Monday, January 28, 2008

Worship Session

Here is a picture of all of the Michael Grandkids dancing to a little worship music this week.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Living on India Time

Three nights this week we have made plans to go out and visit the annual festival thingy here in Hyderabad. The plan was to be ready by sixish and we’ll go. So I dressed our little girl up, washed the thick layer of dirty pollution off of her, and was ready to go by sixish. Then seven came, then eight, by 8:30, Isabelle was out like a light. So much for that idea. By the end of the second night I was getting real tired of Indian time. But what can you do? When in Rome….

So I have devised some activities to distract myself and Isabelle while we are killing time waiting to leave/eat/sleep/whatever. The first line of defense is a walk around the neighborhood. I will start off by saying that the idea of walking to go nowhere is a complete foreign concept to most Indians and I have a difficult time getting anyone, including my husband to do this with me. The one exception to this is my daughter who will use any form of manipulation known to an 18 month old and go with virtually anyone to get out the front door of the house.

As we walk around, we stop and stare at stray dogs and stray water buffalo. We also stop and watch the neighborhood kids play cricket. I’ve even tried my hand at it…and it seems like all of those years of little league have paid off…I can bat like an old pro.

But what I’ve discovered is that whenever I step out of the door of the house, within five minutes, I have gathered a crowd. This morning there were about 20 little school girls gathered around us, taking kisses from Isabelle and saying in their little Indian English, “Nice baby, Auntie. Nice nice baby.” Isabelle took it for all of about ten seconds before going ballistic.

A few days ago I had a group of about 20 boys from the cricket field gathered around asking me questions in Telegu and English. We were having a nice conversation and I had a nearly insurmountable desire to start yelling, “Square off, square off, Pod up, Pod up.” And even started thinking of ways to bring in the net. (If this doesn’t make sense to you…it’s okay, you are certainly in the majority.) This was before my husband, who was playing cricket in the street with our nephews saw me and came running with a concerned look on his face. I told him no worries, I was used to drawing a crowd!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

We fight not against flesh and blood

My first trip to India 10 years ago was filled with a series of really odd events that led me to believe that the enemy of our souls took a more direct route to destruction here in India than the subtle tactics used on us in the States. In fact, the spiritual oppression in India was so intense that first trip that I couldn't stop crying for the first three days I landed in this country.

Last night was another odd occasion. We had just gone to bed and Isabelle had been asleep for some time. All of the sudden, she started screaming, and kicking, and fighting, and punching us as hard as she could. This is so out of the ordinary...we had never even seen anything even remotely like this from her before.

After a few minutes of trying to comfort her to no avail, I started to undress her to see if there was anything "wrong" that I could see. Nothing. After about 10 minutes of our inconsolable child, Conrad's two brothers heard the odd commotion and came upstairs. We already felt like it was something beyond physical...but really a spiritual attack on our daughter and had begun praying. They joined us and we took her out on the veranda and continued praying until she finally (after about 45 minutes) fell asleep.

In my mind, I was still wondering if there was an ear infection or a belly ache. But there were no other symptoms and this morning she awoke fine and happy as a clam.

Being in India always reminds me, to spite our little suburban bubble that my life tends to be, that there really is a battle raging out there. It is for the hearts and lives of precious people, including our daughter. I guess you could say we got a little reality check yesterday.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Our First Family Party

Sunday evening we went to our first family party of the trip. Again, if you haven’t’ read of my recounting of family parties from our last trip to India, I’ll sum up. Family parties here mean big tents, 300 guests. So when said relative invited us Sunday morning at church for that evening, I eventually got around to asking what we were celebrating. The answer I got was, well, it’s kind of like a birthday party. Kinda like? What does that mean? Then I asked how are we related to said relative. The answer I got, “I don’t know.”

Later I asked my sister in law, Anthony Mary, what this celebration was for and she said the young girl officially began womanhood, so we have a party. Wonderful….a party to celebrate THAT. When we arrived, the mother (relationship to Conrad still unknown) kissed me and ushered me off to take pictures with said young girl. When I met her I said, “Congratulations!” Is that what one says on such occasions? I have no earthly idea.

Anyway we stood and took pictures with her for about twenty minutes. Everyone wanted pictures with the family Gori (foreigner) I guess. Isabelle had a wonderful time being a sheer terror and running from relative to relative and dancing. This kid loves to dance. Put on a Bollywood tune and watch her spin.

Sunday also marked Isabelle’s first Auto Rickshaw ride. Five of us in a little auto. Isabelle, not only free from her car seat, but free from things like seatbelts and doors…and in Indian traffic. This is certainly a conscientious parents worst nightmare. Lucky for us, we are not conscientious, but this mode of transport with a wiggling kid is still a challenge. I’m beginning to understand why Indian mothers take their children virtually no where.

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Indian Church

Sunday we went to church with our family here in India. We enjoyed this so much. We arrived 5 minutes before the service and unfortunately too late to sit in the main sanctuary, but were seated (separately) in one of two overflow’s with about 700 others.

If you’ve ever traveled to other countries, church there sometimes tends to be like visiting a church in the US about 15 years ago. They are singing songs we sang in the 80’s or early 90’s and you even will hear the pastor telling antidotal stories that your American Pastor used 15 years ago. All a little surreal. My favorite is (and all of my ORU friends will appreciate this one) “Hold up your Bible and say, I am what this Bible say’s that I am, and I can do what this Bible says I can do.” Sorry, I’m off on one of my tangents again.

But this church wasn’t quite like that. It was good Word, good worship (Chris Tomlin songs!)…and they even had children’s church! Although Isabelle was a bit young to enjoy this aspect, it was really good to know our Indian niece and nephews were benefiting from this.

After church we shuffled off to get coffee and snacks and fellowship. As we were standing in line, a lady and her daughter came up to Isabelle and I and started talking to us. She looked familiar but I couldn’t place her, then I realized that we had chatted with them in the airport in Dubai and flew to Hyderabad with them! Such a small world!

Never Met a Stranger

I wanted to get a jump on what is happening on our trip. After all, how can you encapsulate two and a half weeks of baby first, family gatherings, and deep thoughts into one or two post trip posts??

To begin with…thank you for all of your prayers because Isabelle did great! Thank you prayer…and well, let’s be honest…thank you Benedryl. Yes. My name is Danielle and technically I drugged my daughter. It seemed the humane thing to do with a toddler on a 12 hour flight.

But the interesting thing about flying with Isabelle is that she makes friends with everyone. She will pick out the most staunch man in the area. Walk right up to him, get square in his face and stare until he looks at her. Then she will flash him a big big smile and wave, “Hi.” Needless to say, she didn’t meet one stranger the entire trip.

We arrived after about 24 hours of flights and layovers only to meet with lovely Indian hospitality…errr I should say Indian inefficiency! Three hours worth of trying to collect our luggage. My child was delirious, or maybe that was simply my perspective…through delirious eyes! By the time we got out of the airport, our family had left, figuring we missed our flight in Dubai. So we waited again. Good times at the exciting Hyderabad airport at 6am!

But on to happier things….

We arrived and woke the kids up. Conrad’s brother, who flew with us, has been separated from his family for the last 7 years got to meet his 7 year old son for the first time this morning! How cool it was to witness this…I could hardly keep from crying! But I didn’t, and I fit in perfectly with my emotionally reserved Indian family…there was no crying….probably just on the inside

Friday, January 18, 2008

We're Here

Thirty plus hours of travel and we have arrived safely in Asia. Isabelle was a trooper and a well behaved non screaming baby 99% of the time. I have no deep thoughts for you today. Only a bit jetlagged out of my mind. I will comment for all of my PD friends. Traveling with one baby...definately more work that 100 teenagers! For one, I definately have to carry more stuff!

Everyone is catching up and enjoying the grandbaby. Everyone is home now here in Conrad's one missing. I think this is the first time in about 10 years that all four of the brothers have been together. Wow, huh?

Pictures to come, if our camera wasn't swiped from our bags...haven't checked yet. Two still missing...including the one with all of Isabelle's clothes. Good times.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The dream that isn't

It looks like our dream house is done. It is beautiful. Unfortunately, present house hasn't sold yet. I thought I would show you pictures of our perfect new house that may not every's all good....*sigh*

Friday, January 11, 2008

Under Cover of Night....

As we have been making plans and preparations for our trip to India, I have been making packing lists for the trip. What should I pack to wear? No shorts or sleevless tops are appropriate for India, so that leaves me with…sweaters. Ummm…no. It is winter in India, but winter there is our dead of summer here. A nice balmy 85 degrees. So back to square one, what should I bring to wear?

Well, I settled on a half dozen salwar kameez that I had made while I was there last time with a smattering of western clothes. I figured I’ll just have a few more made while I am there to complete my Indian wardrobe. If you have never worn Indian clothes, they are wonderful! I highly recommend them. Comfy pajama like pants, long flowy, short sleeve tops, and beautiful chunni’s (Scarves) that cover everything up modestly. Very complimentary to most figures and shapes.

How it works there is you go to a big store and pick out the matching set of material. Millions of options! That costs you about $3. Then you take it to your local tailor who measures you and makes you a beautiful custom fit outfit for around $5. Not a bad deal and honestly better than packing and carrying all of my crap across the globe.

But that brings me to my story, the last time we were in India I was wearing one of my beautiful new salwar kameez suits and we were at a Conrad’s uncle’s house. It was the one year anniversary of his Aunt Agne’s death(a tradition common in Indian Catholic homes). Whom we named Isabelle Agnes after and they had planned this party around our trip so we could be there. There were probably several hundred people there. Big tents were set up. A bunch of the ladies were in the living room having a prayer meeting (which is another aspect of the celebration). I was in one of the bedrooms with a few of Conrad’s cousins chatting and talking.

Suddenly, the electricity went out. So I jumped up to go check on Isabelle, who was sleeping on her Amama’s lap. When I took two steps, my cool pajama pants fell right down to my ankles! I started laughing, as I quickly pulled them up and tightened that tricky little draw string. Everyone wanted to know what I was cracking up about, so I told them and they thought it sooo funny and what a rookie mistake. Apparently there are tricks to these little outfits. Lucky for me and my modesty, it was pitch black and no one saw a thing!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Like Spray on Hair?

Right after college I went over seas for about two and a half months, and while I was overseas I got an offer to work at Teen Mania. So, what was a mission’s lovin’ girl supposed to do but pack all of her recently unpacked stuff up and move a thousand miles away from her home town…technically only a few hundred miles more than she was living in college.

I moved to Tyler, TX (recently known for the cannibalist murdering boyfriend) with a pick up load of stuff and myself. I moved into a little studio apartment with my bed, a futon, and an ikea like fold up kitchen table. I think that pretty much sums up my furniture.

Soon after I got there I found a cheap overstuffed white chair that I loved. At that time, I thought it was super top notch. My sole piece of real post dormitory furniture. Ten years later, and several moves, this white chair is DINGY but still in fairly good shape(you can see the out of place chair in the picture here). It’s in our bedroom…even though it matches nothing. I keep a throw over it, and have even tried the occasional chair cover but I hate chair covers. And I loathe the idea of getting rid of the chair…my first non-futon furniture! Even tho I don’t use it often…it’s my Quiet Time Chair! I love this chair.

Then I got a book on upholstering your own furniture. I thought, I’ll salvage the chair with beautiful new material from JoAnn Fabric! I know Ruthie Stenner does it all the time. But when I got the book, it lost me at Step 1: Measure the arm of the chair. So check that option off of the list.

Then I found, on line….paint your own furniture. Seriously, PAINT your own furniture. The ad says, choose a color darker than your upholstery, spray on a couple of layers, leave it for 72 hours and voila, beautiful like-new furniture. It even stays “soft.” Seriously, PAINT your own furniture. I was laughing out loud when I found this, but now I’m thinking, what have I got to lose? Should I try it, it seems a little like spray on hair!?

Monday, January 07, 2008

One Sunday Down

After a weekend of running around like a chicken with its head cut off, we accomplished our first Sunday at church with children’s ministry. Shew. And wouldn’t you know it, this Sunday’s lesson included making homemade play dough…with 40 kids. I’ll just leave that mess to your imagination.

All together it was good. Controlled chaos, but probably better than we expected. Of course, this curriculum is on a constant continuation, so we kind of jumped in in the middle. Every month is a new “value” that we talk about all month. Usually the values are things like Righteousness, Kindness…you know fruit of the Spirit kind of stuff. This month, we started out our new curriculum with Orderliness. Yes, indeed…try to sell that one to a group of fifth grade boys.

Our memory verse for the month is, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.” Ephesians 5:15-16. I have to say, in light of getting ready for this new program, I have been telling others (in my head mostly, not out loud) the importance of planning ahead to “make the most of every opportunity.” I’m not sure if I’m learning new things or just getting ammunition to support my neurosis.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Who loves you?

I have trained Isabelle to answer the question, "Who loves you?" with a solid "Mama" But others in her life have tried to sabotage my little stronghold. For months Isabelle has answered that question with "Mama." But recently, she changed her tune....

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Back in the Trenches

Today officially feels like vacation is over. In spite of the fact that we never really had many days off, things still felt “vacationy” over the last couple of weeks. Traffic was lighter, Isabelle stayed at home with Oma and Opa, half of everyone was gone, so most projects were on hold till after the New Year. Not to mention it seemed like the other half of everyone got sick and was out of commission.

But today, as we drove to the office, 15 minutes late and in bumper to bumper traffic I knew life was officially back to normal and things could no longer be put off. So we took down the Christmas decorations a couple of days ago and I went back to the gym (I was on sick sabbatical…that’s legitimate, right?), and I cooked dinner yesterday instead of coping out with a quick fix meal or a pizza suggestion. Life as usual.

And, I jumped back into preparations for our Kids Church kick off on Sunday. As usual in ministry settings, you are always short on three things:
1. Money
2. Time
3. Volunteers

I think that about covers it. So we are scrambling with our staffing gaps and our own lack of time while juggling family and jobs. I’m trying to convince myself (because I haven’t been “feelin” in lately) that the reality of the situation is what we always tell our teams on Summer Missions Trips, “No matter how good or bad our ministry tool(drama) is, without the Presence of God to show up and change people’s lives, we are just a bunch of kids flopping around the pavement.” I know that the same is true here. Without the Presence of God showing up to change our kids (and US!) we are just a bunch of parents running around like chickens with our heads cut off!

I know that, and believe it profoundly. But, that doesn’t change the fact that the tool (curriculum) we are using is GREAT, but requires lot’s of grunt work and preparation. Did I do enough to prepare?? I still remember Michelle F, speaking at PD camp, “Preparation brings peace.” Where is my peace???
If you remember, keep us in your prayers on Sunday, we are expecting big things from God!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

An Uneventful New Year

We had a great low key New Years. Since Conrad and I had to work New Years Eve we didn’t want to make any big plans. Not to mention, our one year old isn’t much of a party girl after 8ish. So we got some Mexican food and went home to watch a couple of movies.

We watched a pseudo Indian movie . It was in English mostly and took place in America, but it was about a Bengali family. It was Bollywood in the fact that it was NEVER ENDING! Dear lord, we had to watch three generations grow up before the movie concluded. I do love Bollywood movies, but they are LOOOOONNNNNG. In fact, Conrad and I get a huge kick out of movies that highlight Indian American mixed culture because it highlights some of the funny things we argue about.

I also love reading books about India. It helps explain the finer points of Indian Culture that my husband shrugs off with a “I don’t know WHY, Honey.” In fact, I’m not so sure men even see some of the finer points of their own culture. I’m convinced culture is established, maintained, and enforced solely by women.

One of my favorite books is called Mango Season. It’s about an Indian girl who came to the US to work after college and the four rules her Hyderabadi family gave her as she left to live in America:
1. Save money
2. Save money
3. Save money
4. Don’t marry an American

If you’ve ever known an Indian living in American, especially a single one, you know that they will live in small apartments, with little luxury, pay as little as they can for everything and love to hide tens of thousands of dollars in places like, under their mattress. My dad calls Indians the Jews of Asia. Now, when their families come over, things change. They buy nice real estate in good school districts and safe cars…that cold hard cash comes in handy at this point. Education and Safety are cornerstones of Indian Values.

The main character of the book comes home to India with the intention of telling her parents that she has an American FiancĂ©e, which she had never mentioned before. But they have different plans. The trip is filled with “meetings” of potential spouses. It’s hilarious. I also learned new hindi words, like Mahkichoos (PRONOUNCED: Mah-Kee-Choos). This means so stingy that if a fly lands in your tea, you would kill the fly and suck the tea from the fly. There's your word for the day.