Breaking “Naan” Together

I haven’t even been in Chennai for a full week, but I feel like I have months and months of experiences to share. On our first day here, we met with a lot of people. We had to meet the director of our program and the director of our department and everyone else. I honestly do not remember everyone’s name or what their role is and why they were important for us to meet. They were all very kind and asked us how we were doing in26168935_1971788559727217_1560699438504207285_n regards to jet lag. Honestly, It was so hard for me to stay awake towards the end of the day. I could barely keep my eyes open through one of the meetings.

By the time we got back, it was only around 4PM, but I allowed myself to lay down for just a minute and ended up falling asleep. After that, we decided maybe it would be best to just try and wake up earlier in the morning. I had an apple and went to bed around 6PM and got up around 7:40AM. I did wake up at about 10PM and thought I must have slept for four days straight because of how good I slept, but I still had a lot of sleep left in me.

The next day we proceeded to meet with a lot of professors and other important faculty members of the college. We were even invited to have dinner at the Principles house. Before that, we spent the majority of the day shopping for “kurtas” to wear to our field placements. There were so many options and so many beautiful colors and designs. It was very difficult to decide which ones I liked and to stay within my budget, although we did find some decent sales!

We left in our nice new kurtas for dinner at the principle’s house a little early to take pictures of the campus and with each other. Unfortunately, as soon as we stepped outside we realized that we would definitely need to learn how to use the flash on our cameras because it was dark! It wasn’t even 7:30PM yet and it was dark. Now, I realize that at home right now it gets dark around 5PM, if not earlier. But I guess we were just thrown off by the heat and expected that because it was so hot out, the sun would stay out later. But we were wrong! It was fun trying to take pictures in the dark though!

At the dinner with the principle another group of college students from the states joined us. They were taking a class for their “Jan term”. I did not get to talk with them very much, but I did get to chat a little bit with a faculty member in the social work department and a political science professor from Appalachian State that reminded me of my favorite political science professor from home.

So now you’re probably thinking, okay that’s cool, but what about the food? Let me tell you about the food! Honestly, I was a little afraid of Indian food because I knew coming here how spicy it was going to be and how I do not tend to eat very spicy food. However, we have been full blown thrown into the Indian food and you know what? It doesn’t have to be spicy! I really enjoyed a cauliflower gravy that we had on the first day. Then again, if anyone knows me, they know how much I love my cauliflower.

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One of the most important drinks besides water that we learned about is the fresh lime soda (pictured to the left). You can get this just sweet, or sweet and salty. Ironically, most students from previous semesters have only liked it sweet, but my small group loves the salty one! I have some foods pictured about with captions on what they are. One of the most 26169676_1971789799727093_6834011385391681998_npopular food items is naan (pictured to the right). Now, if you have never tried naan, you better go find a place where you can because it is the best flat brad I have ever had.

What I have noticed about the culture is how important meals are to the community. You eat with your hands and split dishes when out to eat.

26168400_1971789489727124_456591246775005378_nThe picture to the left is chicken tendoori. The sauce in 26733962_1971789546393785_8065471813138728710_nthe middle of the plate is kind of minty, but I loved it! In the other picture, the rice dish is called biriyani and is basically rice cooked with a meat. Underneath all the rice is a giant chicken leg! The other dish is a gravy called paneer butter masala. The masala was my favorite as well. Lastly, the picture with the little silver bowl that has little white dots in it, is sauf 26219515_1971789943060412_594420738681354459_nsugar coated fennel that tastes like licorice. It is given at the end of meals, just as we would get our olive garden mints. People take them in handfuls! They were very good! At another restaurant they actually gave us mini sugar cubes too!

 

 

As much as I would like to say the food agreed with me and everything was fine, I simply cannot. You better believe that on the second night at 2:30 in the morning I was sicker than a dog. Actually, I don’t think I have ever felt so terrible before in my life. As I laid on the bathroom floor I found myself thinking, this is it. This is the end. I am going to die because I tried to be adventurous and go to India for a semester, but my weak body couldn’t handle the food.

There was also a point somewhere between laying on the bathroom floor and in my bed that I thought I would not be able to survive the full semester here. In fact, I was one Google search away from finding the cheapest flight home. It’s not exactly “whimping out” if I’m sick is it? I mean come on, health should always come first. However, despite the fact that I was letting these negative thoughts overtake my mind while I was ill, God helped me through it.

After feeling defeated (I will spare you the details), I felt like God was saying “that is what the enemy wants you to think”. I thought about this for a moment. Then realized that I shouldn’t let myself give up so easily just because I got sick within the first week. Despite the fact that it felt like I was dying, I had enough strength to recognize that God was trying to tell me that I cannot do this on my own.

I cannot just go day-by-day in this foreign land and expect to be successful. I simply do not have enough strength to carry on in a place where I have to try extra hard just to understand what someone is saying. I need a supernatural strength, a spiritual strength. It’s the same strength that God gave me to get through all of the other overseas trips I have been on. It is the same strength God gave me through all of my other college semesters.

It was like God had to take away all of my strength to show me that I need to use His to get through this semester.

I spent the majority of the next 24 hours resting and when I was not, I was in class (which was held in our room so that I could stay in bed). It was the reminder I needed to keep inviting God into my daily life. Sometimes we forget to do these things when there is so much change happening in our lives. But God wanted to remind me that despite all of the change, He is that one constant.

There is much more I can tell you about my first few days in India for the semester, but I think I will save it for the next post. What I want to leave you with is to just bask in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Remember that God is good. He is such a giving God. When we are weak, He is strong. When our lives are forever changing, He is forever the same. Where our circumstances seem to defeat us, God reigns in victory because of these truths. It may be hard, but as my best friend texted me this week “Don’t give up!”

 

The Journey

Two days ago I started this journey to an unknown land. Over a year ago I learned that I was able to study abroad and earn credits towards my undergraduate degree in India. If anyone knows me, they know I have a huge heart for this area of the world. Well, the plan was to study abroad spring of 2017, but it just was not logistical. So, I did what any planner would do, I planned to go the following spring.

Throughout the past six months I have been preparing for an adventure of a lifetime (I hope to be at least). There were countless email conversations with my resident director in India. I was filled with stress to make sure I got my student visa in time. And of course, the endless (and I do mean endless) applications for scholarships and five jobs I worked to pay for it.

And now, it’s here. I finally get to experience the very thing I have been dreaming of and raving about. On January first of 2018, I hopped on a plane to India for the next four months.

Before I get too carried away, let’s take a step back and look at the events that took place the past few days that got me to where I am now. . .

First, I did not start packing until Monday morning. Now, my flight did not leave until 8:30PM, but I still caused myself a lot of unnecessary stress. Then, as I was packing, I had to do some laundry to make sure I had clean jeans to bring. We all know that jeans take FOREVER (not just a normal “forever” but like a Sandlot “FOR-EV-ER”) to dry. Well, with my luck, the awful snow that has been sweeping across the midwest of the United States continued its course to ruin my plans.

Snow built up on our power lines, and the power went out. My jeans were still very damp AND I had to finish packing in the dark. Finally, I gave up the thought that the power might turn back on in time and hung them on an exercise bike in front of our coal burning fire. And of course, then, the power comes back on.

Yes, my jeans dried in time and I was able to pack them. Thank you for your concern.

NOW, the snow was still going strong, so we thought we should leave for the airport early to prevent us from being late. After trudging through the winter wonderland, we made it.

So we get to the check-in and get our boarding passes, then move on to give up our check bags. I somehow managed to heave my giant purple suitcase onto the scale. Fortunately, the Lord blessed and my bag was only 48 lbs, when the limit is 50. My friend that was traveling with me threw hers on the scale and it came to 49.5lbs. Then, the agent was worried she had too many batteries and we spent the next 15 minutes digging through her bag to find them… but then realized that they were not in there.

On the first flight I sat next to a guy that was pretty quiet. He only chuckled at some dad joke the pilot made about a famous person- or maybe it was when the flight attendant thanked us for flying Delta instead of American Airlines, when it was actually American Airlines. I just listened to my music and watched out the window for the 50 minute flight.

The next flight, form Chicago to London was a six hour flight. I had a window seat on our Boeing aircraft that would take us across the great Atlantic. Because our first flight was delayed, I was late getting on the second. Therefore, the people who were in the first two seats were already sitting. I immediately felt bad because I would have to crawl over them to get to my seat, and the chances of me getting up whenever I wanted were very slim. They filed out and let me in. The guy sitting next to me in the middle seat said,”Get in your prison”.

As the flight went on, this guy became very interesting. First, as I tried to rest after our meal he reached his hand in front of me and pressed the button to close the window. I opened my eyes and all I saw was his arm. Later on, after my first nap, I woke up to him digging through his bag with the reading light on. After that, I didn’t mind asking him and the other lady to let me out to use the restroom (I know, who uses the restroom on an airplane? Well, if you had a nine hour flight, you would too.)

One of the things I am trying to be intentional about throughout this journey, and maybe even a New Year’s Resolution, is to learn from other people, even strangers, and to be observant. Needless to say, I learned something from this man. I learned that it’s okay to not worry about disturbing other people to tend to your own needs. This all falls back on my other goal to not be such a people pleaser all the time.

On the next flight, I was in the middle seat between and Indian woman who lived in Montreal and an Indian man that was just on vacation in San Francisco. The man did not talk much, but the woman was very friendly. She seemed to know what she wanted in life and knew how to get it. She was also not afraid to continuously ask the flight attendant for water or ask the child sitting behind her to stop hitting the back of her seat.

One thing that I found myself doing on each of the flights was watch the person sitting next to me and observe how they eat so I wouldn’t eat the wrong way. The first guy was from London and I certainly did not want to offend him by eating the wrong thing first, or putting the wrong sauce on the wrong food item. In the middle of my meal, however, I realized that I don’t really care what other people think of me when I eat my meal. Besides, why would the man judge me if I ate wrong when I, myself, am not even from London?

I began my meals on the second flight with this newly found mentality. But as I was eating, I could tell the lady sitting next to me was watching me. She seemed to be very intrigued by how I cut my roll in half and put butter on both sides. I just brushed that aside and continued my meal while watching Ferris Beuller’s Day Off.

My journey was not that extravagant, but it was still eventful. I mean, I did not miss my flight or anything crazy like that. It was the little things that made it enjoyable to travel for three days straight into the future without getting a shower.

As I continue to recover from my jet lag and get settled in my home for four months, I am reflecting on how I can take these small lessons from the passengers that sat next to me into my semester abroad. I have decided that while I am here, I am going to practice simplicity (which means I may not wash my hair every single day), not people please (I may speak up about what I want to do), and most importantly, be myself.

I am hoping to continue to give updates and share about what else I am learning here and through my journeys. Until then, I am going to rest up and learn how to say my favorite food in Tamil.

In His Grip,

Jenny

Saturate Me

// October 16 //

I know I have missed the past four days or so of blogging, but the truth is, I really have not made time for it. I let other things become the priority instead. But I guess we all slip into that at some point in our lives don’t we?

It’s a human thing really.

Today, I turn 21. It is my 21st year of being on this Earth that God created. 21 years of breathing, eating, sleeping… It feels like just yesterday my best friend and I were driving after a shopping trip saying how crazy it was that we just turned 16 and could drive ourselves.

The thing is, I never really looked at my birthday as a start of a new year or anything like that. Not like we do New Year’s. I’ve never really thought to myself that I had a goal before I turn the next set of digits and get another year older. But this year I was challenged to look at things differently.

This thought may have come up just because I am reflecting on who I was a year ago. I look back and see how much I have grown- both spiritually and personally. I look at the picture of who celebrated my birthday with me then and compare it to the friends I have plans with tonight- they are all the same. There is something about consistency in relationships despite personal change that really speaks to my heart.

It reminds me of our individual relationships with God.

Even though I am someone completely different then who I was exactly one year ago today, my friends are still the same people and those relationships have deepened.

In scripture we are constantly reminded that Christ is making us like Him in His image. He is working us to complete perfection for when we are to enter the gates of Heaven and see Him face-to-face. But despite our growth and changes, in an constantly changing world, God is always there with us. In fact, we even grow closer to Him. It is such a breath of relief to know that.

I have never set a goal for myself between birthdays, but this year I am going to. It’s not a goal like lose amount of pounds, less Netflix and chill, or stop spending so much money on unnecessary Starbucks. It’s a goal that actually has no end. It’s a lifelong goal, but I am setting in expectation that I will see growth in one year from today.

This next year, I want to grow spiritually. I want to be taken into the throne room with my Jesus.  I want to see HIS face and hear HIS voice. I want to be covered in HIS blood everyday of this next year and to recognize HIM. I want to be a person of peace that has faith in the LORD. I want to be saturated in the Spirit.

It’s not about being a certain amount of spiritual. It’s about becoming closer to Jesus, my Beloved and my Friend. I want to be so close to Him that I don’t miss a thing He has for me. I want to be so immersed in all that He has for me that I stop worrying about my future plans and finances, but give up control and trust in Him.

I want to know Him as the Good Shepherd, the Lord of Hosts, and my Beloved.

Isn’t this something you desire to? Don’t you want to be intimate with the one that created you? Think about it, we have the opportunity to be in unity and relationship with the creator of the entire universe- doesn’t that make you want to just seek HIM?

He is the only King that literally left His throne to die for us. He loved us that much. I want to love like Jesus. I want to be saturated in that love more and more each day.

Psalm 73.23-24 reminds us of Jesus constantly being with us:

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.

Friends, family, brothers and sisters in Christ, people on the other side of the world that may be reading this, join me in seeking our Father in Heaven with all that is within me. Let’s be saturated in the Lord together.

Step Out 

// October  11 & 12 // 

I am aware that I completely missed October 11. To be honest, I did not know what to write about. I sat in the prayer room digging through my thick pool of topics, but nothing intrigued me. In fact, I actually ended up falling asleep. I am going to attempt to incooperate both days into one. 

First, I woke up Wednesday morning at 5:30 am to be at work on time. You can bet your bottom dollar that the first thought that went through my mind was “Lord, please let them send me home early”. Well, God answered that prayer and I got to leave two hours early! It was such a blessing and gave me time to rest from being sick. 

Today, I accomplished a personal goal. A few months ago some friends and I that were brought together with the likemindedness of missions gathered around two small tables at the smallest Starbucks I have ever been to to talk about things we could do to spread missions on our college campus. I had this idea of asking students that had been on a missions trip or had cross-cultural engagement experience to speak to other students and share. 

I didn’t think it would ever happen because our missions club fell through for the semester. But God gave me another outlet- through the cross-cultural engagement office that I work at. When I told my boss, he was all for it. 

I began contacting people, applying for it to be a spiritual-formation opportunity (so students grt credit for being there), and just asking the Lord to guide the evening. Well, tonight it finally happened. 

Now, let me tell you, usually when I am trying to lead something or put on an event of some sort, I get aggravated easily when things don’t go as planned or when people don’t respond. But this time was different. I felt so calm about peaceful about it. When a student told me last minute they couldn’t speak, I quickly prayed and God provided another. 

I wasn’t nervous speaking in front of a small group of people, but I actually enjoyed it. The best part, however, was hearing the students speak about their experiences and how God shaped their hearts and lives from the trips they took. It truly was an incredible experience and I am honored that the Lord allowed me to help plan it. 

That being said, I want to encourage you to step out. Take that leap of faith. Trust the Lord with your dreams. He is BIGGER and MIGHTIER than all of your dreams. Know that if you submit to Him, He will bless you greatly and make your dreams come true. 

When we lean on the Lord and show Him our dependence for Him, He opens doors and uses us in ways we never imagined possible. Three years ago if you asked me, I would never have thought I’d even be capable or adequate to put on an event like this. The Lord can take those insecurities and reign in victory over them! 

Step out my friends! Step out! Just like Peter, we too can walk on water when we fix our eyes on JESUS. We just need to step out! 

“Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. Matthew 14.19

YOLO ✌🏻

// October 10 // 

So I know this one is a day late and I’m probably a dollar short, but hey, we all have those days right? 

Something that spoke to me yesterday is this concept of YOLO- You Only Live Once. I’ve never really liked this phrase because it connotates that you might as well do the thing because you won’t get to again. But I want to challenge that. 

I was at a Bible study yesterday morning and the speaker began talking about what you think JESUS will ask you when you finally get to the gates of Heaven… many of us think He will ask us about our service, prayer life, and devotion to Him, but what if He asks about something else? Like come on, God has placed so much good on this earth, what if He wants to talk about that? 

Like, I really enjoy coffee, books, and being outdoors, since JESUS is the man that wants to invest in every. Single. Person. I feel like He would want to know what we enjoy and maybe ask us about it… man, imagine getting to Heaven and Him saying “did you enjoy the coffee? The thousands upon millions of books? The hammocking and hiking?” 

God has given us these things to enjoy. So, back to YOLO… 

If you only live once, don’t you want to make the most of it? Like, enjoying these good things God has given us? 

There’s a song that says “you only live once so you better live it well”. I don’t want to walk through life stressed, defeated, and bored. I want to step out and be adventurous, trusting that my God, my ABBA Father in Heaven, is leading the way day by day. 

That being said, I’m going to enjoy my coffees, books, and outdoors. I’m going to YOLO right on through life, but I’m going to YOLO for Christ. 

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. | Psalm 90:12

Be a Winner 

// October 8 // 

Today I feel defeated. 

I have a stack of school work so high it’s taller than me (but I guess that doesn’t say much because I’m so short). I am scheduled to work everyday this week with both of my jobs combined. I feel drained and empty of all my energy. 

I went to bed late and had plans to go to church with two of my favorite friends. I did not want to go and was secretly hoping my friend would sleep through his alarm (he’s known for that). But he didn’t, and I had already committed to driving. 

The service went later than I expected and we got back to campus later than I thought we would. I had about 30 minutes to grab lunch before I had to head off to my next event. I knew that I would be out late (Pssh, is 8:30PM late?). I was dreading the night because I have to work at 7:30 in the morning and have so much school work to do. 

I feel defeated because I have so much to do, but not enough time or energy. Did I bite off more than I can chew? Did I get myself involved in more than I can handle? 

I was reminded, however, in the midst of my chaotic day that God views me much differently. He sees me as a winner. Even though my human self may fail by getting myself caught up in more than I should, He sees me as precious in His eyes. 

He sees you the same. Even though you may feel weighted down and burned out, the Lord still sees you as victorious. 

And how can we say that we are anything BUT victorious when JESUS is the great King that reigns in victory? My prayer tonight is that our Father in Heaven would touch each of us with grace and restore our energies. Also, I pray that He would remind us and still in our hearts that we are winners in His eyes. 

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

‭‭Galatians‬ ‭6:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Self Care

// October 7 //

This morning I woke up dreading the day. Another day of working until mid-afternoon and then an evening of school work. This routine gets old to me. I know that I signed up for these things but sometimes I just need to breathe and take a minute to recollect.

After asking God in many prayers to be sent home early from work, the Lord provided and my manager told me to leave and hour early. When she told me I nearly cried I was in such disbelief, it was incredible (God can truly work miracles).

I got back to my dorm room and was planning on cranking out some large assignments that are due this coming week and the next. However, after eating my leftover pizza and pumpkin bread I realized I was so tired that there would be no way I would get ANY work done. So, I did what any other college student would do, I crawled into bed for a mid-afternoon nap.

After laying there for a while, I got bored (I know, I’m crazy). I remembered it was such a beautiful day out as I drove home from work, so I had this spontaneous idea of hammocking. Not able to bare the thought of just laying in a hammock doing nothing, I checked out some of the reading assignments I have to do for this week and grabbed three different books. For some reason, I thought I was going to be super productive on this hammocking adventure.

I got my hammock all set up and finally got comfortable in a position to read and take notes on what I was reading. I read the first assignment and noticed myself drifting in and out of sleep. I thought, maybe I could just close my eyes for a second and be alright to continue working. BUT, I ended up just throwing the rest of my books and notebook to the ground and taking a nap.

When I woke up I could hardly remember where I was. But when I figured it out, I felt so soothed and “recollected”. It was incredible. Then, I packed everything up, went to dinner, got a coffee, and cranked out some school work for the rest of the night. It was great.

You see, one thing I fail to do is practice self-care. I fail to allow my body to rest, as well as my mind and spiritual side. I am a high energy, go-go-go kind of person (just ask my mom and roommate, they’ll tell ya!). But sometimes, I have to take a deep breath and realize that if I want to do even the slightest of a good job, or be helpful, then I need to take care of myself. Hammocking today was definitely a good decision to help me do that.

Do you have ways that you practice good self-care?

A Biblical way of looking at this is the Sabbath Day. We are called to take a whole day where we basically rest in the Lord. We can be reminded of this in Exodus 20.8-10, “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.”