a heart’s longing for what it cannot have

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I miss India tonight.

There is a longing inside of me that I cannot even describe, but I feel it burning in my heart and watering up in my eyes as I sit in a quiet house after everyone else has finally gone to bed.

I have too much to do, as usual. So much so that nothing ever feels done, completed. Maybe you feel like that, too? I’ve been running this race for so long now it simply feels like normal life and honestly I don’t think I’ve paused much over the past year to process all that has happened to us. To me. The changes, the trials, the losses, and the gains. There have been many of each over the past 12 months and it all feels like an emotional blur, one I’ve basically numbed because I’ve convinced myself I don’t have time to dwell, only to move forward and do the next thing. Or the next ten things.

Maybe that’s why I miss my India days so much right now. Life there had a simplicity, that, admittedly, felt monotonous to me most days. But I find myself longing for a time and place I can never have again, and goodness, it hurts in a way I never expected.

Because honestly I never expected to miss India with this sort of raw emotion. The mosquitoes, the smog, the rickshaw drivers always overcharging (seriously y’all, I would argue about a $3 dollar ride home!)

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I knew I would miss people, food, historic places all within 10 minutes of our house. But I miss crazy things right now.

I miss seeing elephants and camels on the way to church, because, you know, we basically took the kids to the zoo every time we drove around.

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I miss markets that are crowded and full of produce, and flies.

I miss the parathas Ruma made me for lunch every week and how I lathered them in Dahi.

I miss how everything felt so alive and real and chaotic. And I felt so alive, real, and chaotic.

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I miss the sweet friends my kids made over the years at their school.

I miss the precious friends I left behind because Skype doesn’t cut it and the time difference is the worst for conversation.

I miss my terrace and plants and cool mornings when we could sit outside and have breakfast before the afternoon heat drove us indoors.img_20140202_140143

I miss the feeling of accomplishment after a trip to Big Bazaar. (No, I don’t need whitening deodorant, but thanks!)

I miss the feeling of being tucked safely into our home in the evening, all of us together– hot and sweaty and grateful for AC. All of our parents were still with us then and we knew they would be waiting for us eagerly whenever we arrived in ATL again.

Life overseas was difficult and stretching, but it didn’t leave us the same people we were when we left and that is a good thing.

It’s not to say that right now I don’t love where we live or think we should have stayed. It was time to leave. But the longing for simply one day back in that time is in my heart tonight, even though it isn’t possible. And that’s ok. Longing  and grieving are all part of life, and I probably need to make more space to feel these things so they don’t hit me all of a sudden.

And perhaps it’s the knowing that life hums right along, even after you leave, and I’ve started to feel like the 5+ years there were a bit of a dream even though my heart feels different, a little more squishy and free. And I can’t help but see life in a completely different way now.

So if you can travel, do it. And if you can live abroad, even for a few months, do it. It will mess you up in all the good ways, and if it doesn’t, you weren’t there long enough. Or you didn’t let the culture into your heart, which takes a while for some people (insert awkward cough).

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Obligatory sweaty Taj Mahal photo taken a million years ago.

The Joy of Moving Forward

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We moved this summer and began a new life in Charlotte. And what a breath of fresh air it has been. To be free of the strain that Atlanta had; to be with groups of people ready and eager to come alongside us and who are eager to know us… well, it’s life-giving. Some places just carry too much baggage and too much history to be safe places. Atlanta is that for me.

So we’ve settled into our new lives and new roles we were given overnight. Jon is thriving. The school the big kids are in is a healing environment for them and I am thankful.

AshaBelle even has new fans. This is huge for me. I’ve known for a long time that AshaBelle was not mine to carry all alone, but I had no idea who would need to come alongside us. I’m still not exactly sure, but I know that God wants more women here to be a part of empowering other women around the world and it’s an exciting time to be sure.

Seeing lights come on for people as they realize that they can be part of the solution for helping other women rise out of poverty. This is huge. What an amazing movement it would be to have thousands of women empowering other women to be able to provide for themselves and their families. No charity, just mutual respect and a cheering section. We all need one of those from time to time.

What’s Next?

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The exciting (and slightly overwhelming) thing is we are moving… again! This time to a new city (Charlotte) so my husband can take a ministry job doing all the things he loves. We are only going to be four hours away from family, and we are excited about the move and what it could mean to our family– a season of settling down and sinking in deep– but we are still facing another significant change only a short while after several other changes in our lives. And to tell you honestly, I am a bit raw and already grieving the losses as I look at a handful of good things that happened while we were here during this season.

As someone who has gone through a number of transitions over the past 10 years, I know the settling into a new place will take time. Building relationships, setting up house, finding the grocery stores I like, etc., all of these things will take time. But because we are excited about the move, I’m hoping this will make it easier to navigate.

But there is also another side to all this change. The reality that I am one person with limited capabilities and time and energy. That there needs to be some margin carved into my life of I’m going to burn out on all the good things.

As the months have ticked by and my stamina seemed to have waned, I decided that I needed to say no to some things. Good things, for sure, but in my season as a mother of five children 12 and under, the pressures began to pile up and I’ve felt, as Bilbo Baggins says, “Sort of stretched, like too little butter scraped over too much bread.” And so I made the decision that I needed to step back from IndiAanya and see what might happen.

So I did. A little. And there were others to fill in the gaps. But there is still more stepping back to be done to make way for the new things God is putting before me and my family this next season. Saying no to something I’ve created and still feel passionate about is hard. So very hard. And there’s no guarantee anyone will pick up my pieces. And I have to be ok with that, even though that’s hard, too.

But God has given us these wonderful children, and a business to run, and a marriage to maintain. All of these take a great deal of work, too. And if I’m honest I’ll tell you that I haven’t done anything particularly well in a long time. I have managed, but I have not thrived. And I’m tired of simply managing. Well, really, I’m tired.

When I look back on the past year, I’m afraid to say this will be known as the season of losses, of transitions, and of goodbyes. And it kinda hurts in a lot of ways right now because there is almost too much to process. And too much to pack… especially when I just unpacked  it all in December.

So there has been much seeking the Lord in the gaps and spaces of quiet, and sometimes in the not-so-quiet. There have been tears and flutters of anticipation mixed with the feeling of let’s just get on with things. Being half melancholy and half choleric works like that at times.

I know our time here has not been wasted, even though it hasn’t gone as I imagined it would. That we were able to be here when my family went through our greatest loss yet. That the place we’ve been in has somehow brought us a measure of healing and calm because we have been able to enjoy the outdoors and watch the seasons change in a beautiful setting and be near family. And we have been forced to take time to heal where otherwise we would have just jumped into the next thing if it had been available at the time.

This space will most likely continue to be sporadically maintained. There seems to be so much more to do in a day than there is time for and writing has been put in last place.

At least for now.

 

 

On Turning 40 and a Loss

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Today I turn 40.

When I thought about writing this post a month ago I had some vague thoughts about sharing what turning 40 looks like for me. Throwing in a bit of humor and a dash of snarkiness about getting older and all that entails when you are a mother of five and try to jump on a trampoline. Some of you know what I’m talking about.

I still may write that post. But not today. March has looked different than I expected. A joyful month typically full of family birthdays, springtime shopping and new life budding all around, has been one of sorrow, loss and questions…

This article was first posted on IndiAanya, and you can read the rest over there. Thanks for stopping by!

On Being Small

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It has been an interesting few days. And by interesting I mean weird, unsettling and eyeopening in hard ways.

I have wrestled with the new normal of American life that everyone here is “busy” and to be a part of people’s lives plans have to be made months in advance. And how this doesn’t seem to be connecting people more, but keeping them even more isolated as they run around from good thing to good thing filling in gaps with Facebook or Instagram posts along the way.

I have allowed someone’s negative opinion about me get under my skin and wrestled with the truth that people believe too much of what they hear without considering the source.

And I have felt small. So very, very small. I have felt the enemy creep up on me big time telling me my work doesn’t matter and that my life is too small to count. And that the world isn’t interested in my small work, women, poverty or anything that is on the fringes. That this world is only interested in BIG things that are flashy, provocative and screaming for attention.

And I’ve always found it deeply ironic that God chose to use someone who prefers quiet introspection and long-talks over coffee, to lead a business that sells something. By nature, talking about myself and products and this sort of hustle does not come easily. Not because I don’t value these things or believe in them, but because I never want people to think I have wrong motives–that I’m a salesperson first. I have been self-conscious of this my entire life– at times, pridefully so if I’m honest. In my head I know there is a time to promote the things we are passionate about, things that are good. It’s simply difficult for me to walk this line.

So I’m struggling to find my way here.

How to not get caught up in the busy that makes others feel small; how to live a life that feels authentic and real and full, and has space for interruptions and small-living; how to not feel that smallness is a liability in a culture that says it is; how to communicate with people who have so much, still want more and are seemingly never satisfied; how to share this story of hope, life-change and empowerment in a way that connects women all over the world as those who have voices speak for those who don’t and give them hope.

There’s been a lot rattling around lately as you can see.

And at the heart of all this, I know I  really need own the truth that I am complete–even if I am small– because Christ says so. Not because people have time for me or don’t, and not because I fail or succeed in business, or people say things about me to others.

I am complete because Christ says I am.

And I wonder if we all owned our completeness in Christ and lived in light of this how different our communities, our world would be.

And maybe I’m not the only one who struggles with these thoughts on a Thursday morning.

With feeling small.

With feeling unknown.

With feeling not enough.

And I wish that by the end of this post I could tie things up with a bright red ribbon, but I think I’m going to have to sit in this for a while until the truth roots deep in my heart.

For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.b

So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. (Col. 2:9-10)

 

When Your TCK Grieves, You Do Too

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This morning I opened email as usual, but one particular message made me pause, and out of nowhere I suddenly felt a knot in my throat and then the tears started to spill. And this was before I even opened it.

There was nothing significant in the email, in fact, it wasn’t even intended for me. It was what it symbolized: the deep sense of loss inside of me lately as we sit smack dab in the middle of a million unknowns. It was an email from our boys’ old school in Delhi informing them of the adventure camp coming up. The adventure camp that my eldest loved and has such wonderful memories and stories to tell from every time he went.  The camp that challenged me in hard ways to let go a little and let them explore their world as they took buses out of Delhi and around mountains.

The emotions tied to the email hit me hard. Harder than I would have expected. Because the absolute worst part of the move back to the US has been what my older boys left behind. Hands down. This has been gut-gnawing and painful in so many ways. I have grieved for our children and their losses; I have grieved for the friends they left behind who were so close to my boys because their friendship had grown over the five years we were there. I have grieved for the lack of community now and how they are trying to understand this new place and make peace with the fact that most people do not give a rip about their old lives or understand what they are going through as not only the new kids in school, but new kids to the culture.

And when I see grief in their eyes too when they come home and tell me things, I grieve all over again. And I start to wonder if there is any end to this grief for them as TCKs (Third Culture Kids), for us. And the answer is no, most likely not. A lessening, yes as time goes by and new relationships are made, but an end, I imagine not.

I’m going through some books to help me process all the things in my head, but they aren’t. So how do I help these kids of mine process and move through this time of grief and loss in a healthy way? I’ve been thinking about it since we arrived and here are a few simple things I’m keeping in mind as we work through our emotions during this transition from Delhi to the US.

  1. Allow space for the negative emotions to come out, but circle back around to get to the heart of the issue. This means listening first, before reacting to whatever anger, frustration, disappointment is being expressed. Remembering that change and transition is harder for some personalities than others. I’ve definitely seen this with me and my husband and as it relates to our five children. One of our children responds just like I do to change: Everything is terrible. Letting him express his feelings, but then coming around again to the truth that while change is hard/painful, the world is not falling apart and there is still plenty to be grateful for. And there is nothing quite like seeing yourself in your children to help you make changes in your own behavior as well 🙂
  2. Acknowledge my own struggles with this time and be honest with them. I have always tried to be transparent with our kids about many of my struggles. I grew up thinking that parents were supposed to be super-human and perfect. That, I am definitely not. And I don’t want them to think that they are alone in feeling displaced/lonely/frustrated/in culture shock… etc.  I try to remind them we are all in process and none of us know exactly the perfect way to work through everything we are going through. There is grace to be given in every situation.
  3. Grab onto a couple of traditions, dishes, and holidays that were import to us there so the loss doesn’t feel complete. There are a few holidays and dishes we truly loved and I don’t want everything we loved about India to simply fade away because we are back in the US. This means I need to find my local Indian market and fire up the pressure cooker for some dal tadka, subzi and chapati, even if it doesn’t exactly taste like Ruma’s and the chapati look more like Australia than a circle. And over time maybe we will be able to make new Indian friends here and celebrate some of their most important days along with them.
  4. Point them back to the One that loves them more than we do. This part is one that I hope I handle well because missing the mark could have longterm effects on their relationships with the Lord. My hope is that they will see that their lives are in the loving hands of their Heavenly Father. That they would know he cares for them and He knows that this is hard. That it was His leading that brought us to and out of India. And that He has a plan for all their lives and can be trusted– not to give them all that they want or ask, but to give them exactly what they need. This is best communicated by the life that I live and the relationship I have with the Lord and the trust I display right now, even when I’m also struggling to understand so many things about the present.

From what I hear from others and have read about Third Culture Kids, I know for our oldest three, India will always be with them as part of their identity, one of them may even decide to move back there someday. This makes me smile. I certainly expect our family to be a global family, which means plenty of interesting places to vacation once we are empty-nesters.

TCKs are special people. They have a wider view of the world and are more likely to empathize with people who feel displaced or are on the fringes. When you live it, you get it. And there is certainly, for me, that deep sense of gratefulness that they have this view, but along with that comes grief at times because I know they want to appear normal and fit in with peers wherever they are– and that takes time and effort. But, I firmly believe they can have an impact and succeed wherever they are if they have a good support system and parents who are willing and able to be present and share their grief during the time of transition.

 

 

 

A Fracture and an Invitation to Slow Down


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*this is not Georgia snow, for the record.

I completely forgot today was Ash Wednesday.

Yesterday, our sweet almost 1-year-old fell during a routine walking spree and cried big tears, but I had no idea what was wrong. Until I tried to put him down. That’s when we noticed he couldn’t bear weight on his right leg. The snow came and went and we decided since he wasn’t crying he might have a bruised something or another. We slept on it, or tried to, but in the morning, after a horrible night, he seemed worse and not better.

My go-to is panic. The health and safety of my kids has been at the forefront of my anxiety for 12 years now. I can’t deal when little ones are sick. At all. I can’t think about anything else and I feel the need to “do something” constantly to help them be well again. I want to fix it immediately because I’m a worst-case-scenario-jumper-to.

But as you and I both know, as powerful as mommy is, she cannot fix it all. And this drives me nuts.

I get the same way with work and conflict. I want everything in line today. I want the relationship restored right now. I will drive myself and my dear husband crazy trying to worry my way into making all things right with the world. It has yet to work.

Last year, on Ash Wednesday, Harry was born. This year on Ash Wednesday I spent time once again at the doctor’s office with him trying to make him well. His leg has a fracture and will need a cast to heal properly. I’m not sure how long this will be, but it’s possible that it won’t be until Easter that he is healthy again. Have mercy.

My frantic pace lately has left me dry in so many ways. Running a business that requires work on US and India time; trying to make space for writing again; not to mention the fact that I have five little ones who need me to be present (more than I am, I’m sure!) and honestly I feel ragged. And I’ve been snappy. Oh my. Lack of sleep and creative space and I feel the drain deep in my soul.

So perhaps, instead of thinking the worst of our situation with this little baby in a cast, I can look at it as an invitation to remember this season of Lent and give up trying to do it all. I can love on my littles more and give them better pieces of me instead scraps. Harry with his cast is going to need me more than he already does (unless he figures out how to walk with it as well–oh I hope not!) and I need to be able to give it without feeling like it’s one more thing. Because he’s not one more thing. He’s one of the most important things. And as much as I love that my kids get see me passionate and working, I never want them to think they come second to it. Never.

This year’s Lenten season looks different than last year’s in so many ways, and hallelujah for not being 9 months pregnant for this one! But the essence of what this time of year asks of us is the same… a soft calling to slow down, remember well and fill up on Jesus and all that he offers to those who draw close and fix our eyes on him.

 

 

Starting Over

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We are in our 4th month of being “back” in the US. When we were just visitors I often wondered what it would be like when we finally moved here for good (or until we get further orders, nothing is really for “good” is it?) And I have to say I’m not sure this is what I pictured. It’s neither good, nor bad, it simply is what it is. Repatriation and all the joys that go with it when you left as one person and have returned another. Sort of like the Hobbits at the beginning of LOTR, compared to the Hobbits at the end of the novel. They felt different and processed life in a new way after their journey was over. They were braver, wiser, a bit beaten up, but better for the journey. I so get this.

And really, nothing can prepare you for starting over at almost-40 in a town that you haven’t lived in since 2001 as a single girl. Pretty much nothing. When you leave as a young woman and return with a head full of gray hair (colored blonde, of course) and have added 6 more people to your entourage than you had when you started out. Life is simply different now. I knew this ahead of time, that this would be weird/hard/challenging/emotional, but still, knowing and living in it are two different things entirely.

I’ve heard stories from other who have gone overseas for a significant amount of time– some are well-cared for in their new places when they return; some enter quietly and try to manage as best they can, staring American apathy well in the face most days and trying to move on in spite of it. God gives grace in both instances, I believe. As for us, we’ve had a bit of both. So perhaps it evens out in the end. Perhaps.

There has been much processing going on in these few months and I have to tell you… there are some things about my passport culture that are infuriating and heart-breaking and completely discouraging. Instead of battling mosquitoes, I’m battling technology and the hold it has on our entire society and now my children in school; instead of inappropriate attention every time I’d walk to the market, it’s apathy and entitlement all around me that get my blood boiling. Again, I knew that I’d feel this way and I’m working through it… but still.

Of course I know there is no perfect country or culture, but somehow when the problems are in your own backyard it’s hard to shrug it off. It feels personal. And yet, these feelings, this sensitivity, is not new– I felt it for weeks every time we came back here for a visit. Anyone who leaves a place and comes back after a while can see the holes that went unnoticed before. But what to do with all this information and emotion right now when everything else is so raw? Still so many more questions than answers right now.

So we are here, but we are moving within the space of uncertainty and full into the “Now what?” Of course I have AshaBelle (changes coming there too!), but Jon… well, we are still sorting that out and would love any prayers you have for us in the area of clarity.

Moving to India was hard. Traveling back and forth was hard. And repatriating is also hard. I know we will survive and have stories to tell of God’s faithfulness in the midst, but sitting in the questions makes me wiggle and squirm. I want to know the whole story. I want to catch a glimpse of the next five years and what they will look like. It’s a pretty big five that will involved kids becoming teenagers and last babies entering into school.

I’m moving in all this with some excitement, some joy, some anxiety and some doubts. The usual blend. I’m sure many women who’ve traveled this road before can relate. I still wake up in the morning in disbelief we are in the US and not living out of suitcases and that I don’t have to rush around making 20 Target runs to get what we need before we head back. And when I do get it, if it will in fact fit in my allotted space.

God has given us some sweet time as a family and has given us a certain measure of rest amidst the chaos. We are grateful. We know he will provide what we need, it’s the patience part that gets me.

So here we are. We’re back. No more indoor camping for a while. And hopefully more writing and making space for myself, which is so hard to do with 5 kids in a cozy farmhouse and a baby who wakes up all the time and is still in our room. Still.

But if you drop by this space I hope you will be encouraged. I’m still on a journey, even if we are no longer in India. I’m on a journey towards owning my gifts and to stop hiding behind my insecurities. It’s hard for me. Probably harder than living in India. But it’s the movement that I need to make. So let’s see where this adventure goes.

And let’s see if I can learn how to end a blog post. Seriously. I’m the worst.