I somehow remembered the relative location of the main church.
The church however was not the same at all.  Instead of being one level, it was now three.  The whole thing was concrete and open air.  Clearly under construction.  Following our hosts, we made our way up to the second floor where rows and rows of plastic chairs had been arranged on two sides of an aisle.  We walked down the mat covering the aisle and took seats in the front two rows on the right.


Almost as soon as I had set down my bags, I looked up and saw P!!!!!  He was playing guitar and preparing to lead worship.  When he saw me, he stopped and came to meet me.  The first words out of his mouth were, “Your dream came true; you are back where you belong.” 

Yes.  Yes, I was.

Less than a minute later, MASSSIVE EXCITEMENT occurred when U and the girls came and found me.  I have to confess that part of me feared they would not remember me from last year. 

The opposite was the case. 

U, A, and two new girls were giddy to meet me.  Pr, A, and others came in and went to sit in chairs off to the side.  I was so honored when they beckoned me to join them.  Then, I nearly cried when U showed me that she kept a picture of us together in the cover of her Bible.


The service started and all the girls rose and stepped onto the platform stage to help P lead passionate, spirit-filled worship.  As the singing continued, I tried to step out of observer mode and into worship.  There is nothing like worshiping in another language and culture.
Communion was served by the women of the church including some young adults.  I like that the church respects them.  Unfortunately, they missed giving me bread and juice and I was too shy to ask. 
Next came Sunday School.  Eight of us headed down the cement stairs to the ground floor.  When we arrived, the kids were singing and dancing to “Father Abraham,” so we all jumped in right away.  Then, Pastor Z., the children’s pastor, came and asked for the group leader.  I stepped up.  We went over the plan while the team continued to sing and do motions with the kids.  Once business was taken care of, I joined the fun.  Then, I introduced the team and we led songs, “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” and “Jesus in the Boat.”  It took a bit for the kids to catch on, but many did.  K. and I talked later about how special it was when we made eye contact with individuals.  Their faces would always light up with smiles.  They loved being noticed and made to feel special.
Right after the songs, the kids moved to circles and team members began passing out supplies with H. as facilitator.  We were all set to go when suddenly we were called back upstairs for introductions.  H. quickly taught the Sunday school teachers to make the wave craft and then we trooped up the dusty, concrete stairs.  When we had gathered on stage, I was surprised, honored, and humbled to be called the team leader and asked to say a few words.  I greeted the people in Telugu and winged a few words about coming back to India and how thankful I was to be there.  Next, the team introduced themselves and T. led a few songs.  The roles were reversed from earlier as we stood on stage.
Back downstairs, the craft had been successfully completed.  K. rocked out the story narration, while the rest of us acted out the events.  The kids used their streamers to make raging waves for the storm.  Jesus questioned our weak faith and amazed us by taming the sea.



We closed with more songs and offering collection.  When asked for offering, my mind was blown as I grabbed the random 20 rupees that our church treasurer had given me from the church offering.  She had kept it for years after someone randomly donated them.  Then, she decided to give them to me to take to India.  God clearly knew we needed that money.  Otherwise we would have had no offering to give.

Lunch was mild goat curry and rice served by the girls.  During down time, I tried to introduce team members to the girls in order to be a bridge for new relationships.  I hope that me knowing them won’t be a hindrance.
Walking out of the church was walking into a spiritual battle.  The open air church and the outdoor temple had been warring all morning.  Today was a special holiday for Hindus, so they were a bit vocally rude as we walked by.  Too bad.
Back the hotel, R., S., C., and I found the “fitness room,” which was a hotel room with a few random machines.  I ran on the powerless elliptical while the others lifted and did ab work.  You could have filled 3 buckets with my sweat by the time we were done.
Short nap.  Sudden rush to the bus.  Drive to the pastor’s house.  Party.  Huge crowd.  Lots of singing.  Pastor and wife renewed vows.  Curry and sweet bread pudding.  Spicy curry was intense.  Short time with the girls.  Ride home.  Debrief in room 315.
At the debrief, many shared passionately about their first foreign worship experiences.  After that, S., I., Ki., H., K., and I were champions of supply organizing.  We realized that we should have counted, divided, and packed in a more orderly way.  I felt badly, but was blessed by the fact that everyone jumped in and just got it all done.  Plus, it was awesome to realize that we had 3 toothbrushes per child, two coloring books per child, and much more!  God really multiplied our resources!

Finally it was time for bed.  I crashed hard and slept well all night.