Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy Birthday Eli!

Well, he did it... my boy finally turned five! For some reason this was a huge milestone for me. I think it could be because five is the age that you go to kindergarten. And that means Eli will be away from me every day of the week during the school year. That's a big deal!

We celebrated Eli's birthday in style yesterday with a party filled with family, friends, and neighbors. He loved the attention and was very grateful for all his gifts. He and his friends had a blast together! After seeing my friend Alison do this for her kids' birthdays, I decided to do a quick photo review of the last 5 years of Eli's life :)

Newborn Eli

1 yr old

2 yrs old

3 yrs old

4 yrs old

5 yrs old

Happy Birthday, buddy! Mommy and Daddy are so proud of you! You are growing up to be a smart, loving, and kind boy. Keep listening to Jesus in your heart and He will help you become a wonderful man some day!

Monday, December 08, 2008

The India Story - To His Glory

After landing in Nepal and driving to Bihar, India, I realized that I am quite naive to the quality of living and needs around the world. I recognized a day or two into our trip that the hardship and despair I saw in India was reality for those people; they were not just putting on a show for me, the visiting American. I know that sounds ridiculous, but for a while, I think I was seeing the whole thing as if watching a movie - nothing seemed real. I think I had convinced myself that life couldn't be as bad as people make it look on TV. But I soon began to see that for many many people in the world, life is nothing like the ease and comfort I've become familiar with. Seeing the desperate situations many of the people in India endured made me realize how much I had been leaning on the world to provide my sense of comfort and sense of self.

Also, God showed me that my identity can not be found in the things of this world or the praise of men. This didn't necessarily come from any one experience or sight, but just something that God spoke quietly into my heart over the time we were there. Over the past year I have been struggling to find my “place” as a mom. I have felt the need to be more than what I am – to try to make a name for myself somehow. But I realized that making a name for myself outside of where God has placed me is selfish, arrogant, and destructive. It only brings me to a place of discontentment with God. This doesn't mean I'm never allowed to do things where people praise me, but that I can't do it for the sake of their praise.

This was a hard lesson for me, but something that I really needed to hear! I came home with a whole new outlook on my job as a mom. I still am not perfect, but I have found myself enjoying my kids and my responsibilities again! I am so thankful that God didn't allow me to continue seeking my own glory over His.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The India Story - Culture Shock

This is what I was faced with when I arrived in India that first day:

Talk about culture shock! Everywhere we went, we were oddities. People stopped, stared, and sometimes even pointed at us because we were unusual. I recognized maybe for the first time in my life that Caucasians are not the majority every where on earth. I am not culturally biased; I have friends of different color and backgrounds, but living in middle-class, Midwestern suburbia has distorted my view of the world significantly. Somewhere in my subconscious mind I began to believe that my experience of life was typical across the globe, even when my conscious mind knew this was false. I also came to the recognition that Caucasians are not the only facet of God. We were ALL created in His image: Caucasian, African, Indian, Asian - we are all displaying parts of our Creator. The American image of a white Jesus with light eyes and blondish hair is just as inaccurate as my image of a white King sitting on His throne in heaven. In my time in India and Nepal I fell in love with the Indian/Asian people and culture. I found beauty where before I had only found unfamiliarity. This was a true blessing to me.

All the photos and video in this post are from Steve Hurry, one of the members of our team, and the ServLife staff member on our trip. Many thanks to Steve for allowing use of his photos on my blog! The photos are really amazing. If you're interested, you can view them full-size here.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The India Story - Overview

There is so much I could share about my trip. I have over a thousand photos collected from all the members of our team I could put on here that would only give you a taste of all that I saw and experienced. This is what I hope to be the first in a series of posts where I share about my time in India and Nepal.

First I'll share a quick overview of our trip:
We had a team of 9 people from my church, Common Ground Christian Church who went on the trip. The leader of our team was Steve, a staff member from ServLife International (the ministry we were visiting) and a member of Common Ground.

Back Row (L-R): Jen, Carrie, Dustin, Jessica, Jana, Steve
Front Row (L-R): Vanessa, Me, Alicia

It was about a 2 day trip through Incheon, South Korea and Kathmandu, Nepal; plus a short commuter flight and a 1 hr drive to reach Bihar, India. We stayed in Bihar in the ServLife orphanage/pastor training school for about 6 days where we played with and loved on the kids and attended/spoke at the annual indigenous Indian pastor’s conference. Then we flew back Kathmandu and stayed there for 2 days where we visited two ServLife ministries there. Then we took about two days to return home.

View Larger Map

I wanted to go on this trip to get outside of myself. To see the world as many experience it instead of as I experience it every day. I had been feeling very lukewarm about my walk with God for a long time. I thought this just might jump-start things. It was scary to go, but I had a lot of hope for what would happen. We stayed overnight in South Korea on our way to India, and I was missing my family and scared about what was coming. This was the prayer that started my trip: "Bring peace to the unease of my heart! No, wait; don't bring peace… peace breeds complacency. Challenge me! Stretch me! Grow me! I want my heart to expand outside of myself.” I should have known that God would answer my prayer!

Monday, December 01, 2008

I'm back!

I'm back from my internet hiatus and my trip to India! I have lots of things to process and many great stories to share. I hope to put together a slide show and explanation of my trip to share with you all here in the near future :) For now, I'll just post a few of my favorite pics from the trip.