Thursday, December 20, 2012

Top 10 Question People Ask Us

Before we moved to India, we came to visit for about 10 days.  After we returned our friends and family had so many question about what life is like here in India.  Now that we live here, we get so many questions about what our lives are like and what our lives in America were like.  I thought I would share the top ten questions we get asked.  We get asked most of these on a weekly basis, some daily!

A little context for those of you who are new readers.  We live in India(a Hindu majority country) however, the area we live in is a Muslim area.  All of our friends and neighbors are Muslims so these questions are coming from that point of view.  I cover my head out of respect for the people we live among.  I assume if we lived in a different area of the city the questions might be different, but I think many of them would be the same.  I am not in any way making fun of these questions.  I am appreciative that people ask questions instead of making assumptions.  I believe you can learn a lot about people by the questions they ask.

In no particular order here are the top 10 questions:

1.  Do people in America wear the same kind of cloths as us?  
A.  No, only Indian people who live in America wear Indian cloths.  However, they are extremely comfortable.

2.  Do you have kids?
A.  No
Immediate follow up question:  Why not?
A.  We have been waiting to have kids.  We are now in the process of adoption.  This leads to many more questions.  One of those questions usually being, "what is wrong with you?"

3.  How long have you been married?  (this is always connected with the kids question)
A.  3 years

4.  Was your marriage arranged or love?
A.  It was half and half.  Our close family friends introduced us to one another because they thought we would be a good match and then we fell in love.

5.  Do you know how to cook?
A.  Yes
Immediate follow up:  What do you cook?  Do you cook roti(flat bread)?
A.  I cook a lot of different things from recipes.  People in America don't eat roti except in Indian restaurants(this is one of the most shocking answers of all)
Immediate follow up:  If you don't eat roti, how do you ever get full?
A.  I don't know :)

6.  Are you from Kashmir(North India)?  People in Kashmir are lighter skinned and cover their heads.
A.  No, we are from America.

7.  Where are you from?
A.  America

8.  Are you a muslim?
A.  No, we are followers of Jesus(Isa al Masih).  

9.  Did you learn Hindi in school in America?
A.  No, I wish!!

**10.  I have never been asked this question, but Ryan gets asked it quite often.  Is sex free in America?  (not sure all that is behind that question)
A.  No, why do you ask that?

There you have it, a glimpse into the questions that are in a part of our regular life.  There are many other questions, some funny, some sad,  and some very thought provoking.  If you live close to, or work with people from other countries, I encourage you to to ask questions and break down those walls of misunderstanding.  Many things would change in the world if we started asking good questions and listening to each other's answers.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

Joy and Courage

I like to write, I like to share my thoughts on here and honestly I like to get feedback.  Maybe it is because I am living with my husband as the only westerners in a city of 5 million and I want some kinda of camaraderie that comes from this blog, or maybe I just like attention...  Anyways, there are times when blog posts or ideas float around in my head for awhile.  They are usually about what I am learning at the time.

This is one of those posts.  It has taken me a long time to write because although I hope I am learning these things, I am a slow learner which leads me to think I am not actually learning.  I don't want to be a fraud or a fake, but then I thought, "we are all walking and stumbling and trying again, that is why Jesus is so beautiful and grace is so amazing."

There are two words that I have been praying over my life right now.  I've never really done that before, but these words keep coming up in my mind and so I think it is most likely from God.  I also find the opposite of these two words chasing after me, so the best thing I know to do is either pray or eat chocolate and cry.  Sometimes, I do both or all three.

I long to be full of two things right now:

Joy and Courage

Joy and Courage

Joy and Courage

Still working out what that means everyday.  How do you live with joy when things don't go the way you planned or expected?  How do you live with joy when people around you are suffering and hopeless?  What does it mean to be full of courage?  How do you walk in courage and humility?

These are the things floating around in my head and heart.  These are the things God is working out in me.  I wish I could wrap this blog up with a nice ending, but there is no ending right now.  We are in the the learning...and that is an okay place to be.

Come, Lord Jesus and bring your Kingdom!

PS:  I wish I had some cool art work to hang on my walls with the words Joy and Courage.  Any ideas?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Clinging to Thankfulness

More often than I would like to admit I find myself wanting things I don't have.  Or wanting more of the things I do have.  My Mom has left and with her leaving came lots of tears and that nagging feeling of being alone.  Not that I don't have Ryan and not that he isn't pretty much the most kind, genuine, patient, and caring person I have ever met, seriously.  BUT, we are made for community(which means multiple people) and there was something about having my Mom close by that made life a little more comfortable.  Someone else's shoulder to cry on and help me process my craziness/insecurities.  It's not really fair that usually R has to do this alone(poor guy!), so it was awesome having both of my favorites living under the same roof!

The night before my Mom left, I found myself wide awake thinking about our month together.  The thought of waiting another year before being with my Mom again began to weigh heavily on my heart.  I could feel that burning in my throat that comes before the tears so I started praying.  God began to speak to my heart there in that hotel room in Delhi.  I am not sure if I have always been like this, or if just lately I have had the tendency to dwell on the difficult.  Ugh, pessimist!  I dwell on how hard life is, how much I miss my friends and family, how much I miss Mexican food, ect.  I have forgotten to remember(is that a weird sentence..."forgotten to remember") all the good things that God has done.  I guess that is why over and over the scriptures constantly call us to remember the things God has done for his people.  In light of that, I am clinging to thankfulness.  I want to remember! Here are some of the things I am thankful for(some serious, some not so serious).

1.  I am thankful for my Mom being here to help us get our house ready for our home study(cleaning and decorating) and thankful for her presence and comfort when we found out the wait is going to be much longer than we expected.  

2.  I am thankful for the first time my Mom tried on Indian cloths.  It consisted of us both almost on the floor of the dressing room laughing because the pants were so huge on her.  

3.  I am thankful for our hours upon hours of Facebook stalking together.  Ah, Facebook, what would we do without you? 

4.  I am thankful my Mom got to meet all our friends and how special she became to them.  

5.  I am thankful that my Mom has walked the streets we walk, rode the rickshaws we ride, and eaten the food we eat.  She understands where we live now.  

6.  I am thankful she washed our dishes...EVERY day!

7.  I am thankful she was able to stay a whole month.  I mean who really gets to do that and still keep their job??  

8.  I am thankful she got to go to a wedding with us and experience our favorite day with our Indian friends.  

9.  I am thankful that on that same day, when I put her on a motorcycle with some guy that I don't know, she ended up at that wedding in one piece :)

10.  I am thankful she was healthy the whole time she was here...unfortunately she wasn't when she got home.  But, thankful she had her bathroom with her western toilet to be sick in.  Ugh, horrible!

11.  I am thankful that although there were mice in her presence at different times(i.e. in the same room), she was unaware they were close by.  :)

12.  I am thankful she has such an adventurous spirit and is willing to try almost anything.

I could go on and on but most of all:

13.  I am so thankful to have a Mom that loves so unconditionally,  is continuously encouraging, and is one of the best listeners I know. 

Although my emotions tempt me to forget, I am praying God gives me the strength to cling to thankfulness.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The day we went to a wedding in a village

We went to our first village wedding a week or so ago.  Weddings here are a huge undertaking.  Lots of money is spent on food, dowry, cloths, jewelry, ect.  I decided instead of trying to write about it, I would post a photo blog.  So here is the wedding day in pictures:

The girl in the corner is the bride.  Mom got to ride to the village on the back of a motorcycle, while I walked.  This was before I arrived.  For most of the day, the bride sat in this corner as different women came in to see her.  Half way through the day, she turned and faced the wall with her back to all the women.  She told me she was very nervous about the day.  Her eyes were constantly on the verge of tears.

Men cooking lots of tandoori roti(bread that is made in a clay pit type thing).  Hundreds of guests came and ate for the wedding.

Eating buffalo, bread, and rice(so tasty!)  My friends also made me wear this bring lipstick, apparently my make-up was lacking a bit.

The groom arriving on a horse.  He is covered in flowers and surrounded by drums and his family, announcing his coming.

The man with the short beard is our neighbor who invited us to his distant relative's daughter's wedding.

The groom's family and guy friends are wearing the orange scarves.  They meet the bride's family and place flowers around their necks.

Exchanging greetings and flowers.

The groom on his decorated horse.

Everyone eagerly watching the groom's arrival.

Mom and I were given flowers.

The groom.

Our neighbor's son and his cousin.

Some dressed up cuties on the groom's side.

The groom surrounded by women in his family and gifts.

The Mullah(a muslim man educated in Islamic law and theology) performing the Nikah(the wedding ceremony) with the groom.

Mom and me :)

The Mullah performs the Nikah separately with the bride.  She is behind the sheet.

Men in with the groom.

The Mullah recited the Quran in the groom's room.

Men listening to the Mullah reciting the Quran.

There is a huge break here (maybe 2 hours), in which we went to the Ganges river with the family who invited us.  That is a blog post all on it's own.  Ryan and I would both rate that experience as the most fun we have had with an Indian family here.  Such a fun time.  So after playing at the river for a while, we returned as the bride was getting ready to leave.  I think the bride was getting ready during the time we were gone.  

In Indian culture almost all weddings are arranged.  This means that a girl is leaving her family to join a new family that she usually doesn't know.  She has grown up surrounded by her family, many times sleeping in the same room with her sisters and so leaving is a very sad time for her.  The bride here is sobbing as she says good-bye to her family members.  It was so sad.

The groom is standing in the middle with the black outfit on.  He waits as his new bride clings to her family.

After a while, the bride was sobbing so hard one of her relatives picked her up to take her and put her in the car.  

The bride and groom are both in the car, but at this point have still not spoken or seen one another.  They will return to the groom's parent's home, where they will meet for the first time as husband and wife.

The car is packed full of the groom's family.

There they go, my heart broke a little for this young bride and she left everything she has ever known.  She will visit her family in a few days, but everything will change for her.  She will now spend her days as a wife and most of her time with be spent with her new mother-in-law and sisters....

I pray God blesses their marriage and their family and makes them a blessing to those with whom they live.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The day we went to our neighbors house to watch a sacrifice

Last weekend in between having our home study interviews, we were busy visiting our friends as they celebrated one of the biggest holidays in the Muslim world, Eid al Adha.  In India it is called Buckra Eid.(Buckra means Goat).

  During Buckra Eid, animals are sacrificed in rememberance of God providing a sacrifice for Abraham(Ibrahim)'s son.

  During the days leading up to Buckra Eid, the streets of our city where filled with goats and buffalo.  In India(or at least in our state) it is illegal to kill cows so no cows are sacrificed here.  We also heard about camels being sacrificed, but we didn't see any in our area.

  While Rhett was visiting in August we met a family that lives across the street from us, and have begun to spend time with them.  They are so kind and generous and invited us to come over when they sacrificed their buffalo.

  They told us they were going to sacrifice around 9am and so we set our alarms and planned to shower and get ready to be there by 9.  Well, around 7:30am the daughter called and excitedly told us to come at 8am.  We scrambled to get ready as she called every 10 minutes or so telling us to hurry up!  We walked into their courtyard around 9 just seconds after the sacrifice.  R was pretty bummed.  I was a little relieved that I had missed seeing this huge animal sacrificed as the blood ran around my feet.  (Have I mentioned my Mom is here??)  Yeah, I think she was a little relieved as well.  Mom and I went upstairs to watch as the butchers cut up the buffalo, while R stayed downstairs with the men.  The animal is divided into 3 parts:  one for the family, one for friends or relatives, and one for the poor.  By around 10:30am we were eating some of the buffalo.

  I am an East Texas girl and have many close friends who are hunters, however, my Dad was not a hunter and I wasn't really exposed that much to skinning and cleaning of animals.  It was a little overwhelming for me.  Everywhere we went for three days there were buffalo and goats on the sides of the streets being sacrificed and goat skins for sale.

  We did have many good conversations with friends about the meaning of Buckra Eid and we long to understand even more what this sacrifice means for our friends and neighbors.  Many of  wondered if we would sacrifice a goat.  We tried to explain that we don't do Qurbani (sacrifice) because Jesus was and is our ultimate sacrifice.

  One thing I really love about the holidays around here is all the hugging.  In this culture, hugging is not an everyday thing(which makes me pretty sad), but during both the Eid after Ramadan and Buckra Eid everyone greets each other with a hug and greeting.  I love it!

  There are so many more things to say about Buckra Eid and our friends and neighbors, but I will leave you with some pictures....

  Oh, btw R did get to see a total sacrifice the next day.  He even has video if you want to is extremely graphic.  The head of the family makes the first cut while reciting a blessing, then the butchers finish everything.


Buffalo and goats for sale

Our neighbors courtyard after they had sacrificed the buffalo(see my Mom in the back ground?)

watching from upstairs

All the kids of the family(this house has 3 brothers and their families that all live together)

This is on the street in front of our language nurturers home

There is a tent set up where people can buy a buffalo and have it sacrificed there in the tent

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The day we had our home study and our hearts started aching a bit

    We had our home study!  On Saturday the social worker arrived, via Kanpur airport, around one in the afternoon.  We picked him up and headed back to our house to start the weekend.  The first day we went over a few hours of training stuff.  Just general adoption info, attachment/bonding issues, sexual abuse issues, ect.  Then we had the walk through of our house.  I was so nervous about this part.(Just ask Ryan, I was kinda very hard to live with the few days before our homestudy :0) My mom and I had been  in a cleaning, organizing frenzy.  I have no idea what I would have done with out her here, she is amazing.
    We live in a poor area of our city and it took us a long time to find a place to live.  It is small and simple, but works well for us.  We love the location, our neighbors, and our balcony, but I wasn't sure how a social worker from America would view it all.  It turns out all my worrying was for NOTHING!  He did his walk through and drew our basic floor plan and said everything looked great.  That's it, no improvements needed, nothing.  It was a little anti-climatic to be honest, but these days anti-climatic is welcome.
    The next day we had three different interviews.  A long one with both of us which covered every topic imaginable, including; why adopt, how we met, our strengths and weaknesses, our idea of motherhood/fatherhood, discipline, finances, ect.  Then we each had a short separate interview with our social worker.  It all went well and everything is good to go ahead in the process....

  Then there was a major let down that we were not expecting:

    Saturday night we took the social worker to Pizza Hut, because, well Pizza Hut is good.  The four of us were just chatting(Me, Ryan, my Mom, and SW) about when we would return to America for a visit.  We were telling him our plan is to go to the States next Christmas 2013.  My Mom made a comment about us bringing our baby to America then.  A few minutes after that Ryan made another comment to that effect.  Then our social worker said, "That would be awesome if yall were able to do that but realistically with the country you are adopting from, it is currently a THREE YEAR WAIT."  Wait, WHAT???  We were under the impression that it would be a year or year and a half...maybe 2, but THREE!!  My heart fell to the pit of my stomach and my throat started doing that burning thing that happens when you feel like you are going to cry.  I could feel Ryan looking at me and I avoided his gaze, I knew if I looked at him I might lose it right there in Pizza Hut.  So, I took a few breaths and tried to pull my self together.  Three years, three years, three kept playing in my head, it still does.

    So that is where we are, it looks like it will be three years before we get to bring our baby home.  I hate that thought with everything in me.  BUT, we will press on and keep walking towards Baby Hartsfield and pray that God helps us to have patience and pray that God watches over and pours his love on Baby Hartsfield as we wait.

     Most of you are probably asking WHY?  That is a good question and a hard one to understand.  There is a lot that goes into it.  Different countries do adoptions differently and if the country you are adopting from is a Hague or non-Hague country makes a difference(but that is all blah blah).  So, the easy explanation is that the country we are adopting from is a Hague country and they have a lot of rules and regulations and so before a child is able to be adopted from their country an investigation has to be done on that child.  They want to make sure the child is adoptable, hasn't been stolen or traffiked, ect.  So, these are all good things that the govt wants to do, but they just take a really long time.  And, we are wanting to adopt a younger child so that makes the process longer. There are many families wanting to adopt younger children so this puts us in a line waiting to adopt.  Anyways, that is a short is still pretty impossible to understand why three years.

    Please pray for us as we process all of this.  We are more excited than ever to build our family through adoption and feel confident with our agency and the country we have chosen that our child will come from.  However, in our plans for our family we were imagining in three years to have a baby and be working on pray God would give us wisdom in growing our family and pray he would help us to trust Him in all things.  He is the only one who knows how long it will be and we trust his timing, as much as we hate waiting!

  One way that God has really shown Himself as a good and faithful to me is in the fact that the timing of the home study and the timing of my Mom's visit were the same time.  Her love and support have been so encouraging to Ryan and me through all of this.  Not to mention, she is a cleaning machine!  Those of you that know my Mom, know that she might not like to cook, but boy can she clean.  She helped us(okay so maybe WE helped HER) get our house ready and beautiful.  She is also a great shoulder to cry on.  So thankful that God gave her to us and that she could be here right now.  Such perfect timing!

    This is going to be a MUCH longer process that we thought, we are mourning that it will be so long, BUT at the same time we are rejoicing because we are one step closer to baby Hartsfield!!!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Jesus is Beautiful

  A few weeks ago, Ryan and I listened to a sermon online. The sermon was about how Jesus is offensive.  The preacher described how Jesus offends us when we are living against the ways of God.  This offensiveness of Jesus leads us from living out of our own desires to live according to God’s desires.

  Day after day we talk about Jesus with our friends here.  They love to talk about Jesus.  We do this because we love and follow Jesus and believe he is the way to God and to everlasting life.  We struggle to tell stories that Jesus told and stories about Jesus (in Hindi/Urdu), because the story of who Jesus is and what he has done and continues to do shape our lives, they have actually given us new life!

  In light of all of these things, I started asking myself, “How do I view Jesus?”.  Is he offensive to me?   

  Yes, the things Jesus said and did and tells us to do are offensive to the desires I sometimes feel for my life.  For example, the Sermon on the Mount: Mt 5:1-11

The blessed ones are described as:
the poor in spirit
the mourners
the meek 
those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
the merciful
the pure in heart
the peacemakers
the persecuted

Umm, those characteristics don’t exactly describe my everyday life…. If it were left up to me in my own strength and power to be and do these things,  it would be very offensive and depressing actually, but that is what is so beautiful about Jesus.  He is the one!  He accomplished these things for us and because of his love and the Spirit of God we are inspired and empowered to live like him. 

The adjective that I have been overwhelmed with to describe Jesus lately has not been offensive, but instead, beautiful.  For those who follow Jesus and trust in his sacrifice for our shame, he is beautiful.  Overwhelmingly, intoxicatingly beautiful.  He is good news for all people.  The more I learn a new language and learn to share parables and the stories of how Jesus interacts with people, it is coming alive in a new way.  Jesus is totally radical to every culture, because no matter how different cultures and countries may be, Jesus was always speaking of a different kingdom, the kingdom of God.  I long for that kingdom to take root in all cultures.  It is going to be awesome! 

  Jesus is beautiful.  Following him, though not always easy or comfortable in this life, is the most beautiful thing.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Two VERY important people are coming to visit

Two very exciting things are happening in the next two weeks:

1.  My Mom is coming to visit us for the first time.  Hands down, the hardest thing about living in India is that we are so far away from family and friends.(Ryan says Mexican food is a close second)  To say I am excited to see my Mom after almost a year would be the understatement of the year!!  I can’t wait to show her this new country and culture we call home.  I can’t wait for her to meet our friends, ride a rickshaw, get new cloths, and eat some tasty food.  I can’t wait for India to be a real place for her, not just a country she googles often to check the news to see if we are safe ;)  She arrives October 19th and will stay a whole month!

2.  Just a week after my Mom arrives another visitor will arrive.  This visitor will be here to do our HOMESTUDY for our ADOPTION!  The thought of if makes my stomach flip a little and my armpits sweat.  He will be here for 3 days accessing if Ryan and I will be good parents and checking out where we live.  We are really excited for this next step and would really, really love your prayers for this time!!  This is just one of the many steps that is bringing us closer to baby Hartsfield …… woo hoo!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Day My Assumptions Were Wrong

One of our favorite things about Austin, Texas is that it is filled with so many people that celebrate adoption. Along with all the great Mexican food :)

When we moved to India, I wasn't really sure what people here would think about adoption and how they would respond to us pursuing adoption. In the beginning it was pretty rough. Many people we talked to about adoption could not understand why we would adopt a child that wasn't "our own". One lady told me that she would take me to a Durga (the tomb of a saint where people go to pray) because when she had trouble getting pregnant she went to a Durga and then she got pregnant. I didn't have enough language at the time to explain to her that I had not tried to get pregnant and not been able to, but that adoption is our first choice. Or to explain that we don't pray to saints. Another man told me that we are much to young to be adopting right now. Surely, we could go to a doctor and he could help us. Again, misunderstood.

These and a few other conversations had gotten me pretty discouraged and I had decided I just needed to grow some thick skin and not expect anyone to be supportive. I wanted to protect myself from what people thought about me and about us adopting.

Fast forward 3 or 4 months and our adoption stuff is moving forward. A few weeks ago, during language, having kids(and our lack of kids after 3 years of marriage) came up with both of our language nurturers at separate times. Just as a side note, you know how in America it is considered rude or intrusive to ask a couple when they are planning on having kids or why they don't have kids? Well, here in India that is not the case AT ALL, not rude, not intrusive. In fact, pretty much everyone we meet as soon as we meet them asks us why we don't have kids yet. Anyways, we explained to both our language nurturers that we wanted to adopt a baby and we are in the process of getting a baby from a different country that will be our own child. I braced myself for the why, the confusion, the judgement ect...oh my, I was totally wrong. They wanted to know why and what exactly it meant. One of our language nurturers asked if once the kid was 18 they wouldn't be our kid anymore. When we told him "no way." He said this is very good, this is the best way. Our other language nurturer told us that she had secretly always dreamed of adopting a baby and was really excited for us. I was totally surprised and totally overwhelmed with thankfulness that God placed both of these people in our lives that are genuinely excited about our baby. A week later one of our language nurturers wanted to know how long the process of adoption takes and he wanted it to go faster. He also said he wants to help us in any way we need to get our house ready for a home-study. Pretty awesome, and I realized that God really has no desire for me to try to grow tough skin. Actually, Jesus continually had tenderness and compassion. I don't think he was much of an advocate of that whole grow tough skin stuff....

Friday, September 14, 2012

Update on Baby Hartsfield

We got approved by our adoption agency and have been working hard at getting stuff filled out and sent in.  SO.MUCH.PAPERWORK!  So far we have been really pleased with our agency, they are really great at helping us and answering all of our random questions.

Because we are working with an agency that is in America they will send a case worker to our home here in India.  He is planning on coming  in mid October.  Thankfully, there is another family in Sri Lanka who is also in the process and we will get to split the costs of this trip with them and potentially another family.  

We are so excited and nervous about the home study.  I had a little freak out because our apartment only has one bedroom and the home that our case worker comes and approves is the one you have to be living in when you finally get your child.  So, I started panicking that our house would not pass a home study because we don't have a separate room specifically for the baby.  We emailed him and he told us that is fine.  Our living area is really big and we are planning on partitioning a part of it off as the baby's room.   

Even though I was relieved, I have been feeling really bothered by the thought that we don't have a room for our baby.  I had this "American" picture in my head of a cute little baby room...that is a totally different post I should write on expectations and things I think I need. So, yeah it has been a little rough for me wanting a "better, nicer" house.  

In the midst of my "house is no good" crisis, a couple girlfriends came to visit for my birthday. They were awesome.  They reassured/convinced me that my house is actually great and making a home for a baby is not about some cute baby room.  Funny how quickly and dramatically I forgot that.  Girlfriends who can speak truth to you are the greatest!

That's the latest on baby Hartsfield!!  Can't wait for that sweet little thing to be a part of our family.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

the day i developed a phobia

I have heard that you really see what people are like when they are stressed or going through a hard time.  If that is true, I have a lot of room for growth....

Ryan's brother Rhett came to India for the last month to visit us and of course we had to take him to see the Taj Mahal.  It IS one of the 7 wonders of the world.  We don't have the best track record in Agra.  Ryan and I have learned that touristy cities and especially touristy areas are not our favorite places to visit.  Everything is overpriced, you can't trust the people will take you where you ask them to take you(or at least not without first stopping at their friend's shop.), ect.  Anyways, Agra has just not had the best memories for us.  The Taj...AWESOME, the city...not our favorite.  
 However, this time our trip was so much more enjoyable.  Travel is much better when you speak the language.  We had a great time at the Taj and Agra Fort, enjoyed some great food, and all around had a good time.  

UNTIL... the train ride home. 

 I can't remember all the details and wouldn't share them on my blog anyway, but Ryan and I had gotten in argument.  The yucky kind where you feel hurt and mad all at the same time.   Rhett had just finished sitting on the steps of the train watching the beauty of India in monsoon season, jamming to his favorite tunes, when a man dressed head to toe in orange gets on the train.  

I notice him but don't think much of his arrival.  I have seen men dressed like him often and I think he is a Hindu holy man.  His presence on the train was neither out of the ordinary or alarming.  

After a few minutes, the man in orange stops at our seating area.  Our area has two bench seats facing each other big enough for three people to sit comfortably and then across the isle there is another bunk and a bunk above that facing us as well.  Everyone is facing everyone, aka everyone sees everything.  

I am sitting closest to the isle and the man in orange comes and stands very close to me with his basket.  I see money in it, but am trying to avoid eye contact when out of the corner of my eye I see something move in his basket.  Then I see black scales and a long tube like's a snake!!!  Let me just pause here.  I am not known to have any snake phobias, however the only times I have been around snakes there is always an escape route.  Not today.  Somehow in about 3 seconds I am on the other side of Ryan and whimpering, "it's a snake, get away, get away."  Ryan nicely asks the man to move on.  The man does not move on!  I am sure he stood there for at least 10 minutes pulling out his snake and asking for money(in reality is was probably less than two minutes, but you know how these things feel).  After, what seems like forever, Ryan aggressively stands up yells at the guy, "get out of here" (in Hindi) and all the other men in the bunk take Ryan's side and coax the snake man to move on as they stare at me wide eyed.  He finally leaves and I proceed to the farthest corner of the bunk and cry my eyes out and every time I look up, I see Indian men staring at me like I have lost my mind.  

Later after I have stopped bawling my eyes out, Rhett asked me if I was really afraid of snakes.  Poor guy, after living a month with us in India, I am sure he thinks his brother has the craziest wife on the planet!  His biggest disappointment about the whole ordeal was that the snake man moved when Ryan stood up.  He was wanting to get all up in the guys face or something with Ryan.  Boys are so weird.  

I am not sure what the requirements to diagnose yourself with a phobia happen to be, but I am pretty sure I developed one on that train ride.  I now hate snake with a passion!

Ryan has a much more elaborate story he has been telling our friends here in Kanpur in Hindi.  In his extended, imaginary version he stands up and grabs the snake and throws it out the window declaring, "I would sacrifice my life for you!!"  And I, in reply, declare him as my hero.  Again, boys are weird.  

Friday, July 13, 2012

When the rains come

After a long, hot summer the rains have come.  Ahhhh just the thought of it is refreshing and renewing.  The summers here are brutal.  Yes, I am from Texas and East Texas non of the less, so I know hot.  I know humid.  BUT, this is a whole new level I was not quite prepared for.  Not to mention that the area of town we live in is notorious for power outages.  On a good day our power would be out for 4-6 hours(in the heat of the day)...on a good day.. on a bad day or bad days...uggh lets not even talk about it.

In early May, our friends who work with us left.  The circumstances around their leaving are and were extremely difficult, and our hearts ache for them.  It felt like a blur as they planned to leave and tried to get all the ends tied up for the many months they would be gone.  R and I weren't expecting how hard it would be for us after they left.  It has definitely been a season of loneliness and reflection.  And the heat, oh the heat.  It made everything harder.  We felt so tired, drained, and cranky with each other.  It seemed that the weather was a perfect reflection of how I felt, dry and dusty.

We heard the rains were coming and we were excited.  There was a buzz in the city about the rains, yet they didn't come.  The humidity came and hovered like a thick haze over our city for about 2 weeks.  Everyone seemed to be miserably waiting in anticipation.  Our language helper told us God was angry because people were not walking the straight path(living right) and so God was not sending the rains.  In some ways it started to feel like that.

Then finally the clouds burst forth and the rains came.  It was glorious.  With the rains came cool weather and cool breezes.

 I can't quite put my finger on it, but there is something extremely spiritual and healing happening in my soul since the rains have come.  The roads are muddy and wet, but the rain is so wonderful.  I love the smell of it, I love the sound of it, I love the way it makes the air feel cool and clean.

Is God powerful enough to withhold the rains, of course!!  Does he do it because he is angry and wants his children to suffer, no I don't think so.  Sometimes, it takes a dry season for our hearts to be ready for the rains.  I don't really know why and I don't really enjoy it, but there is one thing I know.  THE RAINS WILL COME.  So, whatever the dry season may be, whether literal or figurative, there is hope because the rain will always come.  Our God is good and I will trust that he will always bring the rain.   

Monday, July 2, 2012

Aggies are EVERYWHERE!

About a month ago, Ryan and I were roaming around a market that we often frequent.  We were honestly feeling pretty down and out and lonely about being the only Americans in our city for a while.  We did what we often do when feeling down, went and ate some ice cream.  :)  After leaving the new found treasure of an ice cream parlor(which we will visit again!), we walked to the road to grab a bicycle rickshaw.  To our left, also standing at the road, was a group of young westerners.

*Let me just say at this point that we are weirdos.  Sometimes at the mall we see Europeans and we just stare at them and discuss if we should approach them or not, usually we discuss it so long that they have walked away by the time we decide.  Anyways, we are weird now.*

I nudge Ryan on the arm and say, "look!!  should we go talk to them."  As we stand there thinking, I hear a voice behind me in a melodic American accent say, "Hey, where are YALL from?"  I turn around and see a man who looks like an Indian(his parents grew up in India, but he has lived his whole life in Texas) speaking to me in an American(maybe even Texan accent).  I think I stare for a few moments in confusion before saying, "America".  The rest of the group(there are 6 of them) make their way over to us and tell us they are also from America.  They are studying for the summer at the prestigious IIT Kanpur that is located just outside of our city.  If you are interested in learning about IITK go here.  These people are SMART!!

The whole meeting gets even crazier when they tell us what university they are from.....TEXAS A&M!!!  No way, that is where Ryan went to school.  We have just "randomly" bumped into a group of aerospace engineers(and one literature) majors from A&M...AGGIES in Kanpur!!

There was also another girl with them named Victoria who has been on a Fulbright scholarship from Princeton at IITK.  She is a civil engineer. Really like this girl!!  Sad we met her at the end of her time here in Kanpur, but it is amazing how God puts people in your life when you need them.  So, even though we just got to hang out a few times, I am so thankful for her!  Hoping she will miss Kanpur so much that she won't be able to stay away to long.....

We all return to the ice cream shop to chat a little bit and reminisce about Chuys, Chipotle, Rudys, and other wonderful Texas things :)

Apparently, A&M and IITK have just recently set up an exchange program during the summers.  So, we look forward to seeing who comes out here in the future, and if you are an Aggie you should look into it :)

Life is so crazy :)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Journey to Baby Hartsfield

After what seems like an extremely long time of researching, praying, and emailing we are on our way to becoming a family of 3!!  This past week we sent in our application and application fee to start the process of adoption to bring our son or daughter home.

We don't know a lot of details at this point.  We should hear back from the agency within the week about if we have been approved.  The director of the agency said our application looked great but our income looked a little on the low end.  From an American stand point, I suppose it is on the low end.  I guess we live pretty simply, but it felt really weird to hear because compared to our neighbors and friends here we have an over abundance of wealth.  It's a weird tension....

So we are praying that isn't a hinderance.  Countries have guidelines you have to meet in order to adopt, so that is why it could be a concern.

A few questions you may be asking:

1.  Why are you adopting??
  Click here for the details.

2.  Are you adopting from India?
   No, not for our first child at least.  We don't think this is the best option for us right now.  Also talk a little about that at the above mentioned post.

3.  Where are you adopting from?
   It is narrowed down pretty well, but still waiting to hear back from our application to be sure about the country.  Most likely our child will be from the Balkan region.

4.  Are you adopting a boy or girl?
  We don't care, at all!!!

5.  How old will the child be?
  Since this will be our first kid, we are wanting to adopt a 2 yr old or younger.

6.  Can you not have kids?
  Honestly, we don't know.  We haven't tried that route of family building yet...  Ever since R and I were engaged we have felt like God wanted us to grow our family through adoption.  This doesn't mean we  are opposed to having biological kids, it just means we know God is leading us to this now and we try to follow him as he leads step by step.  I'm really trying to not plan ahead of God, if you know what I mean!!(Not always easy, and I'm not even a planner!!  I'm an ENFP for those Myers Brigs nerds who like to know that kind of thing, obviously I am among the nerds.)

7.  Do we feel prepared for this?
   Ummm, no way!!  Did we feel prepared for moving to India, no way!!  But, seriously we do feel like this is the time to start this journey and are really excited.  I do feel freaked out wondering how long and how tedious this process will be, esp from a different country.

8.  How long until you will get your child?
  This is the question every parent would love to know!  The website for our agency says around 18 months.  There are so many variable to that, even more because we live in who knows!?!  We are praying it will be a smooth and quick process which in our mind means a year to year and a half.  Don't know how realistic this is.....but it is what we are praying for with persistence.

So yep, we are expecting and we are excited ;)

Saturday, May 26, 2012


When I first moved to Greece in a few years back, I remember sitting in a meeting with one of the leaders of our organization.  He talked to me about the difference between thriving and surviving in a new culture.  That talk has stuck with me, especially now that we are living in a culture that is even more different than Greece was.

This past week has been a roller coaster for me(which unfortunately means for Ryan also :( ....  One day I feel total peace about being here.  I feel pumped for another day of language, excited to figure out how to make life work here, and long to be a blessing to our community.  Then the next day I will wake up and feel like I have been smacked in the face with how different everything is and the thought of sleeping all day and watching netflix sounds more appealing than the thought of leaving my apartment.

It seems as if I have been in the surviving stage for much to long.  I want to skip all this and get on with the thriving, the doing.  I know God has lead us here for a reason and I want to get to it!  Do you ever feel that way? Like, all the details of your heart changing and becoming more humble and patient are slowing you down when you want to get on to the important stuff!!  Yeah, that is how I feel.  I know God is using all this to humble me, but I am going down kicking and screaming.  I am not a quick learner and most people probably wouldn't describe humility one of my highest attributes.  It's not really an character trait I have longed for...I(honestly) don't pick up books on humility when I want a good read.  HOWEVER, God seems to think it is a very important thing and Jesus took the most humble form possible and walked in constant humility.

So, I am realizing how not Christ-like I really am.  It is not a fun process, but a good and purifying one.  I would love your prayers in this.  I think it is going to be a long, character changing process and under all my pride and selfishness, I do really long for my life to glorify God.

Right now, still in the surviving stage.  Not sure what the thriving stage will look or feel like, or if I will even know when I am in it.  But, I will cling to the fact that God is a good and loving Father and Jesus has inaugurated(yes, I have been reading N.T. Wright lately :), a new kingdom of light and peace.  I am also pretty sure that kingdom will be full of humble people.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

the hardest part...

What was the hardest part of living with an Indian family?  Was it the 100 degree weather with no AC, the long stretches of no electricity each day, the lack of control over what we got to eat, the bouts of diarrhea, the lack of water?  Nope, no, and nope again.  These things were hard and they did wear on us and grow us, but by far the hardest part of the whole experience was not being able to communicate.

There is something so deep with in us that longs to be understood and to understand.  Yes, you can connect with someone over a smile, a hug, or a kind gesture to a certain extent.  But deep life sharing, the kind where you feel truly connected comes through language communication.  Try only smiling at your best friend or your spouse for a day and see if you feel like you know what is really going on with them in their heart and mind. 

We have been in India almost 6 months and for about 4 of those months we have been doing language pretty hardcore (the two months of no language are breaks we took during Thanksgiving, Christmas, moving, searching for a home, and a trip to Thailand).  I am amazed at how much we have learned in these 4 months, but there is SO MUCH MORE that we want to learn and to be able to share in life with the people of India. On a daily basis someone in our Indian family tried to tell us about something and we just could not understand….they were really gracious with trying to repeat and trying to simplify their language, but many times we just ended knowing we understood some of what they were staying, but didn’t really understand, if you know what I mean. 

I have been thinking a lot about how children learn to speak and communicate and I think about how when kids can’t get their point across (hungry, tired, ect) they will cry or fuss or disobey.  It is crazy how I have found myself reverting back to these things.  Riding on a rickshaw crying or feeling so frustrated that everything seems horrible, all because I just want someone to understand me, or I want to understand someone.  Language is so much more than just sounds and words that have definitions, it is the window into people’s hearts and it is the ability to know and be known.  It is really an amazing thing.  I am just now starting to see how much God is using this to refine and shape me to reflect more of him, if only I could stop whining so much….