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.

Panel 0

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.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Mission2India Day 1: Letting Go and Going

Ahhhh.....

What a relaxing Saturday.

The day drifted by with a walk, some Bible reading, healthy meals, a movie, baking, and too many episodes of Switched at Birth.

I still have to pinch myself to realize that I have the time to relax and to choose what to do with my time.  I realize I need to tweak some things during the week days to give myself more structure, but the weekends are totally flexible.  Most have been social, so today I opted for "Me Time."

The highlight of the day was finally catching the movie, The Hundred Foot Journey.  Definitely worth seeing.  It was a great story of family, food, and cultural clashes.  All my favorite things.  I especially loved that the main character was an Indian chef.  I was salivating over the curries and the other amazing dishes throughout the movie.  :-)

Speaking of India, I promised to share more about my trip.  Our month anniversary of being back in the U.S. is coming up and I have yet to post any journal entries.  However, that is about to change.

In fact, here is the first entry from my Mission2India journal.  One more thing before I begin though, for the sake of safety and confidentiality, I will not be posting names or specific details about the team, the locations, and the people of India.

Now, without further ado, join me for the beginnings of Mission2India.

8-16-14
Day One: Boot Camp Recap and Travel



          Can someone please pinch me?  Am I really on a plane in Doha, about to take off for Hyderabad?  Mission2India is real!  It’s happening!

Before I get too excited and too behind on my journaling, I should probably back up and talk about our final training: Boot Camp.

          Boot Camp began breakdown in the bathroom. 

The weight of every plan and every held back emotion hit me full force.  I went from hectically running around trying to do it all by myself to weeping in the bathroom crying out to God admitting that I can’t do anything alone.


          Though it was a messy start, the whole thing turned out to be a blessing because I needed to let go from the beginning of day one or else I would have kept going on my own power instead of letting go and trusting God.  As it turns out, we had a relaxing, fun, crazy day of ice breakers, conversations, and bonding.  Exactly what we needed.


Still, by the time we wrapped up around 4:00, I was exhausted to the point of tears and immobility.
Fortunately, several team members came over to my place to help pack supplies for the kids.  As they rushed around stuffing duffel bags with crayons, coloring books, toothbrushes etc., I just stood there wanting to help, but incapable of doing anything.
Later, after a stop at the church to drop off the duffel bags and a bite to eat at Applebee’s, I finally had some time to myself.  As I walked through the dark neighborhood, I bawled again as I talked to mom.  Lack of sleep, extreme stress, and intense excitement are a bad combination.  

          Friday dawned.  I was still tired, but more peaceful.  Listening to Isaiah 40-43 while trying to sleep had eased my physical and mental tossing and turning.  Day 2 of Boot Camp was relaxing and productive with human knot hilarium, Telugu lessons, song practice, devotions, and incredibly powerful prayer stations.
          Though I had planned the stations and participated in them the year before, they did not fail to have a heavy impact on my weary soul.  In fact, the most impactful one brought together the loose lessons that I had been learning over the course of the past two days.
          The station was about “Letting Go” of idols and things that keep us from surrendering to God.  Seemed like a logical first stop since it seemed pretty clear that I needed to let go of some things. 
          I chose a rock from the pile I had laid out and began to list the chains that I knew were cinched around my heart: selfishness, pride, perfectionism, fear of man, control.  I cried as I realized that the whole rock was covered.
          Looking at the little wooden cross before me, I knew I was not ready to lay the rock down yet, so I picked up a Bible.  At first, I didn’t know where to turn, but then, Isaiah 40-43 came to mind.
          The passage began: 

“Comfort, comfort my people says your God.  
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, 
that her sin has been paid for."
-Isaiah 40:1

Sweet comfort.

          Conviction came next with the realization that I am nothing and that all I do will wither away, but God is great and mighty.  

"Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord,
    or instruct the Lord as his counselor?
14 
Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him,
    and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge,
    or showed him the path of understanding?"
-Isaiah 40:13-14

How could I even begin to think that I could “instruct the Lord as His counselor” or teach Him the right way?

          Tears began to dot the pages as the reality of how often I try to control and even be God hit me like a train.

 A few more passages of painful rebukes and then this...

“But you, Israel, my servant,
    Jacob, whom I have chosen,
    you descendants of Abraham my friend,
I took you from the ends of the earth,
    from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
    I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
-Isaiah 41:8-10
         
Looking down at the Sharpie covered rock that represented my sinful heart, I wept.           

           Though I am covered in sin, God chose me.  

                           He chose me to serve Him.  
                                      
                                             He has not rejected me.  
                         
                                                                    I do not have to be afraid.  

                                                                                                       He will help me.

Seeing the cross before me, I laid down my rock.  In a fresh way, I remembered that it was and is only because of the cross that God could choose me; that because of Christ's blood, God can look at me and not see the sin, but see His Son’s righteousness.  Christ paid my debt and I am not rejected.  Amen. 

Needless to say, I left the station with a lighter, more joyful, heart, mind, and soul that freed me to experience the rest of the stations fully.

Eventually the prayer time wound down and it was time to get busy again.  Still, even as I zoomed off to the bank to get money, I felt peace.
When I arrived back at church, I was encouraged to see a large group of friends and family had gathered to pray with us all.  After I spoke a bit to thank everyone, we gathered into circles and prayed.  It was such a blessing to hear others lift up the team in prayer.

At 4:45, the "amens” faded and it was finally time to go!

          We headed downstairs, loaded up, and journeyed over the GWB to JFK in four cars.  Amazingly, God answered our prayers and there was very little traffic even though it was a Friday night in NYC.  We all arrived with plenty of time to spare.

          Our time at JFK was spent checking in, going through security, getting food etc.  Typical airport stuff.  My parents called to pray for me and to say “goodbye.”  So nice.
          At last, it was time to board the plane!  Hurray!


All went well on the first flight.  I watched Divergent and Amazing Spiderman 2.  After the second movie, I slept and ate in periodic intervals and tried to prevent cankles by making circles with my feet.
          Transferring flights in Doha was easy except for the excruciatingly hot wait on the steps outside the plane. 

          Now, only a few short hours stand in between me and Hyderabad!!!!!!  Wahoo!!!!

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So, that is how Mission2India began.  Tons of tears.  A lesson in "Letting Go" that Elsa would appreciate.  13 hours in flight.

Stay tuned for more.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Currently: I Am Alive and Blogging




Oh my goodness.  Where have I been?

For the first time in months, I actually have more than 5 minutes to breathe, relax, watch TV, read etc.  It is glorious, but strange.  I do not know what to do now that I am not moving, working multiple jobs, preparing for India etc. etc. etc.

In fact, my summer jobs are over (minus some tutoring), I'm all moved in to my new place, and I'm back from India.  Sad about the last part.  Can't believe the trip is over.  So much to process.  So much to miss.

Hopefully more to come.

More about India later, but for now, I am happy to link up with Farley for this month's Currently.  I can't even say I'm surprised it's September because I was living at a breakneck speed for the last few months, so it makes sense that summer's over already.


Listening


Due to moving and canceling my personal TV services, I have failed to keep up with one of my favorite shows.  Fortunately, the episodes are slowly, but surely becoming available online so I can catch up.  I'm not very far in, but no strong favorites have emerged yet.

Loving

Though the trip was short and I am sad that it is over, I am still so happy about India.  I will confess that I was nervous to go back because I was afraid that my mind had created an fantastic and nostalgic love that was not true and sustainable.

Let me just say, that my fear was totally wrong. 

The very second we landed in India, I felt as if I had come home.  When I saw our wonderful hosts, I cried with joy as I reunited with my family.  From there, all the sites, sounds, smells, colors, tastes etc. all filled my sense and my soul to the brim.

Bucket showers?  Yay!

Crazy traffic?  Bring it on!

Spicy curry?  Give me more please!

Speaking in Telugu?  I'm your student!

Squat toilets?  Okay, let's not get crazy.  I could take a pass on these.

Take all that excitement and multiple it by 4,000 and you'll get a sense of the joy I felt when I got to see all the orphans and their caretakers!  The fact that so many remembered me and I remembered them made my heart swell.  Words aren't enough, so here are my two favorite pictures.  More will be coming soon.



Thinking

Labor Day Weekend was amazing!  It started out as a blank slate and was quickly and spontaneously filled time down the shore, workouts in the park, playing cards, and going to movies with friends.  Ahhh...so nice.

Wanting

Being so hectic made me sloppy and lax about my eating habits, so a few pounds crept on.  Then, I gave myself permission to stuff myself with Indian food while in India, so a few more crept on.  Now, it's time to get back to regular and even more frequent workouts and to get some self-control when it comes to food.  

Any ideas for curbing a stubborn sweet tooth?

Needing

Summer jobs are over.  Tutoring is winding down.  I'm back from India.  Now, on to the new and exciting adventure of my new job!  Before I can begin my work with World Orphans, I need to build a team of financial supporters and prayer warriors.  I will be sending out my first support letters soon and will share more info on here in the near future.  I am nervous, but excited to see how God provides and to join together with others to care for orphans.

Trips


This is hard because I would and want to literally go everywhere!  Whether for pleasure or missions, I can't really think of any place I wouldn't want to go.  For vacation places, Greece has been at the top of the list for awhile now.  Ireland's on the list since my traveling buddy and I have talked about exploring the isle in an affordable way.  Finally, Alaska is just beautiful.  My parents got there for the first time a few summers ago and fell in love.  Now, it's my turn to go!




Ahhh, it felt so nice to write this.  I hope to show up a bit more often now that things have settled down.

Enjoy the rest of your Labor Day!  Also, praying for everyone as they go back to school.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Fuel Your Faith for Teachers and Leaders

Howdy All!

Before I being, I have to say thanks to all my followers!  Compassionate Teacher now has...

254 Bloglovin Followers!!!

I was so excited when I got the e-mail the other day that I hit 250.  I appreciate everyone's interest in my escapades.  Though I will no longer be in the classroom, I hope that you will stick with me as I begin my full time work with World Orphans.  

I am still a ways away from starting my new job, but I am almost ready to begin the process of raising support.  I plan to really dive into that process after Mission2India is "over."

For those that don't know or know just  a little, Mission2India is a mission trip to India this August that I am helping lead.  The trip is sponsored and co-led by World Orphans and supported by my local church.  Most of the 14 team members go to my church and/or live near me in New Jersey.  

My amazing team and I have been fundraising and preparing for a few months now, but I have been living and breathing this trip for almost a year now.  In fact, by the time I go to India, I will have been planning this trip for exactly 1 year and 3 weeks.  That's insane to me.

 Now that it's July 18th, I am having a hard time believing that I will be back in India in less than a month!!!  I cannot wait to be back with the beautiful orphans of Hyderabad that I met last year and to share the experience with the team.
  
All of this being said, I want to share something that I have been trying to hold on throughout this whole process of leading a team to India:

It's not about me.

It's all about Him.

At times it's been hard to remember, but God nudged me this week as I read through Matthew. 


As you consider your leadership roles (teacher, parent, boss etc.), I hope that you will remember to keep your eyes fixed on the one who ultimately leads you and to humbly serve those who He has placed in your care.

Have a great weekend everyone!





Saturday, July 5, 2014

I'm Alive in July!!

Well, that was quite a long blogging hiatus.  I certainly did not intend to skip an entire month of blogging, but life left me with no choice.

This past month and 4 days since my last Currently has been one of the most insane times of my life.  Actually, I think it's safe to say that all of 2014 has been quite a roller coaster.

Since too much has happened to go into great detail, here are some highlights of what has been happening:

  • End of the year school stuff: assessments, field trips, celebrations, assemblies etc.
  • Packing up my entire classroom (8 crates full of books, plus tons of other stuff!)
  • Starting my summer camp job
  • Planning for and actually tutoring 3 clients
  • India trips fundraisers, meetings, and visa applications
  • Two doctor appointments
Plus, I found out last Saturday that my landlord found someone to lease my apartment cause I wanted to move out sooner.  That was great news as far as saving money goes, but crazy because I was told I had only one week to move out!!

Basically, this past week, I felt like/actually was working 3 jobs, plus working on India trip stuff, going to appointments, and preparing to move (packing, changing address info, recruiting help etc.)

I have rarely been so exhausted in my life!  When I finally had a chance to slow down briefly yesterday, I kept falling asleep.

Anyways, enough of that.  Life is crazy, but God is good.  I can see how all of this is in His plan and how He is providing for me.  I am very thankful for Him and the support system he has given me.

Now, let's get on to the Currently!  Better late than never!



Listening

To be honest, the show changed to Guy's Grocery Games.  I just didn't feel like changing the template.  :-)

Loving

I am so thankful to have just a few minutes to breathe and blog.  The big move is tomorrow, but I am mostly ready and I am temporarily putting other things on hold, so I can rest up.

Thinking

If any of you remember, my word for the year was "surrender."  If I had know that daily praying to surrender my life to God would have led to all of these major changes, I do not think I would have had the faith to do it.  I am so thankful that God gives us faith and strength as we need it and even when we feel weak and terrified, He is holding on to us.  Though I would not mind if life settled down a bit more, following the Lord down totally new paths has been such a blessing.  He is stretching me WAY out of my comfort zone and showing me more and more that I cannot do anything on my own.  My life is not about me, it is about Him.  He has the plan and deserves all the glory.  I'll keep on following Him, even if that means a lot more major changes.

Wanting

Full disclosure, there is never a time when I do not want ice cream.  It is my vice and I have no problem with that.  I might have to make a last walk to Carvel down the street tonight before I move away from it.  :-(

I could also use another nap, but will try to stay up, so I can sleep tonight.

Needing

My stuff is all packed and ready to move tomorrow.  However, I have not yet cleaned every surface.  My excuse is that it will be better to clean after everything is out.

4th Plans

Considering the 4th was yesterday, I guess I'll share what I actually did, regardless of what my plans were.  I actually enjoyed my first day "off" in a while.  I got to work on my support raising course for my new job, send some e-mails, pack the rest of my stuff etc.  Then, in the evening I enjoyed watching fireworks and playing cards with some friends.  I love playing cards, but not many people I know do, so it was a treat to discover some fellow card sharks.  We enjoyed Nerts, Spades, and Scum.  Next time, I am determined to teach them euchre!  It's about time it spread to New Jersey!

Hope everyone had a great 4th of July!