Do We Have Anything in Common Anymore?

Five Minute Friday, COMMON
// indicates when my 5 minutes ran out and I kept on writing anyway!

After a year and a half in Nepal, I am returning to America for a 3 month visit in 10 DAYS. Someone asked me the other day what was the first thing I wanted to do when I returned aside from visiting my family. My mind went totally blank. I said, “Go through a drive-thru?” just because that, even after only 18 months abroad, seems like a total novelty to me.

But I also very much look forward to coffee dates and lunch meet-ups with my mom and other friends. I imagine myself sitting across the table, chit-chatting the day away, and I realize… my imaginary conversation is happening in my second language! I try to re-imagine, and I can’t think of anything to say in my first.

I wonder if they will think I’m as weird as I feel like I’m going to be. Will we still be able to hold a conversation free from several awkward silences? Will their babies I’ve never met be scared of me? I wonder if they will think the stories I tell are interesting or just strange and unrelateable. Will we have anything in common anymore?

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My husband assures me that these fears will be unfounded (although there is no guarantee their babies won’t be afraid of the crazy person declaring herself their aunt). My friends that loved me before I left have still loved me with all the distance and silence between us. We might not pick right up where we left off, but maybe that’s why it’s called catching up.

We may not find common ground in our recent cultural experiences, but we will find it elsewhere. Maybe this table where we sit needs a perspective only my strangely unique experience could bring. Maybe more, this friendship needs me to not worry and just show up. To sit across the table with my biscuits and gravy (Bob Evans, y’all) and sigh. It sure is good to see an old friend.

Five Year Olds Speak Boldly about Race

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“I know why her name is Nicky Brown, mom,” I stated confidently.

“Oh yeah?” she inquired.

“Yeah, because her skin is brown.”

I thought for sure I was on to something. Of course, I wasn’t. I didn’t understand the complexity of race in American culture or the history that hadn’t yet been covered in my kindergarten classroom. The beauty of five year young innocence is things are really that simple.

This morning, my kids were dancing to Nepali music videos in the living room. Their daddy and I laughed and commented on how they dance just like the heroes in the Youtube clips.

Keeping up the cultural theme, speaking Nepali, Daddy asked our kurtha surwal clad daughter who is running her fifth year if she was Nepali.

She quickly replied, “Yes,” then, “No. Because my face isn’t black!” Raising her arms, she added, “And neither are my hands!” (which were the only parts of her showing in this ethnic outfit).

Simple.

I didn’t care about the color of my little kindergartner friend’s skin. We liked to sit together, color, and giggle. A lot.

My daughter isn’t oblivious to the fact that she is a fluorescent fish in a school of brown swimmers. She knows she’s different and that her classmates think she’s a little goofy. After all, she’s the only one who eats a peanut butter sandwich instead of dal bhat every day.

But she loves her classmates. She comes home babbling about her new best friend every day and the drama of Saisha not loving her anymore, but if she apologizes she can come spend the night.

Simple. And beautiful.

I hope her thoughts on race remain this way. That she will continue seeing different colors, appreciating different cultures, and loving the people represented by each.

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Linking up with:

This post is part of Five Minute Friday where many writers join together each week to write for freely Five Minutes on the same prompt and encourage each other along the way. This week, our prompt is FIVE. Join the fun!

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Key:

*running her fifth year- closer to 5 years old than 4; how Nepalis describe age
*kurtha surwal- traditional dress consisting of shirt dress and what we Americans call hammer pants
*heroes- movie/music video stars
*dal bhat- lentils and rice, generally eaten twice a day by Nepali families
*Saisha- my daughters BFF who actually does love her

How Hospitality Saved my Christmas and Changed my Heart

Showing up unannounced at someone’s house on Christmas…GASP!

This would be a shocking act in American culture on this holiday and, really, on any day on the calendar. Typically, we aren’t fond of visitors finding their way to our doorstep without a serious heads up.

With some hesitation, we committed this heinous crime on Christmas Day here in Nepal. We gave a friend and his daughter a ride home from church and declared that we would come in and say hello to his wife who was hindered by a headache from attending the special Christmas service that day.

From the backseat, I heard the warning call, “Paul and Amber are coming over. Put some tea on.” Or something like that. It was in my second language, ya know.

And that was it. I didn’t hear on the other end if she became frazzled and rushed, overloaded by the stress of unforetold company. I worried if we had somehow overstepped our bounds. I know she loves our kids and would want to see them but does that still stand on Christmas Day with a headache?

Thankfully, it did. I pushed my worries aside as we shoved our American-size selves into her tiny apartment. We joined her on the balcony where she was  bent over a fire, cooking sel roti, a traditional sweet snack prepared on special days, and she greeted us with HUGE hugs, smiles, and squeals. What was I worried about anyway?

She shared with us the meal (complete with meat!) that she had prepared for her little family. We felt a guilty but thankful that they would welcome us into their family on this special day. Though we were absolutely full to the brim from the feast at church, we found room somewhere for the smaller feast they offered.

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We stayed and chatted an hour without a word of English and went home satisfied on sweetness and with smiles that just wouldn’t subside. This precious family had saved my Christmas.

I so enjoyed our Christmas celebration at church and just adored how Christ-centered that week had been. Though, I would be lying if I tried to make you believe that this was the state of my heart throughout the week in its entirety.

I had a wandering eye to Christmas celebrations happening Stateside. I longed to be with my family in the house I grew up in taking in the sights sounds, and smells of familiar holiday tradition.

But while everyone was knee-deep in pre-planned Christmas festivities, I was being loved on by precious people whose language I don’t yet fluently speak and enjoying treats they had set aside for their own family…all during my spontaneous stop-over.

I had been residing in the selfish hole where I had surrounded myself with all my wishes and wants that blocked my view of the blessings around me. This family’s gracious hospitality had pulled me out, embraced me, and opened my eyes to the amazing things God has done here and the wonderful people He has put in my life.

I have a new family here. And while they don’t resemble mine in any way and their traditions are much more reserved, I realized the basis of their treatment of us has the same underlying cause of the most precious moments Stateside.

They love Jesus. They have servant-hearts. They love us and they love our kids. Not because we don’t butcher their language on the daily (we do) and not because we don’t make silly cultural offenses (we do). But because they realize the big thing that happened on Christmas, and it changed them.

They live in a culture that doesn’t see what Christ has done. They walk in a world that doesn’t give Him a thought. They realize the weight of what has been done in their lives, and they aren’t afraid to pass it along.

I have seen this family love and serve believers and unbelievers alike. They have learned hospitality from this culture where it plays a big role in daily life and relationships, but theirs has a special touch. It has a touch of Jesus. And I really believe that his open home, open door policy plus a touch of Jesus can really bring a wonderful change to this world that has long forgotten or never known the Christ who came so many years ago.

Perhaps those who wouldn’t look for Him could stumble upon Him over a cup of coffee at my table, sitting on my couch playing Uno, or sharing freshly popped popcorn on the front-porch.

Maybe after casual chit-chat about the latest movies and where I bought the kids shoes, I could tell them what brought us to this wild and wonderful place and the amazing plan we have lived out in light of the gospel.

Maybe the greatest, most life changing moments don’t ALWAYS happen at the altar. Maybe they happen in our homes. So maybe it really wouldn’t hurt to invite someone into the tornado debris and toddler tantrums. Maybe here is where they could meet Jesus.

Announced or not, I can welcome visitors in and introduce them to the greatest friend I’ve ever known.

This year, I resolve to keep my door open a little more often, linger a little longer, and tell my frazzled spazzy self to take a hike in the name of Christ-honoring hospitality. To find the heart inside that loves the people Jesus does. Which is, uh, everyone.

Christ-centered hospitality saved my Christmas. Maybe it could save someone’s life. Jesus takes our measly offerings and does pretty awesome things like that.

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What do you resolve to improve in the New Year for the sake of the gospel?
I would love to hear from you in the comment section below!

 

My Struggle with Honesty

I have failed to find the balance between honestly sharing my heart and being just a little too real.

Do my friends really want to know the answer to the question, “How are you?” and “How’s it going?” Do they want to know that we had the 201st earthquake in a few short months? Do they want to know that the blockade continues and the grocery stores are out of milk?

Or does it just sound like I am complaining?

Would inquiring minds rather hear that we are healthy, fine, and happy and everything is great? That the mission field is everything we dreamed it would be…

We are healthy, fine, and happy which is an amazing testimony of His abundant grace in our lives.

But should I only share about the date nights, baptism services, language victories, and funny things my children do?

Surely my faithful friends can handle me sharing even the less than perfect parts of my life. But who are they again? It is no one’s particular fault that the challenge of schedules and time differences has shaken the foundations of even the strongest relationships.

Even if they can handle it, are they interested? Can they relate or understand in any way? If I try to tell the truth but point out God’s graces in my life will I seem like a phony trying too hard to seem super spiritual? These are the questions that keep me from opening up. From trusting trustworthy friends with the feelings I don’t always understand myself.

I’m thankful for my husband who always has a listening ear and tries to empathize. He does a pretty good job, but there’s One who does better. I never have to worry about what God thinks of my thoughts and fears. If I don’t tell Him, He knows them anyway!

I confess to Him, cry to Him, confide in Him. He is completely trustworthy, faithful, and kind. He brought me to this place with all these problems, knowing we would face what we have, prepared to give me just what I need.

I’m not sure I ever valued the friendship I have with the Lord until I longed so for a friend that always understood and always loved. One with whom I have a concrete contract..He will NEVER leave me. Never forsake me.

And when the enemy tries to get me to believe that no one cares or understands, He sends some imploring soul my way to minister to my heart who asks questions and wants real answers. Who takes my concerns to the Lord on my behalf. These people are tangible reminders of His constant providence and presence in my life. Friends in the flesh. And I feel silly for ever fearing these things at all. Thank you to so many of you that have ministered His grace to me in this way.

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Has fear kept you from confiding in your close friends?
I would love to hear your experiences in the comment section below!

 

 

 

 

Filling in the Cracks

A date night, a pedicure, and a new hairstyle
(all provided by sweet missionary friends). 

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Family time at home and friend-made meals/”fat week.”

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Boating in Tennessee, and now camp at Fort Bluff.

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ImageHealing looks a lot different than I thought it would.

While I am painfully aware that none of these things can bring back my boy, I am pleasantly surprised how they have helped bring ME back little by little (and trust me, there’s a long way to go!). I should also mention that this version of myself I sense rising to the surface is not the same as the girl that walked into the ultrasound room on May 14; it’s a different “me,” forever changed, but, thankfully, not a finished product.

The Lord has shown Himself to me in BIG, incredible ways through my time with Him, and I am not discrediting that in ANY way. I praise Him for His faithfulness to speak to me through His Word and the Holy Spirit; I guess I just kind of figured that would happen! 

But He has also whispered His love to me through fuzzy feelings, comforting conversations, and summer sunsets. Perhaps, I have just become more sensitive to His hand in my life, more aware of His constant, comforting presence, and more in awe of the beauty that He surrounds me with to the point that EVERYTHING seems like a hand-crafted gift of love from my Father. I feel like a dried up sponge soaking up every drop of His goodness, and though my arms are empty, my heart feels full. Naturally, it remains, for the moment, broken, but I trust Him to continue to fill all the space the cracks provide with MORE of His overwhelming, perfect love and MORE of His boundless, infinite goodness.

He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds (Psalm 147:3).