Monday, November 24, 2014


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.


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...

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.


            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.


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.


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.  


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.