Sunday, May 26, 2013


In case I haven't mentioned it before, I'm a planner.  I'm a recovering perfectionist, type-A, driven, achievement-oriented, list-making lady.  Grace is a challenge for me to wrap my brain around most of the time and an even bigger challenge for me to really receive, extend, and live in.
Life has a funny way of refining you, and the past couple of years have brought many challenges to those tendencies in me.  Since moving to Nepal, life has felt in a nearly constant reactionary mode, which is a huge stretch for me.  Letting go of to-do lists and control.  It has grown me and continued me on my ever-deepening understanding and experience of the Father's grace!  
But, let's be honest, I'm still a planner.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I were able to get away a bit for the weekend, and I have to admit one of the best parts for me was being able to jot down a list of some goals for the upcoming season.  I have prayed, and I know that I need to hold them loosely, but I am eager to be back in a season that feels intentional.  It is a fine line for me between intentional and driven.  I know that there are gifts God has given me, and I need to stay submitted to Him to continue to refine those gifts, as they are also the areas of greatest weakness for me.  (Isn't it funny how that is so often the case?)
Just this morning, I heard a message on Pentecost, and the pastor was focusing on how we need to remember that is it not our own strength, not our own power that we need to live out of.  That is hard for me to really remember often, so I'm making my list, I'm focusing on some goals, I'm setting out to be intentional in this next stretch, while at the same time trying to fully rely on God to carry them out or the grace to release them if He shifts directions on me!
All that said, here are my goals through the end of June:
*  Review Nepali language lessons and catch up to the place I left off on our last trip (but haven't really touched since then).  I really feel like it's important for me and would help Isaiah a lot if I got back into learning Nepali and working on it.  It has been something that has kept getting set aside, and it's time to dive back in!
*  Make some charts for Isaiah for chores and for media use.  He does much better with things if the expectations and boundaries and very clear and he has some control in managing them.  
*  Have my quiet times in the morning.  This might be one of the hardest for me because I am not a morning person, AND my kids are waking up ridiculously early these days, but I really want to start my days in the presence of God and not dragging into the day with eyes and heart half-open.
*  Related to the morning times, and also a notable discipline for myself, is to set a bedtime for myself and sticking to it.  I usually have a pile of things I want to get done after the boys go to bed, but I am realizing that my family needs me to be more present more than they need lots of stuff to get done.  
*  Exercise three times a week.  Ironically, it's not that I don't like to exercise.  Much more could be said on the inner workings of my psyche and things I internalized from the culture I grew up in, but it feels self-indulgent.  Selfish.  Ugh.  But, my boys need to see it modeled, and I need to keep up that habit to be in good health, so I keep trying to reset my brain to see it as something that is not purely selfish.  Starting small with probably 10-15 minutes, three times a week.
*  Blog at least once a week.  I like to write.  Blogging has been a good outlet, and I hope to go beyond that in some projects, at some point, but for now, I want to make it a priority to set aside time to do that each week.
*  Read a book.  We read a lot of books every day, but I'm talking about one without pictures.  One just for me to read.  I haven't decided which one yet.  I'll probably choose one of the many I've had on my list to read about parenting.  Any recommendations for AMAZING books to read?
*  Have one date night out and set aside one date night in.  This is something we talked about before we came, but it has been harder to arrange than we had anticipated, for many reasons.  I'm an introvert and can be a homebody, so while I love the quality time, it is also easy for me to default to just staying in, but I know that I always enjoy getting out for an evening just with John, away from what is essentially my workplace and the distractions of things to get done here at home.
*  Set aside one time "off" and continue this monthly.  I love my kids.  They are amazing, but with homeschooling, I am with them ALL the time, and I have been remembering my own need to have a little time "off duty" every once in awhile, even if it is just to get out on my own to do some errands!
*  Settle curriculum for homeschool for fall.  I want to get our curriculum ordered so that I can bring it back with us from our trip to the States this summer, and I really want to get some plans mapped out for the year for both boys.

Writing it out kind of feels like a lot on top of the effort that daily life here (and anywhere really with two little balls of energy circling around me) takes.  Humbly admitting my need for His strength to stay on track!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Where I Come From

I was making a simple cucumber salad the other night.  To call it a salad even seems too grand given that it is basically a soured cream and over cucumbers, but my mom and grandma and my great-grandma used to make it.  Standing in the middle of my kitchen in Kathmandu, Nepal, it made me suddenly feel Mennonite and Midwestern and connected to where I come from.  And, I found myself lost in something deeper than just nostalgia or sentimentality, though there is certainly much of that mixed in.  Nothing is perfect this side of heaven, and there were certainly challenges to growing up in any culture and family, but I found myself thinking about the uniqueness of where I come from, what I come from, and realizing that I could fill up an entire list of 1000 gifts with just these things alone!
I am grateful for the gifts, for the joys, and even the challenges!
Because I come from:
*  generations who have been faithful to the Lord and faithful to family
*  knowing not only all of my grandparents but many of my great-grandparents as well and sharing my growing up with them
*  great-grandparents who were married for 75 years, grandparents who were married 71 years, and parents who are still married after 38 years!
*  people who value peace as more than just a political statement
*  being known instantly in an entire area where I never lived by simply identifying myself as one of "J. John's grandkids"
*  riding in tractors and digging in dirt and feeding newborn animals from a bottle and people who are connected to the land and the food they have worked hard to produce
*  "corn days" that gathered entire extended families to store away what an entire season had been dedicated to growing
*  canning days and baking days and sewing days of beautiful women gathered together and working as one to make wonderful things from scratch
*  attending weddings, baby showers, and funerals and seeing the beauty and lives walk gracefully through each
*  four-part acapella singing that still gives me goosebumps
*  potluck meals with whole tables dedicated just to home-baked desserts
*  joyful simple living as a choice
*  an astounding work ethic and perseverance
*  knowing who my 3rd cousins, twice-removed are :)
*  a town that all gathers for the Friday night basketball game
*  teachers who knew me and were part of my life before, during, and after I was in their classes
*  wide open spaces to run and ride my bike without anyone worrying about where I was
*  night skies full of stars
*  countless numbers of books being read to me, even at the ends of long and weary days
*  never being allowed to leave the house without eating breakfast and knowing there would always, always be food--good food--in my home
*  knowing always that I was loved and treasured
*  never having an extra-curricular event (years and years of sports and academic programs and whatever else) without at least one family member present
*  special "global meals" prepared by my mom to help us catch a broader vision of the world
*  being protected by and taken care of by my dad, even when I couldn't admit to needing it
*  parents who gave me the freedom to choose my way of faith but modeled a life of faith
*  a community that comes together to support when hard times strike
*  Christmas celebrations that bent the "rules" for simplicity
*  "sticking Psalms"
*  picnics, parties, and "ordinary" Sunday afternoons at my grandparents' home
*  tire swings in big, strong trees
*  4-H livestock shows and county fairs
*  overnight stays at my grandparents' home filled with milkshakes, "Button, button, who's got the button?", and hearty farm breakfasts
*  extended family gatherings for holidays
*  decorating for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving
*  annual trips to Chicago to see the Christmas windows at Marshall Field's and choose a new ornament
*  family trips to Chicago to museums, Cubs' games, Ed Debevic's, and other restaurants
*  Bible Memory club
*  respecting elders
*  a community that values self-discipline and sacrifice
*  a great-grandmother whose gift of hospitality made bologna sandwiches taste like the most amazing feast
*  parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins who prayed and still pray for me, for their friends and families and communities and this incredible world God created and loves
*  sharing battles and victories with my little brother
*  "being rooted and established in love"

This is a fraction of the list of gifts.
I come from blessing, from love, from abundant gifts beyond what I can ever express or count.
And, it is a gift just to be able to remember where I come from.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Exploring New Territory

I realized that it has been awhile since I've written anything here!  After a pretty chaotic stretch (thus my previous post), we had some travel, and then things have been fairly uneventful for a couple of weeks, which has kind of felt odd.
Anyway, we're still here.
I feel like I constantly have little questions or lessons about life here, but every once in awhile, I have these moments of realizing something or learning something that catches me off guard a bit.
Today, we were out for a walk.  I was letting Isaiah lead the way on our walk.  We started going a way that we have been many times, and then he wanted to take a different turn than we had taken before.  Lately, he has been uncharacteristically eager to explore new paths and places he hasn't seen before.  After we turned a different direction on a road, he wanted to turn onto a path that looked like it led down beside a small field into the middle of people's homes.  It didn't seem like a dead end, though, so I followed him, and we went exploring.  It was definitely a spot that we got asked right away about a dozen times where we were going.  A group of kids came around my boys and started to try to talk with us some and mostly watch us and talk about us.  I'm kind of used to it, but it really frustrates Isaiah, especially when he feels like they are laughing at him.
A man nearby at what appeared to perhaps be a tiny shop started to chat with me.  I frequently get asked about the boys going to school, so I was expecting that question, and it is hard to explain sometimes that I teach them at home for now.  But, a question that I wasn't expecting came up, "Don't they have any friends?"  It kind of caught me off-guard, and I said, "Well, yes, they have friends."  I didn't really understand the reason for the question.  He said something about here being better for friends or something.  As I started thinking about it, I hardly ever see a Nepali kid older than a toddler playing by themselves.  Most of the time, kids are playing in a group or at least with another friend, and I very rarely see an adult around, so I realized that it must have been quite odd for the two boys to be on a walk with their mom and no other kids.
I mean, most people also think my kids are notably older than they are because they are a little bit big for their age by American standards, which means they are REALLY big compared to Nepali kids their age.  The other boys that came around them, for instance, were roughly the same size as Isaiah, maybe an inch or two taller.  I assumed that they were probably a bit older than him, but it turned out they were 9 and 10 years old!  (Isaiah's 4 1/2.)
It was just one of those moments that I realized that "normal" is so different here, and we are constantly learning how odd we must seem to people here!  American culture is so much more individualistic, and the culture here, which I realized is even quite evident in kids and their common experiences, is much more communal.  It is new territory to us to find a mix of being ok with being odd at times, preserving our home culture, but also learning from and adapting to another culture and figuring out how to experience life here fully in a culture that we often are unaware of what is "normal."  Forging ahead...