Saturday, December 22

on a day filled with babies, Christmas, and singing.

Regardless of how much you wanted to ignore it today,
today could have been the end of the world.
i know, i know, i'm sorry - but it was on your mind, and it was on mine, too.

i woke up thinking; "If today was really my last day to live, what would I regret?"

i kept thinking on it, and i even asked a few of my friends for their hypothetical regrets to get some perspective.

i pondered my question to myself through a staff meeting which involved a lot of Hindi brainstorming. Many things are happening at PMI. I'll keep you updated as they actually unfold, but know that I'm excited for some change, and praying for the best and wisest things. Continue to think of us as we seek the will of our watchful Father.

i took my thoughts with me to the house of a dear friend where I photographed her two-month old baby girl - though it was short, it was my first true photoshoot in months. Here's some fun things to know about me: 1) i really enjoy photography. 2) i love, love, love babies. Me and Athalia had some good times until i made her mad by putting her purple mittens on, but once she calmed down and i stopped taking pictures of her, she fell asleep in my arms while her mom made us both lunch. Her mom (Kham) and I got to have some really sweet and meaningful conversations - this lady is very creative, driven, serious, and honest. She has high expectations of those around her, and I enjoy her passionate attitude. She's a good lady, and a good mommy.

i kept thinking as i returned to PMI for yet another Christmas program. This particular program was organized by none other than the explosive and enthusiastic Praisey, my roommate and dear friend. It was the best program i've seen here by a long shot as far as smoothness and planning goes. My hat is off to the people involved -- they worked, they practiced, they operated according to plan and most importantly, they showed up.  i really enjoyed seeing the Nandlal kids from 6th-12th grade share what they had learned about Christmas and dance and sing and recite and act.

Immediately after the program, my thoughts and i were whisked away with nine other people in a minivan for another wonderful night of caroling. So much Hindi. So many dear friends. So much dancing. So much CHAI.  So much Truth.

after hours of singing, I came home to a package from America filled with Christmas cards from family. I sat down and read each one, touched by the combined effort and thoughtfulness involved in getting them to me. I treasured them, gathered them up, and wondered, "What if today was my last day to live?"

anything i have actively aspired to accomplish i've either done spontaneously or planned and brought to fruition by the grace of God. When I blush, i'm learning to trust. When I fail, i'm learning to laugh. When my heart is moved, i am learning to respond. Where i find love, i embrace it. When i feel frustrated, i look for beauty. When i look for beauty, i find it.

if today was my last day to live, it was a day filled with a chance to act out love toward all those i came in contact with, joy in both difficult and enjoyable circumstances, peace in the trials of my life and toward those who know only the tumult of hopelessness, patience with children and traffic and crowded resource centers, kindness in hugs to acquaintances, goodness by letting the Best News ring out in clear song in the streets, faithfulness by reading the Word of God and in a nightly email to my boyfriend, gentleness in handling a two month old and a two year old (as well as a couple of caustic situations), and self-control as i constantly learn to be quiet, to be gracious, and to be selfless.
if today was my last day to live, it was a day i knew intimately the Spirit of God, and sensed the opportunities He gave me to put Him on display.

if today was my last day to live, it wouldn't have been because the Mayans said so; it would have been because the Author of time decided before the formation of the earth that it would be so.

May He continuously guide my steps, as the world turns on.

love from Delhi,
Julie without regret. 

Sunday, December 16

duniya me aaya.

this is wonderful news!!!
Funny how things keep changing, huh? My two years here are turning out to be very little like I planned for them to be. I'll still get to take a mini trip over the border every six months, but I can come back any time I want.  Originally I was planning on doing some work in neighboring countries for a couple of months at a time twice a year -- now I can come right back and keep working where my heart is. Now I get to be here for Holi, the most colorful of the Indian holidays, and experience the ripening Eastern summer.

Some more news that is not so wonderful::
Ok, so I bought a moped, right? It's cute and it's awesome and I rode it a couple of times. But it was impractical. And i was never able to get it registered. Then last week, I got a quote of $800 to fix my computer. Instead of doing that... I've decided just to get a new one. I'll have my boyfriend-bearing-gifts bring it to me from the states, i think! :) So in order to get the money to pay for that, I'm selling the moped. I tried to be cute and independent, guys, it just wasn't in the cards for me. But hey! The new computer will be nice!

The past three days have been full and especially meaningful. PMI has started its Christmas parties... seriously, hold on; they're underway. Off the top of my head I can count nine that i'm invited to or helping with - there is one for every branch of outreach. I thought i would be overwhelmed by all the programs, but I've made it through two so far and find myself blessed in their wake - it's wonderful to celebrate corporately in community, and it's wonderful to remember the miracle we commemorate. On the thirteenth, PMI also held a blanket drive. We drove late into the night distributing hundreds of blankets to the cold bodies housing the precious souls who sleep on the streets. It was a very moving and heart-stretching thing to see the way things go in the the open air of Old Delhi at night. The first blanket I gave to someone was almost immediately stolen off of his sleeping body by a well-dressed man who, i'm told, probably went straightaway to sell it back to the shop where we bought it. I saw men and teens huddled in groups and taking drugs together, which is not something i'd ever witnessed firsthand. I saw a family with two young children and a baby on the sidewalk sleeping together through the drizzling night. I watched a friend of mine briefly share the Truth of Love and the Greatest Gift - the reason for our love and our giving that night - over and over again.
I think I liked the blanked drive so much because it was similar to what I feel I'm doing here. I can't change everyone's life. I can't give all these wanting people everything that they need. But i can do small things that may in the long run make some difference. I can encourage, i can share, i can put forth an effort that lets people know love in a place that does not often love them. Regardless of who I am with or who I am trying to reach, this, i feel, is my mission here: to do small things with the power of great love for the purpose of encouraging and strengthening the Father's priceless children.

Here it is, mid-December. Here we are, doing urban Work for the Greatest Reason. Here i am, a member of a Family who knows the miracle of this season. Here twice this week, i've found myself with them out caroling! We often sing Hindi carols - songs which have adopted both the depth of the meaning of Christmas and the gorgeous haunting quality of the typical Indian melody (it's not just with their food that these friends of mine prove my heritage bland). We marched and drummed and stood and drank so much chai from so many friendly houses. I found myself gaily harmonizing, clapping, and dancing in a circle of my brothers and sisters. We rode in a school bus to each of our destinations singing and laughing all the way. I enjoyed watching out the windows as our voices, mingled with the resonance of guitar and djembe, rang out on the streets and people turned to hear, to see.
There we were, redeeming the din of Delhi. There we were, making sure there was someone in Delhi dancing because the Truth had set them free instead of dancing because tradition had stolen their hope by telling them to. There we were, singing to Delhi the Best News. There we were, beautifying the noise of the city by transforming it into praise.
Praise is potent. Fellowship is dynamic. Service is significant.

and carols hold all the goodness of Christmas.
येशु मसीह की - जय !
Yeshu Masih ki - Jai!
Love from Delhi,
Julie. Caroling.

Sunday, December 9

Five Years

Yesterday was the five year anniversary of CBC, the Family I'm a part of here.

A few of us stayed up late decorating the center for the celebration. I was so impressed with and blessed by the hard work of the members who served with us to finish everything and make it ready for the service the next day. Heather made a beautiful timeline of photos that took up the entire wall, starting with the formation of the Family in December, 2007. It was amazing to see how far they've come, and to hear stories of people who have come to know the Father as a direct result of the work of these dedicated believers.
The morning of the 8th, the members came to find encouraging testimonial notes from people who had been sent out from here, or who have come and gone, along with the hundreds of pictures documenting the growth of the Body. The celebration service was a truly encouraging time for me personally, even though I have not been here to see the transformation and growth. To hear the testimonies of these members of the difference this Family has made in their lives, to see the way it is truly a clear evidence of the faithfulness of God and a manifestation of that faithfulness to others - it's moving and humbling. Five years ago I was finishing my first semester of college, with no knowledge whatsoever that i'd get to be a part of the story of this Fellowship that was forming. Now here I am, with them, loving them - I even got to take part in an a capella choir piece sung in the service, for which we all wore traditional Northeast Indian dress.
Peter and Heather's administrators and dear friends Jim and Marilou came in to be able to take part in the occasion. Jim gave a special message and towards the end he said,
"I'm thankful to be associated with you.
I'm thankful to be able to know what God will do through you."
I feel the same way.

It's not easy to take broken people and bring them together in such a way that they edify each other with their complimenting strengths and forgive each other corporately for their weaknesses. It can't be done perfectly anywhere, but it is being done exceedingly well here. So many people are serving others instead of taking from others, and as is evident from their celebration of the past five years and vision for the future, they don't intend to stop working towards excellence in servanthood.

Keep us in your prayers as we seek to glorify the One who has given us His righteousness in exchange for our wretchedness. May we forsake all the wretchedness in us, and rest in His perfection.

Love from Delhi,
Julie - one part of a body.

Sunday, December 2

The Cultural Current

"Better is one day in your courts
than thousands elsewhere."

i haven't updated in quite some time -- i'm going to blame it on the fact that right after thanksgiving, my computer crashed and my internet fizzled out, and then on tuesday my wallet was stolen. I've been busy trying to resolve those issues, and i'm two for three so far... I'm updating today from a borrowed laptop because mine is still giving me trouble.
Because i don't have my computer, i also don't have photoshop available to me to convert my pictures into usable files - so i'm getting very backed up! I've been to two gloriously colorful and ceremonious Hindu weddings, and when i get a chance to edit there will be lovely, lovely pictures.

Yesterday was the concert that we have been practicing for for over a month. I heard from multiple people that it was going to be a real professional production, so because of my three months of experience instead of expecting a real professional production, i prepared myself for India to transform that definition in a way i couldn't possibly imagine beforehand.
I was glad i did that.
We arrived for the 2pm soundcheck and the stage was about halfway set up. The four of us in our band sat and waited for everything to be ready, and chatted amongst ourselves. While we waited I just watched everything coming together. I've noticed here that there are often too many people assigned to one task, and yesterday was no exception. It results in one person doing the work, two people pointing at him and barking opposing suggestions, and three or four standing with their weight on one leg and one hand on their chin. This fabulous cultural method allows a drumset to take 35 minutes to set up - incorrectly. (yes, i timed them.)
It seems to me like there would be enough for everyone to work on when you're three hours behind schedule for a "professional production", but apparently I'm wrong on that, since there were workers gazing, lounging, and smoking throughout the setup. One guy was more interested in what i was doing than what he was being paid to do, and just stood across the arena (in a cuter sweater than me, by the way) staring at me intently with deep, black eyes.
On the ground in front of the stage setup were three or four men and some wood. One grabbed a hammer and started deconstructing whatever structure it had once been fashioned into. I thought they were just getting the wood out of the way, or that maybe they needed one board to stabilize something - but then he pulled out the nails. As the reality set in that yes, they were taking apart pieces of wood to create something completely new that was necessary for the concert which was starting in right around an hour, i began raising my eyebrows and shaking my head. it was too much. i turned suddenly and asked our drummer Siddharth, "WHAT are they BUILDING?" i burst out laughing, and didn't even try to stop myself. I laughed harder than i have laughed in a very long time.
"You should put this in your blog," Siddharth said after chuckling with me. "A professional concert with a three hours late soundcheck, a guy in a sparkly sweater, and these guys building... that." He smiled, understanding my incredulity, and finished with "that would be good."

हिंदुस्तान है |
This is India.

The concert went smoothly on the whole, and the Good News was shared. We enjoyed our time together with friends, and I believe that God was glorified. It was a great opportunity, and one I never expected to have. I'm thankful for the platform from which to proclaim Truth, and the opportunity to work with the talented guys who formed the band.
Regardless, the situation was very indicative of my larger experience with Delhi.
I've learned not to take anything very seriously anymore, and to smile as India sweeps you along in its own way. I'm caught in the cultural current...
'what to do?'
Now seems a relevant time to include a quote that i've been holding onto since the journey over here.
On the plane from Dallas to London, the first movie that played was "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel". It's a movie about senior citizens who move to India and their respective methods of coping with culture shock. Regrettably i fell asleep in the middle of it, but before i did i heard Judi Dench narrating over a clip of herself buying vegetables from a subjiwalla,
"...but gradually you realize it's like a wave: resist, and you'll be knocked over; but dive in, and you'll come out the other side."
I have spent three months, and will undoubtedly spend the rest of my traveling years, living and learning this poignant truth.

Last Sunday we sang the song Better is One Day. As the reality of India sets in, there are things that I long for in my home. But as we sang this song from my past, for the first time my heart understood its lesson. Better is one day drawing near to the throneroom of my gracious Father with confidence than one thousand comfortable American days. Better anywhere He uses me than anywhere that is easy for me. Better grace than comfort. Better Him than anything. To know Him is to know true contentment, rest, and peace. To know Him is to have the key to successfully diving into the cultural current.

I'm still praying i'll come out the other side!

Love from one day in Delhi,
julie forsaking a thousand days elsewhere.