She’s not too little

I’m not a worrier, but preparing to bring my oldest daughter back to India was worrisome for me. I had made the trip many times when she was a baby and young toddler and I wasn’t bothered  about bringing my younger daughter for her first time to India, but bringing my now “big girl” at 3.5 years of age concerned me. She is old enough to notice all of the extreme differences, but too young for me to prepare her for it. I knew all that she was leaving behind and all of the extreme differences and dangers she would face. 

I moved forward and was determined that though it wouldn’t be easy she would be fine, but I didn’t really have peace about it until…

I went on a one day retreat a week before we left for India. As music was playing and I was worshipping & praying, I realized I could trust the Lord’s love not only for myself but for my daughter too. I walked away with this reassurance:

She’s not too little to experience God’s love for her. 

She’s not too little to learn from challenging circumstances. 

She’s not too little to develop her own personal relationship with Jesus.

This move is challenging, but I can trust God to be with her just as He is with me. 

God gave her to us knowing that we move to and from India: she is uniquely designed for this.

Wow. Then I knew that peace that passes understanding in this situation too. I thought about the quote “God doesn’t have any grandchildren” (E. Stanley Jones). Until that point in my life I had only applied this to myself that I couldn’t depend on my parents’ faith, but had to develop my own personal relationship with God. Now I viewed that phrase with a whole new perspective that my daughters had to develop a personal faith of their own and that the Lord already desired that relationship with them.

I love my daughters and will mother them to the best of my ability by God’s grace, but I understand that I only have them for a time. Lord willing, their lives and impact will extend beyond my own. It is not my job to shelter them from challenges, but rather love them in whatever they face and point them toward our Heavenly Father. They are His. I’ve entrusted myself to Him long ago and I entrust my daughters to Him too.

Though these last few months in India have brought challenges they have also brought so much joy! My daughters love all of their “big brothers and sisters” at the children’s home. They love the wildlife that we see everyday from lizards to water buffaloes. They even have both developed a palate for spicy food and enjoy riding in auto rickshaws. I see a real empathy growing in my oldest daughter’s heart as she asks about all of the needs she sees around her. She also reminds me to pray for people and asks for prayer for herself when doesn’t feel well. For all of this and for so much more, I give thanks and praise the Lord for working in my life and in my daughters’ lives.

Transformation Tuesday | Asyria

Transformation Tuesday | Asyria

She and her little brother, Pavan, were living under a tree before they came to the children’s home. Their father died from AIDS and their mother was in and out of their lives leaving them to often fend for themselves. When Assyria arrived at the children’s home her teeth were almost gone from decay. She was so shy she would rather hide than talk to anyone. Starting school was a big challenge for her.

Yet slowly over the last 7 years, Asyria has blossomed out of her frightened shell and now she is becoming a strong, confident young woman. She is smart and does well in school so much so that she wants to be a teacher when she grows up. We are so thankful to have Asyria apart of our FID family! Please pray for her to be encouraged and to begin to grasp that never-changing love that the Heavenly Father has for her.

I love Him more.

Here I sit amongst the chaos and half-packed boxes in the duplex that we’ve called home for the last 18 months. Packing up our home and moving again hurts. Since Thomas and I were married (6.5 years ago) we’ve moved 12 times to 6 different places. We have returned to the children’s home to live there a few different stents, to Thomas’ parent’s home for a few stents, an apartment in India, and a few other places.  People have been super kind and generous with us especially when we first came back to the States this time and had to hop between family and friends for 6 weeks before we moved into our current duplex.

This is hard, but for now we know that it serves the ministry best when we are able to be in both countries (India & the USA) regularly. What’s particularly hard about this pack up and move is that Leighanna (our 3 year old) says things like “I miss my home. I love my home.” The home she is referring to the only thing she remembers as home, this duplex. So we are choosing this challenge not just for ourselves, but for our little ones too. 

I don’t say this to complain or for pity, but more of a statement that for us right now this is our cost (a small one in the big scheme of things) in following Jesus. Luke 14:25-33 is a hard teaching of Jesus. The heading for it in my Bible is “Discipleship Tested.” I actually sobbed just now as I read it because Jesus’ words “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” finally clicked in my heart. I’m thankful for listening to a sermon from Pastor Rod at Crossroads years ago where he talked about this teaching and said (my paraphrase): The point that Jesus is making here is not that we are to hate our family. No. We are to love them, but we are to love Jesus so much more that our love for our family looks like hate in comparison. 

Whenever I’ve thought about this teaching I’ve always prayed: Lord, I have no idea what this ‘loving You more’ looks like. How is it done? That is why I sobbed (and I don’t mean cry, I mean all-out ugly sob) when I read that passage just now because this choice that Thomas and I are making to uproot our family again and go back to India is a choice we are making for Jesus’ sake. If we looked solely to what is best right now for Leighanna and Adeline or to what is easiest for ourselves, we wouldn’t go back to India, but we know this is God’s specific calling on our lives right now. Living this out is often not pretty, but it’s so worth it. So that sob was more out of real joy that I overwhelmingly felt the Father’s heart in recognizing this is hard for us, but that He considers it worship and is honored. What a beautiful, kind-hearted, good Heavenly Father!

I’ve heard Thomas teach our older kids at the children’s home “Following Jesus doesn’t make your life better. In fact, if you choose to follow Jesus your life is going to be worse. So get ready!” What?! I was thinking. This is what he is telling our kids? But what if they turn away? What if they say it’s too hard and they don’t want Jesus? Shouldn’t this be a teaching for Christians who are mature in their faith? But this is what that passage in Luke 14 is talking about: The builder counts the cost of the building before he ever starts to build.

Where I’ve been in my prayers lately in various areas of my life is this: Lord, this is hard, but where else would I go? I’ve seen the alternatives and I choose You. A thousand times over I choose YOU. 

In sixth grade, I was an extra in the play Bridge of Blood. It is a re-telling of the life of Jim Elliot. I don’t remember much about the play, but I will never forget the closing scene. I was a part of the choir that sang this chorus multiple times:

Take up your cross and follow Jesus.

Take up your cross everyday.

Don’t be ashamed to say that you know Him.

Count the cost. Take up your cross and follow Him.

I write this because I don’t hear very much dialogue about the on-going hard part of following Jesus. The struggle. Mostly when people think of counting the cost in following Jesus they jump to the extreme example of martyrs, and that is a growing reality in our world today, but what about the daily taking up of our crosses (the daily struggle lived out in everyday choices) in following Jesus? This only authentically happens through growing in trust with Jesus not by trying to perform better.

So I choose again today to offer up my desire for a stable home to Jesus as a small sacrifice of love for Him who has sacrificed so greatly to redeem me. I praise the Holy Spirit because it is His tender teaching who is doing this work in me, and I glorify the Father who planned this work in my heart and loved me first.

from Lice to Leprosy and raising a baby in the midst

Life in another country might sound adventurous and exciting, and sometimes it is, but then there is the usual everyday that is uncomfortably different. This is the health-related nitty gritty of daily life in village India.*

In the U.S. lice are a big deal. If someone has lice it is a big deal to do something about ASAP and take care of every last one. That is not the case here. As my Indian sister-in-law, Vijaya, says with a smile “Everyone here has at least one louse on their head.” So guess what?! At the children’s home, there are a lot of lice to go around. Don’t get me wrong, we do things to get rid of them, lessen them, and deter them, but its really just population control not ridding ourselves of them. When you have as many kids as we do at the children’s home and they all go to a village school where their friends all have varying degrees of lice, they are inevitable.

So the kids get some much-needed one on one time as we go through their hair on a regular basis killing lice and chatting about their day. Vijaya is a champion louse finder and killer. For those who come for a short-term visit it is not that hard to avoid getting lice, but for those of us who live here it has become a new part of our day to day life (a part which my one year old does not appreciate).

Village India is also one of those places where leprosy is still alive and well. In fact 70% of the world’s known cases of leprosy live in India. India has leper colonies, but there are those who refuse to confine themselves to those colonies. Leprosy is treatable, but only with strictly scheduled multiple antibiotics taken for months at a time. This makes the treatment regimen very difficult for those who are not accustomed to schedules. Since leprosy is most common amongst the poor and illiterate, it continues to thrive. It is not that they are unable to learn and maintain schedules, but they often already have such a distrust in the educated/professional world that they do not want to learn.

What do you do in church when a leper wants to attend? How do you love them like Jesus while still being concerned for everyone’s well-being? These have been some of the questions that we have had to wrestle with over the years with prayer and practical guidelines.

When our daughter was a few months old, Thomas’ distant aunt and uncle came to visit. They said the usual “oos and awes” over our baby and held her. It was sweet. It wasn’t until after they left that I found out that Thomas’ uncle is a recovered leper. “Okay that’s fine.” I tried to reassure myself. Then Thomas went on to explain that after holding our baby, his uncle casually mentioned that there was a new spot like leprosy on his foot that he needed to get checked out. “Woe! Having our baby held by a leper was not one of the things I wanted to check off my to do list!” I told Thomas. Yet we thank God for protecting us and our baby not only in that situation but in countless others, many I’m sure are unknown to us.

10 month old Leighanna when she was quite sick. Looking back we know it was just a virus that had to run its course but at the time we were quite concerned.

10 month old Leighanna when she was quite sick. Looking back we know it was just a virus that had to run its course but at the time we were quite concerned.

Why do I say all of this? Well first of all this has given me a little bit of a better glimpse into the world the Jesus lived in. It has drawn me closer to Him as I have had to trust Him in the very practical of protecting us from and sometimes helping us through a plethora of unique tropical illnesses. It has drawn me closer still to rely upon Him to help me to love people when I really don’t feel like getting any closer.

Now lice really is a daily issue, leprosy comes up once in a while, and there are many other physical issues from scabies, typhoid, malaria, to the HIV epidemic. It was one thing for my husband and I to choose this life for ourselves and to welcome in the children with sores and illnesses into the children’s home. We treat their physical problems and love them. It has been a completely different thing to choose to birth our own baby into this life. Not because we think that she is more valuable than the kids on the streets, but because we are essentially choosing these added struggles for her.

I think about the childhood that I enjoyed. The endless opportunities that I had and the abundant loved ones near by. Then I look at my baby in village India and it is a completely new level of counting the cost. It isn’t easy; loved ones that we so dearly miss, unusual and abundant challenges that we face. But you know what? It is worth it. Although my daughter’s childhood will greatly differ from mine, there is also incredible opportunity, adventure, and growth to be had. I know that as long as I choose to give thanks and trust Him, that God’s grace will be sufficient for me, but if instead I complain and stop seeking Him then I will be clenching my fists and unable to receive that grace which the Lord abundantly gives. I have experienced both. Giving thanks with open hands willing to freely give and receive whatever the Lord chooses is much, much better.


Leighanna joyously playing among the fresh coconuts.

Leighanna joyously playing among the fresh coconuts.

*Please note that India is an extremely diverse country. I am writing only from my personal experience in my little corner of village India. Please don’t take this as a blanket statement for what all of India is like – thanks!

Learning with Toddlers – a lesson in waiting

Jacob and Elise, our two youngest children’s home tots, have a special place in my heart that can’t easily be expressed. Here is something that the Lord has taught/shown me recently from doing life with them.

Though this photo is from more than a year ago those little faces still say it all.

Jacob and Elise in a timeout last year. Their little faces say it all.

Jacob and Elise were starting to climb up a high ledge, again. It was one that was far too dangerous for me to let them learn from experience that really little people shouldn’t climb such big things. So to time out they went. While they were waiting in the corner and so very near the end of their appointed training time, I noticed my heart almost anxious over the last minute of their timeout. I was really hoping they would wait just one more minute until I came and got them. I really didn’t want them to throw a fit so close to the end that would require more training time. I was rooting for them to just stick it out so that we could do something more enjoyable together.

I know that minutes feel so very long to almost 3 year olds. They are lacking the perspective of the danger they were inadvertently putting themselves in and they lack a concept of time that would allow them to see that in the big scheme of things this training time was actually quite short. I hoped they would just trust me to come for them when the time was up and not throw a fit because they didn’t want to wait any longer. I hoped that they would know that I love them enough not to let them stand in the corner forever and that they would have the patience to wait on me to greet them with a smile and a hug announcing that their time of training was finished.

I sensed the Father’s heart in this experience. How many times has He wanted me to just wait on Him until He came through and not to take matters into my own hands or complain about it. His training is for my good. Will I wait until He answers?

I remember times when I have come before the Lord with aching heart saying “Lord, would you take this away? When will You bring healing here?” And though I never heard God’s audible voice, it was that sensing in my spirit of  “Just hold on my dear one. Trust me to take care of this, leave it with me.” It brings a smile to my face even now because I so clearly see myself as the toddler lacking perspective and understanding of the big picture.

I can’t see into the future. I don’t know what all of the Lord’s plans are for me let alone anyone else. His thoughts are much higher than mine. I don’t know the dangers that He is preventing me from or the growth that He is leading me into. It is uncomfortable, but I know that I can trust Him. If I just wait a little longer (which in light of eternity waiting on Him a little longer could mean a life time on earth and that’s okay), He will answer, and He will bring healing, and He will make all things right in His time. He has proven Himself in ages past as I’ve read in His word, and He has proven Himself in small and big circumstances along my path already.

The hymn that my heart is singing:

“Oh love that will not let me go,                                                                                                     I rest my weary soul in Thee.                                                                                                    I give Thee back the life I owe,                                                                                                       That in Thine ocean depths its flow                                                                                             Might richer, fuller be.”                                                                                                                     by George Matheson

Jacob and Elise did wait until their timeout was finished. We giggled and played. They hopefully are learning a little bit more about obedience while I am blessed with a deeper glimpse into my Heavenly Father’s heart as I wait.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.     Psalm 27:14

Free Falling – a real life, long-term, cross-cultural experience

Processing thoughts along the way sometime in June 2012:

It was one of those challenging days where the whole body, mind, and spirit feels it – weary and nagging.  Difficult to move through this mindset of negativity and wondering ‘Why do these people do _____? Why can’t they ever learn _______? Why is this so hard, so frustrating?’  Its that mindset that paralyzes me and shows on my face, and infects everything I do and say. In trying to describe to myself what living in India is like I thought of the nightmare I used to have as a child. That sudden falling sensation, totally out control, and wake in a gasping fret, for me it was sometimes on the floor which explained the sensation. I wanted to explain so others could understand that moving to India is like falling, complete loss of control, not knowing whats happening now, let alone what will happen next.

I scolded myself for saying a negative word to my husband one too many times while in the truck, driving home from Kakanata at night – a two hour ride.  I felt trapped and needed space.  I realized the one thing that I should do in that situation.  Ask Sinu, our driver, to stop the truck, get out onto the back of the truck, standing and holding on, and say “Poinay!” Which means go! The song “You are my hiding place” came rushing to my mind. I sang it loud and with passion, feeling each and every minor key note and the suffering of people who’ve said these words in generations past. As Sinu drove the truck fast and furious, as he always does, the was wind blowing wildly through my hair and whisking the frustration, worries, and fears away as the truth of the words of that song sunk into my heart. I sang the words until I was satisfied and then quietly thought. Though the usual sounds of horns, people yelling, and everything else swirling and smelling all around me, my heart was in quiet contemplation.

I remembered back to when I was a little girl, laying down on top of and holding on to the luggage rack of that blue Caprice Classic, 1983 station wagon. My father smiling as he drove. Not many American girls had father’s who would let them ride on the top of station wagons, especially going 50mph. I loved speed then and I love it now.  I wondered if that day the Lord was preparing me for India – riding on crazy roads in the back of trucks, and all the other crazy things that have come into my life in this country? In fact, I know He was. He was smiling down on that messy little girl in pure joy on the top of that station wagon and saying ‘just wait until you see what I have in store for you.‘ Now standing in the back of this swerving truck with dirt, dust, and mostly likely a little dudly (the Telugu word for poop) flying on and past I thought about that falling idea – ‘Living in India is like falling’.  Earlier in the day it was tainted by complaint, fear, and even anger – things that I hate, but more importantly, things that God hates. A subtle prompting: “Look at it in a different light, Dana.”  Three years prior I had been skydiving, something I had always wanted to do.  It was thrilling, I was ecstatic.  I’ll never forget that first moment out of the plane.  I had imagined so many times what it would be like standing on the edge of a plane and choosing to step out, but that is not how it was. The jump instructor and I, we were attached together, and we approached the gaping door of the plane and then before I could even think about stepping out of the plane we were out and falling! There was an intense fear that took my breath away for a split second as I grabbed at my harness to hold on to something though that was ridiculous because that something was falling too.  Then we stabilized in to the standard fall position, stomach down, back arched, arms out, legs bent back, and as sudden as the fear hit, it left, leaving behind complete giddy excitement over the view, the sensation of falling, everything – I loved it!  I yelled out the only thing that came to mind “Why haven’t I been doing this my whole life?” I was thankful for the experienced jumper strapped on my back because I realized I would be one of those crazies who would plummet to their death because they forgot to pull the parachute cord. I just enjoyed free falling that much! Now isn’t that ironic? ‘Living in India is like free falling? Really Dana? Because you love free falling.’ The thought occurred to me that maybe my feelings of India right now are just that beginning shock and fear of “what in the world is happening, I’ve never experienced this before.” Maybe when the initial shock wears off, I will just love it! I trust that I will. My Hiding Place reassured me it was so.