Saturday, January 26

True we slow you down but we may not let criminals slip by.

I saw that painted on a Delhi Police roadblock and just immediately thought it would make a good blog title. I have no better explanation.

When I spotted the unapologetically pathetic excuse for inconvenience, i was on my way to the Burari region with pastor and the driver to do some house visits and take photos for the church members directory that i'm working on compiling. I really enjoyed the afternoon in the colorfully painted and bovine-saturated expanding district, seeing a few different families in their own setting. I got to take some pictures and hold a baby and walk down badly paved alleys in the sunshine; and who doesn't like an afternoon that's filled with those kind of things?
i was holding 3 month old Zebby while taking this picture.
Things still haven't fully settled from the holiday season, so I'm not on a set schedule yet. As a result, i get shifted around a little bit if there's a hole to be filled. Right now, that hole is in the PMI Burari English center. I'm doing more exclusive teaching there during the end of this month, instead of going once a week like I had been. I really enjoy teaching there, so I don't mind being sent out at all.
I was on my way there in an open tuk-tuk yesterday, watching the construction, cows and vendors rush by, feeling very thankful for the spring that's settling over us here.

Tonight was the annual church Family Meeting. After a day of preparations and short outings and watching Joy and Prakash dance to Justin Bieber, i went to where the CBC members gathered in a formal setting to work out vision and business and points of issue and interest together. It was not all exciting. It was not all agreement. But being able to see what happens behind the scenes in a relatively new church was really valuable to me. Being a part of such a member-driven congregation is really valuable to me. I started thinking during the meeting about how I feel at home, and then I started to think about when i'm going to leave. I just couldn't imagine leaving. I haven't felt like that in a long while, and it was really refreshing. I'm thankful today for feeling so much a part of something, so one with other people, that i can't imagine changing that.

And you know, if the police roadblocks did stop all the criminals in Delhi, we wouldn't be doing much driving. I'm not referencing the shop owners who cheat foreigners daily, the rampant personal crime in the streets, or the thieves who have taken valuable things from many people who are dear to me.
we are all criminals. we have no excuse. we are depraved and self-absorbed and wicked.
and we are offered such grace...

He didn't let me slip by. He stopped me, excused me, and He turned me around.

love from Delhi,
Julie, excused. 

Thursday, January 17

This one's all about Andrew.

Andrew has just left, not ten minutes ago, to fly back to California. In all likelihood, we'll not see each other again for close to a year.
  Naturally i'm aching, as much as if my soul were physical and it were absent.
but i know as you all know who have met him that i am blessed beyond what i ever once deserved in him.
I'm reminded again and again that this time to prepare myself to be a wife is invaluable. And how better to remind myself of that than time removed from the distraction of the bliss of closeness, a time that allows me the luxury of clarity, the availability of truth aside from emotion, the access to the parts of this relationship that will last forever, and the opportunity to make all of that real in a setting which reserves me for humble service and thereby inherently holds me focused on the most important aspect of the healthiest version of our union.
it's hard, but it's not too hard. it's so much, but it's not too much.
I'm confident the memories we made while he was visiting - the most excellent, most meaningful, and undoubtedly the most contented memories of our relationship to date - will hold me over until he holds me again.
Well, that and skype.

But speaking of memories, here's a really good one:
Our Engagement party on Tuesday Night.

We got to have a community gathering and celebration of our love, and both wore our new local outfits - I finally had a chance to wear the sari I bought at the trade fair in November, and Andrew wore a kurta he bought on this trip.
We had some fun games and a few sweet songs

and after all was said and done, they made us dance. (oh my.)

I danced with Joy for a little bit while everyone else got their groove on, because as I've  previously detailed, when you are wearing a sari as an inexperienced sari-wearer, there is no moment where you're not certain it won't spontaneously fall off of you. It was better for me to mellow this one out than break it down on the dance floor, though I clearly have the moves to be able to wow the crowd on a normal day:
 The gathering of our close friends here was a really special time for me. I know it was fun for everyone, but to be able to have a time of the fellowship that I cherish here based around an occasion of celebration and thankfulness was especially meaningful to me. I got to plan, I got to host, I got to invite, I got to give something back to people who have helped me so many times here. To be surrounded by their love as Andrew and I celebrated ours was everything I could ask for. 
To close, we asked everyone to pray for us. We sat in the middle of a cozy room filled with friends and they raised their hands in our direction, according to the Indian way, and prayed. There is a method here in prayer that is often used in which everyone prays audibly, but softly, at the same time - we call it simply "mass prayer". I have come to really love it, so I requested it for this time.  As I sat next to my fiancĂ©, holding his hands, I heard pieces of different prayers for the health of our love, our growth, our affection, and our selflessness. Oh, to string those pieces of prayers together and use them to adorn the household we will build! I simply couldn't express to you how heavy the memory of that moment weighs in my heart. I will take it with me forever. 

There are a lot of things that feel the same again with Andrew gone and me sitting on my bed in Delhi (surrounded by pathetic little used tissues. that's irrelevant), but many things also feel completely changed. One thing I loved about these first two weeks of being engaged was finding that I would express myself and address myself differently - even to the point of substituting a "we" for "I" in many cases. And that in itself is the best way I can express to you all the excitement and contentment rolled up in this season of my life - though there is time to wait, and though i'm again in some ways alone, i'm not just me anymore. I'm in a we.

that changes so much, and counts for inestimably more than i can say.
I miss you already, my 'darling', my 'hero'.

Love from Delhi,
Julie: one part of a "we".

Friday, January 11

Faith Alone

Quick recap of the last month:
Christmas happened. It was a blessing. The Good News was shared clearly and repeatedly.
I was struck that next Sunday morning by how truly ungrateful I have been in the past year, and resolved to praise the Lord - to be thankful for my life. HOW I have been blessed. 
That same Sunday afternoon, I was surprised (shocked) by my boyfriend who flew into Delhi a day earlier than I was expecting and proposed marriage to me within thirty seconds of finally seeing my face.
I said yes.  [FiancĂ©e status.]
The next day was New Year's Eve, when Andrew and I celebrated the one-year anniversary of our relationship on the rooftop of the building where we both lived in 2010, in the very spot where we had gazed at the full Delhi-colored moon and had many of our first meaningful conversations. It was unreal to stand in the same spot two and a half years removed and to realize it was both there that we met long ago, and there that we that day embraced; reunited, engaged. What a crazy blessing.

I don't usually do resolutions or the great beginning of the year self-improvement endeavor.
But along with a healthy dose of promises to myself, to kick off this new year I've been reading a book called "Women of Extraordinary Faith".  I've really been enjoying it, and I've really been challenged by it. It contains short biographies of 20 outstanding women who made a difference in the name of Christ; their stories span the time between the seventeenth century and the modern day. I don't think the book is exceptionally well-written. I'm not convinced the choice of heroines wasn't arbitrary. I'm not even entirely sure that all of the women share all of my exact doctrinal convictions. 
You see, it's not the author or these specific women who were extraordinary - what is extraordinary is the faith that they share.
These women come from a variety of backgrounds and have vastly different personalities, but there is one trend that I tend to notice among them:  from Mother Teresa to Mahalia Jackson, most of these women were in deep ways lonely people.  Though it seems these women didn't lament their lot in life, whether deserted by husbands, bereft of families, or unloved by their parents, they were all shaped by a sense of  'alone'.
Realizing this deeply impacts me. 
The more I learn about the realities of life, the more I learn about the human nature, the more I learn about marriage and the more people that I meet, the more I find it to be true that no matter how fulfilled anyone may seem they are never fully loved or understood by those who surround them. 
I fully believe that each of us has heights of passion and depths of despair set in motion by occurrences, truths, or ideals, combinations of which are shared by no other person alive.
Somehow, the best way that I've heard this summed up is in some advice that was given to me while I was single, working wedding photography to make my way to India. I was sighing about it, a little tired of being the third wheel. A friend told me, "Sure, it's no fun to go to a wedding alone. But you're not the only one there who is frustrated. Whether it be newlyweds disenchanted by marriage, middle-aged couples who are growing apart, or widows left without anyone's hand to hold: every person in that room is lonely somehow."
Yes, we need each other. But people don't meet all our needs. People aren't what we are longing for. Somehow in the human heart there must be a way to embrace the 'alone' and by means of extraordinary faith be shaped into a being reliant only on our Divine Father.
I pray this year before any other resolution that as I learn to be a wife, a woman, an ambassador, I will be characterized by the extraordinary faith that is available to every person who has been Saved by Grace 'alone'. 

Happy New Year!

Love from Delhi,