Sunday, January 22, 2012

Excess and the state of my heart...

I keep hearing about the book “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess,” by Jen Hatmaker.  I have never read a book by her, but I am an avid blog reader and think she is awesome writer and seems like an awesome person.  So I was really excited when I heard she just came out with a book.  I downloaded the sample on my kindle and started skimming thru the table of contents.  Apparently, this is a book about how for 7 months her and her family gave up different things each month and lived more simply. 

After skimming through it, I honestly began to think; this stuff does not apply to me.  I mean, I just moved to India for crying out loud.  I sold almost everything I own, I own about seven pairs of cloths, we pretty much eat the same seven foods over and over, next month we won’t have internet in our home, ect.  I even told Ryan this would be a good book for people in America that live in excess and are super materialistic.  I had the total attitude that those people need to work through their materialism, but I most definitely had it figured out.  I mean just look at me!  Uggghhh

Then I read another blog about the book, and God began to slowly melt away at my arrogance.  Ugggghhhh, that pride/self-righteousness stuff is disgusting. 

Yes, I did chose to move to India and I knew that giving up some things would be a part of that.  But, most of the things that Jen addresses in the book (or at least in the table of contents) are not things that I made a conscious effort to give up.  Yeah, they are gone, but because they have to be gone because of where we live, not because of a choice we made to give them up.  On the outside I look good, but on the inside I didn’t let God change my heart and I didn’t take any time to think about how all these changes are affecting my heart.  It’s such a gross temptation to want to look good on the outside while your inside has not changed at all.  Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  You blind Pharisee!  First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside may be clean.”  Ugghh, Jesus was not playing around when he talked about these things. 

Saying all this, I don’t think the purpose of living simply is to deny your self of things you would enjoy or be a martyr of sorts.  I strongly believe in the discipline of celebration and parties and living life to the fullest.  Jesus also talked a lot about food and feasts and great things happening around tables full of the finest foods.  It is just that somehow in living simply now, it gives us the opportunity to help others to live more fully and love more truly.  Our simplicity in the present helps others and ourselves experience a taste of the great feast that Jesus will bring in the future.  I don’t really know how or why it works like this, but I am convinced it is true. 

All that to say, I am going to read the book and pray that God changes my heart and helps me look into those deep places in my heart. I also pray that I do not desire to live simply for the applause of man, but instead for the kingdom of God to be evident and expanding in my life.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Christmas to Remember

This was definitely the most unique Christmas both Ryan and I have ever experienced. We had two girls coming to visit us and so we wanted to spend a lot of time in Kanpur with them. It happened that the best time for them to come was over the holidays, so we ended up spending Christmas day in Kanpur in a hotel.

I read many blogs this season about cutting back for Christmas, making it less about stuff and more about Jesus. Well, we didn't really plan for our Christmas to be that way(although I am a strong advocate forthat!!) It just happens that in this stage of life, we don't have a home to put stuff in and the more things you have the more complicated it is to travel. So we all decided not to do presents but just spend time with each other celebrating Jesus.

We started the day all gathering in the Tardy's hotel room and singing Christmas songs acapella(the guitar stayed in Delhi), reading the whole Christmas story and surrounding passages, and praying together. Something about not being bombarded with Christmas materialism made the story of Jesus coming into the world seem even more real and relevant.

We ate good old Kentucky Fried Chicken for our Christmas meal. Spicy chicken of course, that is the only kind they serve here. Oh, and french fries..sadly they don't have massed potatoes at the KFC :(

Luckily, there was a TV station at the hotel that was playing English Christmas movies all day. Earlier in the week, Katy said, "it won't feel like Christmas without watching 'Home Alone". Well guess what, every single Home Alone show was playing that day. Who knew there were so many!!

Although it was refreshing to not have to worry about presents, there is something really special and sacred I think about giving gift on Christmas. I mean it is the day we celebrate the most amazing gift ever coming to us. So we felt like something was missing. Thankfully, Katy had an awesome idea that will hopefully become an annual tradition for us. We all drew each other's names and had to go out in the market and find gifts for each other that cost under 200 rupees, that is $4!!

We drew names and split into two groups to hit up the markets in search of the perfect gift. What is awesome about it is that you can actually get multiple gifts for 200 rupees! After a few hours(some of us took longer than others...Jordan and Hannah!!) we reconvened in the hotel room with our gifts wrapped in the finest newspaper Christmas wrapping! There were some very unique and thoughtful gifts ;) It was a great idea and the perfect thing to add to Christmas in India.

From there, our Christmas day took a bit of a down hill slide. Jordan had been sick for multiple days and started getting chills and a fever, which freaked us out and so he decided to hang out at the hotel for the night. All the girls and Ryan decided we would head to the mall(where they have internet) and try to skype with our families. Little did we know, that Indians do celebrate Christmas in a big way and they celebrate by going to the mall. There were SO, SO many people there. It was packed, and when I say packed it is hard for an American mind to comprehend the level of packedness! Everywhere in India is packed, but this was super, super packed.

We made it to our coffee shop with internet all loaded with our iPhones and computers ready to skype. Well, after we pulled out all our gadgets and dialed up our families, we realized we had attracted quite an audience. Groups of 40-50 people were surrounding us trying to see what we were doing and who we were talking to on our computers. After a few minutes, the workers at the coffee shop(who we have gotten to know :) , told us we should probably leave because it is not good to cause such a scene. We began to pack our stuff up and then the security guards arrived and told us to sit back down! They began moving people along and told them to stop staring at us.
-on a side note, the security guards at the mall are like body builders, it is crazy. Don't think typical American retired old man security guards-oh no, these guys outweigh the majority of Indian men by a good 50lbs! -

So we obeyed them! But, after a while the crowds just got to be overwhelming and we couldn't hear or talk very well. The guys at the coffee shop told us that many villagers were on vacation today and had come into Kanpur and come to the mall because they were not working. Many of these people had never seen Westerners, much less Westerners skyping with their families in the middle of the mall. We grabbed some Dominoes pizza for our Christmas dinner and tried to be as incognito as possible leaving the mall.

It was definitely a Christmas to remember :)

   Christmas Lunch:  KFC!

 about to open our presents

 Hannah: fun purple pants, read beaded necklace

 Katy:  Tattoo on Henna designs, coffee cups, scarf, and necklace

 Ryan: Indian shirt

Lauren: shoes, baggy black pants

Jordan: bubbles, thumbs up(like Coke), and spiderman darts

Kristin(not pictured): weaved bag

Saturday, January 7, 2012

2011 Review

I have been a bit overwhelmed with the thought of blogging lately because it seems like there is so much I want to write about, but most days after about 6 hours of learning Hindi my brain is fried.  I saw this on a couple different blogs I read and hope that you enjoy my little recap of 2011.  Feel free to answer and repost on your own blog :)
1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
This could be a long list(here is the short version): moved to Pennsylvania, worked retail, sold almost all of my belongings, lived with both sets of parents after marriage, moved to India, got a pedicure where fish eat your dead skin.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I never officially make resolutions....  I like his view.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes, this was the year of pregnancies and new life!!  My friend Carrie found out she was pregnant while we were in PA and it was fun to experience pregnancy with her, but sad that we moved before we could meet little Joshua(this life of moving is draining on relationships at times.)  And one of my best friends since preschool had a little boy named Cannon.  He was born just around the time we were moving back to Texas.  So, so, so thankful to be in Texas as he came into the world.  He is awesome and it was really special for me to be able to see Bess become a mom(oh gosh the tears are about to start coming....)
4. What countries did you visit?
Netherlands(on a long lay-over, but got to see Anne Frank's house!), Greece, and India
5. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
A place to start planting roots.  We have been so nomadic the last year, I am longing to be in a place for awhile and build community there. 

6. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Not very good at dates...
January- Ryan's family came to Lancaster to do a marriage training and stayed with us.  I loved Ryan's family from day one, but for some reason this visit with them stands out in my mind as the time I really began to understand how deeply I love and appreciate them.  (as in I cried really hard when we dropped them off at the airport...Ryan thought I was a bit dramatic I think)
February- Visited Kanpur for the first time.  We felt an overwhelming sense of peace about moving there.  I think we were surprised at how God seemed to draw us to that city.  
April- Brought new beginnings and freedom.  Thankful to see how awesome my brother is doing. I love seeing him as a dad, I have always admired so many things about him(you know how little sisters are about their big brothers) but seeing him as a dad has brought more joy than I imagined to my heart.
Summer- A crazy summer of living with both sets of parents.  So un-American to move in with your parents after you are married, I loved it!(even amidst the family driving you crazy moments)
November- Moved to India!!!  AHHH!!

7. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I don't know.  This is a hard question....I don't feel like I achieved anything necessarily, but I learned so much.
8. What was your biggest failure?
This past year living in Lancaster was hard.  I think I was pretty hard to live with.  I realized I had put expectations on Ryan that were not his responsibility(as in curing loneliness I felt).  I won't really call it a failure(it was needed and refining), but I do feel embarrassed about the way I treated him at times.  
9. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Thankfully, no.
10. What was the best thing you bought?
a new iPhone- ummm I am not sure which one I have(embarrassing I know), but I love that it takes awesome pictures.
Wow, I sound like a techie...
11. Where did most of your money go?
Plane tickets, moving to India
12. What did you get really excited about?
Spending time with friends and family this summer, moving to India, and learning Hindi!
13. What song will always remind you of 2011?
"Dancing in the Minefields" by Andrew Peterson.  I love it and it seemed to speak to me in a fresh way every time I listened to it, which was quite often.
14. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder? Hmmm, happier in that I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  Sadder in that it means I am really far from so many people that I love.
– thinner or fatter? Thinner.  Apparently India has a way of doing that to you....
– richer or poorer? hmmm weird question...I have no idea in the comparison of our bank account from this time last year, BUT we are definitely RICHER!
15. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Wish I would have had a few more coffee/tea dates with a handful of girlfriends before we moved here.  I have awesome friends!
16. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Over analyzing and being high maintenance(as my brother says).
17. How did you spend Christmas?
Gonna blog about this.  At a hotel in Kanpur, India (with Ryan, Jordan and Lauren, Hannah, and Katy.)  Read the Christmas story, sang Christmas songs, ate at KFC, watched all the Home Alone movies, and exchanged gifts.
18. What was your favorite TV program?
American Idol at the Buffi's house.  Liked the show, but really enjoyed watching it with the Buffi fam :)
19. What were your favorite books of the year?
This was a year of SO MANY good favorites:
Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes!
Secret Daughter
Redemption by Mike Wilkerson
The Help!
The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller!!  Still in the middle of reading this, so good.  Go read it now!
20. What was your favorite music from this year?

Ryan Hartsfield wrote some new amazing songs- my favorites "The Demand" and "This is the Song", Adele, Andrew Peterson, Gungor, Mumford & Sons, Sara Groves new CD
21. What were your favorite films of the year?
"The Help" hmm that is all I can remember.  Well there was this other movie that was really good, but I can't remember the name.  It was about these three young Jewish spies who capture a German doctor that used to experiment on Jews in prison camps...and it tells the story from them looking back in time on it...totally blank.."The Debt"(Ryan just told me the name :)
22. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
It was awesome.  Ryan planned a "surprise" party at Chuys (I had an idea it was happening) and invited friends from Whitehouse/Tyler area.  Then everyone came back to my Mom's house for cake.  So fun, it was my last 20's bday...29!!
23. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Can't really think of one thing....more chocolate...
24. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
Ummm, in Lancaster my fashion concept was "stay warm".  In India, I am trying to figure out what it actually means for me to have a personal fashion concept here.
25. What kept you sane?
RYAN!, my mom, exercise, AND there is this song with extremely rich,true lyrics that says, "sweet Jesus Christ my clarity, sweet Jesus Christ my sanity" 
26. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.

Blogged about a big one for me on my last post.  I am also learning the importance of rest and patience(that could be a very long post in itself).

This year has been filled with HUGE transitions.  I am thankful that God has been so near to us and so real to us through it all.  We are excited to see what 2012 has in store.  We have some big dreams :)